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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: No masks at political rallies OK, but not so at bars

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey: No masks at political rallies OK, but not so at bars

From the June's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: Bars, gyms face shutdowns; Tucsonans worried telemedicine might disappear series
  • Updated

“People’s rights to assemble are not going to be infringed in Arizona in an election year or any year,” Gov. Doug Ducey said.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey is defending indoor political rallies of thousands of people without masks, even as he said the only way Arizona will stop the upward trend of infections is if people mask up and stay home.

“People’s rights to assemble are not going to be infringed in Arizona in an election year or any year,” the governor said Thursday when asked about his attendance at President Trump’s rally Tuesday. A Phoenix church was packed with about 3,000 people at the rally; most of them did not wear face coverings.

Ducey, who said he wore a mask throughout the rally, is also expected to attend two events next week with Vice President Mike Pence, including a Tucson campaign stop.

The governor brushed aside questions about how requiring people to wear masks in public — which is now the law in Phoenix and throughout Pima County — interferes with their right to assemble.

At the same time, however, Ducey decried the situation at some bars and restaurants where employees and patrons have been crowded together, with few, if any, wearing masks.

He announced the state Department of Liquor Licenses and Control sent notices to eight Scottsdale bars he said were not complying with new “guidance” he issued last week to have and carry out plans to protect employees and patrons from COVID-19. The department is empowered to take away the right of any establishments to serve alcohol.

“The crowded social gatherings that we’ve seen must be minimized,” Ducey said.

All this is occurring as he said COVID-19 numbers in Arizona will continue to rise.

“I don’t want there to be illusion or sugar-coated expectations,” he said. “We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following, in terms of cases and hospitalizations.”

Arizona added 3,056 new cases on Thursday, bringing the total to 63,030. There were another 27 deaths reported, with that tally now at 1,490.

Health officials reported a record 2,453 people hospitalized with COVID-19, with 611 in intensive-care beds, just shy of the record of 614 set a few days earlier.

More than one out of every five tests for the virus is coming back positive in the state.

What eventually will turn that around, Ducey said, is the fact that he agreed a week ago to allow cities and counties to impose mask requirements.

He has declined to do this on a statewide basis. But he said the fact that 75% of the state now is under such local mandates should result in the state turning the corner — for now.

“What we’re going to deal with now over the next 30 or 40 days, I believe will slow the spread of this virus,” he said. “And then we will have a period of time and then we will head into a second wave.”

Ducey, who dissolved his stay-home order in the middle of last month after six weeks, said he is not prepared to reinstate it.

But the governor did say that, mandate or not, people should stay at home when they don’t need to be out.

“Go out and get a haircut,” he said. “Get something to eat. And go home.”

Dr. Cara Christ, the state health director, echoed that message. “You are safer at home with your household contacts,” she said.

When people do go out, “indoor spaces are riskier than being outdoors,” and the more people are gathered, the greater the risk of infection, she said.

Ducey said none of that convinces him that gatherings should be restricted or that those in attendance should be required to wear personal protective equipment.

Instead, he said, it’s up to those who go to protect themselves, just as he is now doing. He urged “personal responsibility.”

“Wearing a mask is a huge part of avoiding contracting this virus,” Ducey said. “Also physically distancing from people. And I’m going to continue to do that going forward.”

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