At a press conference at the state Public Health Lab, Governor Doug Ducey announced a list of new actions to support hospitals and medical professionals and combat the spread of COVID-19. Arizona will invest $25 million to bolster hospital staffing in the midst of rising cases nationwide and reward frontline medical workers for their dedication. Arizona Director of Health Services Dr. Cara Christ also announced new guidance for holiday gatherings to help Arizonans make smart decisions and prevent new infections over the holidays.
Actions announced at the press conference include:
Adding $25 million to bolster hospital staffing;
Publishing new ADHS health guidance for holiday gatherings;
Launching testing sites and health campaigns at airports;
Doubling Investments In Public Service Announcements;
Ensuring mask use on school grounds and buses;
And ensuring up-to-date data on COVID-19 vaccinations.
“Arizona, and our nation, remain in a public health emergency. This has been a long haul — but we need to redouble our efforts,” said Governor Ducey. “For eight months, Arizonans have acted responsibly and safely to protect others and fight COVID-19 — and today’s efforts build on that. The $25 million for frontline workers in our hospitals will help ensure we have plenty of staffing as numbers rise, and it will support the medical professionals working long hours to care for Arizonans. Our additional safety measures will help keep Arizonans safe as we enter the winter months and snowbirds migrate to our state. Thank you to the families, individuals, businesses, organizations, community leaders, school leaders and more who continue to adapt to follow health guidance and protect fellow Arizonans.”
“We want all Arizonans to stay safe during the holidays,” said Dr. Christ. “We ask that all Arizonans make responsible plans for Thanksgiving that include moving your celebrations outside, reducing the size of your gathering, celebrating virtually with loved ones who are higher risk, and more.”
Support For Health Care Heroes
The Governor is directing $25 million to boost and support staffing at our hospitals. The funding can pay for higher staff costs due to current demand, and allow hospitals to reward their existing direct care employees with bonuses for their dedication. This funding comes from the Coronavirus Relief Fund as part of the federal CARES Act.
Safe, Healthy Thanksgiving Celebrations
Dr. Christ released official guidance for Arizonans to celebrate Thanksgiving safely and responsibly. The guidance directs Arizonans to:
Minimize the number of guests;
Physically distance when possible and only touch or hug those from your immediate household;
Wear masks if your gathering includes guests from outside your household;
Celebrate together with your quarantine pod, using a tablet and virtual meeting programs to bring family and friends together without exposing one another;
Wash your hands before and after preparing, serving and eating food;
Use hand sanitizer;
And avoid self-serve or buffets.
Find additional guidance for the holiday season at azhealth.gov/winterholidays
Testing At Airports
As more winter and holiday visitors travel to Arizona, many are entering through airports. At the Governor’s request, Dr. Christ will work with Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Tucson International Airport to launch testing sites, allowing incomers to get tested immediately with quick turnaround. The Department of Health Services also will work with the airports on inbound messaging around the importance of wearing masks and information on where travelers can get tested.
Doubling Down On School Safety
Schools are already required to have mask policies, but Dr. Christ will be issuing an emergency measure to make sure schools statewide are implementing those policies on school grounds and on school buses. More information can be found at azhealth.gov
Preparations For Vaccine Distribution
Earlier this year, the state assembled a vaccine task force that is actively working to ensure the effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines once they are available. To support these efforts, Governor Ducey issued an Executive Order extending the Enhanced Surveillance Advisory to collect information on vaccinations.
The enhanced surveillance will ensure all Arizonans who want the vaccine will receive the appropriate follow-up doses at the correct time. It will also allow the state to identify and support vulnerable populations and underserved communities.
Enhanced Health And Safety Campaigns
Arizona is amplifying public health messaging and doubling investments in public service announcements to ensure every individual knows what steps to take to protect themselves and their loved ones — from wearing a mask to getting tested to remaining physically distant.
View the Governor’s Executive Order HERE.
View guidance for the upcoming holiday season HERE.
The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association made a statement following Governor Ducey’s press conference:
“Thank you, Governor Ducey, for recognizing the critical need to secure healthcare staffing to care for our patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
“We applaud today’s announcement of the $25 million that will be directed to hospitals to pay for critical resources and bonus pay for employees.”
“Having been through a surge in COVID-19 cases over the summer when hospital beds were stretched to near capacity and our healthcare heroes were pushed to their emotional and physical limits, we are optimistic this funding will help Arizona hospitals shore up the staff needed to care for our family, friends and loved ones in the coming months.”
The full statement can be found here.