Republican Governor Doug Ducey defended Arizona’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in his State of the State address Monday.
TUCSON, Ariz. (CN) — In a brief State of the State address Monday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey doubled down on his resistance to another statewide lockdown, saying he believes closing businesses would be worse than the Covid-19 pandemic that has killed roughly one of every 720 state residents.
“In so many ways, an extremely tough year brought out the best in us,” Ducey said in the virtual address. “And yet, sometimes, despite all, our best wasn’t enough.”
The “vicious” virus left nothing but grief in its path, the Republican governor said.
“From the very outset of Covid-19 there have been disagreements about how to deal with it,” Ducey said. “In my 50-plus meetings with the press, I’ve heard endless variations of the same question: Why not more and longer lockdowns? Why not more aggressive lockdowns?”
Ducey said those that raise such questions fail to consider the consequences of shutting down businesses, including no income for people who can’t work from home, depression and loneliness. More people would be evicted, spelling “catastrophe” for many, and suicide rates would rise, according to the governor.
“The rest of life doesn’t stop in a pandemic,” he said. “People still have bills to pay, children in need of education, businesses to run, and employees who depend on them.”
Public health experts told him opioid abuse, alcoholism, addiction and mental health issues would all rise, he said.
“There has been no daily count of these human costs, but they are real, and they are devastating, and extreme measures by well-intentioned people have unintended consequences that actually do far more harm than good,” he added.
Ducey chastised mayors across the state who have called on him to allow local lockdowns. Earlier this year, Ducey issued an executive order preventing local governments from issuing any Covid-19 measures — with the exception of mask mandates — that are more stringent than state restrictions.
“I’m not going to hand over the keys to a small group of mayors who have expressed every intention of locking down their cities,” he said, pointing to other states that did lock down as evidence such measures did not work.
“What do they have to show for their strict mandates and orders? They’re still dealing with the worst of it, just as we are,” he said, noting that he expects blowback for his choice to keep businesses open. “The path I have outlined is the right path for Arizona.”
As of Monday, the pandemic had claimed 10,147 of the state’s 7.4 million residents, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Hospital and intensive care bed occupancy hovers around 90% with roughly 5,000 Covid-19 patients hospitalized — the highest level since the pandemic began. More than 627,000 cases have been identified, which amounts to 13.3% of people tested, the state reported.
Ducey vowed to quickly vaccinate the entire state. In Maricopa County, the state’s most populous and the home of its largest city, Phoenix, vaccinations have begun to reach teachers and law enforcement officers and a 24/7 vaccination site is now open, he said.
“The quicker we all receive it, the more quickly we can get on with life as it should be,” he said.
Ducey said Arizona has shown its resilience through the pandemic, which briefly in recent weeks had the state leading the world in the rate of cases by some metrics. He urged school districts to return students to classrooms.
Despite the pandemic, Arizona is in the top five states for job creation so far in 2021, and new residents are still coming to the state, Ducey said, vowing to fight for lower income taxes and a simplified tax structure and to protect businesses from “frivolous lawsuits” over Covid-19.
“As other states chase away businesses with their new taxes, why on Earth would we ever want to follow their failed and depressing example?” he asked.
Matt Grodsky, spokesman for the Arizona Democratic Party, responded to the address in an emailed statement.
“Arizonans are no longer taking the Governor seriously,” Grodsky said. “From his failed COVID-19 response, to his weak attempt to rein in the radical elements of his own party, to meddling with the Independent Redistricting Commission, Ducey has abdicated his responsibilities. The Governor has shown Arizonans why his office should not go to a Republican when his term is up next year.”