Arizona governor warns of suicide risk amid pandemic

Arizona officials warned Thursday that children and teens are at risk of suicide as depression increases during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Counseling resources are available to help struggling children, even as schools hold classes online, Gov. Doug Ducey said at a high school in Chandler.

“I would like to ask all our parents, especially if your kids are still at home, to engage in that conversation and check how your child is doing,” Ducey said. “We have resources.”

The health and economic crises also take a toll on adults, including veterans, officials said, urging people to stay connected with friends and loved ones even as they maintain physical distance to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

State health officials on Thursday reported 461 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 along with 22 more deaths.

A national virus hotspot in June and July, Arizona has shown significant decreases in cases and other virus-related metrics. The number of patients hospitalized also declined slightly in the new data.

Arizona has now seen a total of 207,002 positive cases of COVID-19 and has a death toll of 5,273 people.

“The state has not been in a better position than it is today,” Ducey said, encouraging people to keep wearing masks, washing their hands and maintaining physical distance. He also urged people to get a flu shot to limit demand on the health care system already trying to manage COVID-19.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Ducey again refused to support increasing the state’s $240 a week unemployment benefit, the second-lowest in the nation. He reiterated comments he made in July saying it’s the responsibility of Congress to help people who’ve lost their job because of the pandemic, though there have been few signs of compromise between the House, Senate and White House.

Senate Democrats scuttled a scaled-back GOP coronavirus rescue package on Thursday as the parties argued to a standstill over the size and scope of the aid, likely ending hopes for coronavirus relief before the November election.

A federal $600-a-week supplemental unemployment payment has expired. People who lost their job are getting a $300-a-week boost from an executive order signed by President Donald Trump, but money for the program is expected to dry up soon.

Asked about the revelation that Trump intentionally downplayed the severity of the coronavirus in public, Ducey said he does not feel misled. Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in recorded interviews that the coronavirus is more serious than the flu while publicly downplaying the risk, which he has said was to avoid causing panic.

“Trust is built through experience and actions,” Ducey said, stressing that the president or his administration have delivered on every request by Arizona.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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Associated Press writer Terry Tang contributed.

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