Ducey says he, not the president, will decide when to reopen Arizona's economy

Ducey says he, not the president, will decide when to reopen Arizona's economy

From the April's Tucson-area coronavirus coverage: 1,200+ Pima County cases, stay-home order extended series

Apr. 14, 2020; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey gives an update on the COVID-19 pandemic response during a press conference at the Arizona Commerce Authority in Phoenix.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey says he will be the one to decide when to reopen Arizona’s economy, not President Trump.

In a wide-ranging news conference on COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon, the governor said that, for the moment, he is still using May 1 as a target date to start removing restrictions he placed on both what businesses can operate and the personal movement of Arizonans.

And Ducey rejected the idea of all-mail balloting for the August primary — and beyond if necessary — given the risks that may remain from the virus.

But Ducey got defensive when asked about comments made Monday by Trump, a fellow Republican, who insisted that he, as president, gets to make the decision when “to open up the states.”

First, the governor deflected questions.

“The comment (from Trump) was that he’s in charge of the national guidance,” the governor said. “And that’s accurate.”

It was pointed out to Ducey, though, that Trump’s remarks were far broader.

“When somebody’s president of the United States, the authority is total,” the president said at a news conference Monday when asked about plans by some governors to start reopening their economies.

“And that’s the way it’s got to be,” Trump continued. “It’s total. And the governors know that.”

Pressed, Ducey snapped back.

“Well, I’m going to make the best decision for Arizona,” Ducey said. “So there’s your answer.”

That still leaves the question of at what point Ducey will decide that the restrictions he imposed, using emergency powers in state law, will no longer be necessary.

The governor said his original orders last month to shutter certain businesses were for 15 days “to slow the spread.”

It was not until two weeks ago, after many other states had moved in that direction, that the governor issued his own stay-at-home order. Now, with the first order extended by a month, both now run through the end of April.

“It’s too early right now for me to say there’s something magical about May 1,” the governor said Tuesday.

“Of course, I’m hopeful,” he continued. “I want to be aspirational on this.”

But Ducey said any decisions he makes about the April 30 expiration of his orders will be based on what he thinks is appropriate for Arizona.

“If those need to be extended, we’ll extend them,” he said. “If they can be changed, they’ll be changed.”

Ducey has ordered bars, gyms, beauty salons and a variety of other businesses to close.

The COVID-19 outbreak and the fact that there is no vaccine on the immediate horizon, coupled with the possibility of a second wave, has led to some calls to conduct the August primary as a mail-only affair. Election officials in several counties have said it would protect both voters and poll workers, with a particular problem in getting people to work at election sites with hundreds of voters passing through.

Arizona Health Director Cara Christ said any recommendation she would make would depend on the infection situation at the time. She said that depends not just on a second wave of COVID-19 but where the state is with flu at that time “because that’s the start of our flu season as well.”

Ducey, however, dismissed the idea of an all-mail election.

“We’re not going to disenfranchise anyone from voting on Election Day,” he said. Anyway, Ducey said, voters always have the option to request an early ballot and mail it back themselves.

Ducey also unveiled three new executive orders. They include allowing on-the-job training for workers at assisted living facilities and allowing the use of telemedicine examinations in workers’ compensation cases.

Christ separately announced that she would provide the public with estimates of the number of Arizonans who ultimately are expected to get ill and die from COVID-19, along with the “modeling” her agency has used to determine how many hospital beds, ventilators and other pieces of medical equipment the state needs.

Prior requests for such information have been rejected, with the state’s health chief saying that different models have yielded different results.

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