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Governor looks to ‘reopen’ state May 1, will make decision himself

In this file image, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and health director Cara Christ provide details on the spread of COVID-19. (Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

In this file image, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and health director Cara Christ provide details on the spread of COVID-19. (Howard Fischer/Capitol Media Services)

Click HERE for related briefs, including ADOT giving masks to Pioneers' Home in Prescott.

PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday, April 14, he will be the one to decide when to reopen Arizona’s economy, not President Donald Trump.

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

And the governor 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 goveror 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 press 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.’’

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.

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, including 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 finally provide the public with estimates of the number of Arizonans who ultimately are expected to get ill and die, 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 have been rejected, with the state’s health chief saying that different models have yielded different results.

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