Ahead of holiday, governor calls for masks, distancing; some choose to travel regardless
Ducey: ‘When will it end? ... That’s not on the horizon’
With Thanksgiving and the arrival of winter visitors drawing near, Gov. Doug Ducey announced new efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 from travelers and assist Arizonans most affected by the disease.
“I know many in our state are asking: When will it end? The answer is: That’s not on the horizon. Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency,” Ducey said.
In a news conference Wednesday, Nov. 18, Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, director of Arizona Department of Health Services, addressed holiday travel, the steep rise in Arizona’s caseload and the issues facing schools and hospitals in months to come.
Christ also announced new Thanksgiving guidelines that encourage families to celebrate outside, reduce the size of gatherings, wear masks, maintain social distance and wash hands often — or celebrate virtually if relatives are immunocompromised or have recently been exposed to COVID-19.
“Arizonans have been good at following the guidance,” Ducey said, “But Arizonans aren’t the only ones here anymore. We have thousands of people arriving from the Midwest, East Coast and more.”
Ducey said the health department plans to assist the state’s major airports — Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa — in launching voluntary test sites to provide rapid results for travelers arriving from out of state.
“We believe that if there is testing and it’s easy and there is a rapid response, we’ll have more participation,” Ducey said.
COVID-19 case numbers in Arizona have risen to 295,334, with 3,638 new cases reported Saturday, Nov. 21, state health officials reported. Since the pandemic began in March, 6,457 Arizonans have died, including 73 new deaths reported in the two-day period of Nov. 20-21.
During the news conference, Ducey called for a moment of silence and prayer for those who have died.
“We can’t stress this enough, we recommend that all Arizonans wear masks in every setting,” Christ said. Ducey, who declined to enact a statewide mask mandate last spring, said 95% of Arizonans are required to wear masks under local mandates, and those rules need to be followed.
What are your plans for Thanksgiving?
The Daily Courier went around town asking Prescott-area residents to share what their plans are for Thanksgiving and if they are thinking of playing it safe due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona.
Prescott couple Bill and Penny Erholtz said they will likely be playing it safe this year.
“Him, me and our son are going to just stay home, eat dinner and play it safe,” Penny said.
“The older we get, it seems like there’s fewer of us. When you’re young, you get the big Thanksgiving table filled with all the people but we’re kind of beyond that,” Bill added.
Couple Ken and Lisa May, however, said they will be meeting up with some friends for dinner in Tucson.
“We don’t care [about COVID-19]. We got friends coming from Texas that are going to meet us in Tucson and friends that live in Tucson that are going too and we’re going down there,” Ken said.
Jessica Villafana said she and husband will be spending Thanksgiving just with each other outside of town.
“I’m going to visit my husband at work because he has a house out of town, so he stays there. So we’re just going for the two days and coming back. It’s just us. We’re not having anybody over,” Villafana said.
Luis Saldana said his plans are dependent on whether California shuts down or not since that’s where his family lives.
“As long as the states don’t shut down, we’re planning on going to visit my grandparents in Los Angeles,” Saldana said. “All my whole family gets together and has a huge thing but only if COVID permits, obviously.”
Courier reporter Aaron Valdez contributed to this article.