Gov. Doug Ducey said the state was seeing some reduction in the spread of COVID-19 virus but warned the state had a long road ahead in the fight against the deadly virus.
"I want people to get their heads around this," Ducey said. "There's no end in sight today. … There will be no victory laps."
Ducey announced a new executive order extending the residential eviction moratorium until Halloween and said he was in conversations with school leaders and university presidents about the best way to move forward with the school year.
The previous residential eviction moratorium was set to expire on Saturday, July 25.
“It’s been some time since we’ve talked about the March 24 executive order to delay evictions for those impacted by COVID-19,” Ducey said. “I’ve got an update on this along with a new executive order extending the eviction moratorium on residential evictions until Oct. 31."
Ducey announced $650,000 would go to various community action agencies to improve staffing and help administer rental assistance programs for Arizonans statewide. Approximately $1.2 million in assistance has been distributed to Arizona renters since late March, according to the Governor's Office.
Additionally, Ducey announced $5 million to establish the Foreclosure Prevention Program to help residential landlords dependent on rental income to survive.
“This will provide targeted relief to homeowners who rely on income from tenants to help them avoid foreclosure,” Ducey said. “In total, state and local governments have directed more than $80 million on programs to assist renters and prevent homelessness.”
Ducey said intends on opening Arizona schools and institutions of higher learning in the near future but stopped short of saying he would stick by the Aug. 17 date he set to reopen K-12 schools.
“Arizona will be open for learning. That is what’s in front of us in the coming school year,” Ducey said. “I know people want clarity around this and we’re going to provide clarity. I’m going to tell you our kids are going to be learning in the fall.”
While Arizona schools are tentatively scheduled to open on Aug. 17 (with some districts starting online programs sooner), Ducey said he plans on meeting with Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and other state educational stakeholders in hopes of providing more complete information on the gameplan for reopening schools next week.
“We’re going to our best to conduct the positive educational year that we can and I’ll be providing the most specific guidance that I can,” Gov. Ducey said. “Expect that next week and that will provide additional flexibilities to our school around the state.
Ducey also announced an expansion of coronavirus testing in the upcoming months. So far, more than 950,000 thousand Arizonans have been tested for the virus, he said.
As coronavirus cases are on a downward trend in the state, Ducey urged Arizonans to stay vigilant by staying at home and wearing masks while practicing social distancing when out in public to help continue the virus’ decline. He said measures set by local authorities to require masks were helping reduce spread, but once again stopped short of a statewide mandate.
“Today I have better news, but I also want to say so that people understand the truth around what’s in front of us," Ducey said. "There’s no end in sight today. That’s why I talk about the foreseeable future and there will be no victory laps. What we can take from here is knowledge of what difference we can make in the COVID-19 pandemic in our state, in our country for the foreseeable future.
Arizona Senate Democrats released a joint statement following Ducey's press conference urging him to enact a statewide mask mandate, implement more contact tracing and provide more PPE for hospitals and schools. The full statement:
We are disappointed again that the Governor refuses to take stronger actions to curb the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus. More aggressive action is needed now to safely open schools in the future no matter what date is picked. Senate Democrats again urge the Governor to take swift and preventative action. Time is not an ally. Act now, Governor to curtail the spread. Lives, not just livelihoods, are at stake.
After significant pressure from legislators, Arizonans and other advocates, the Governor finally relented and thankfully extended the eviction moratorium until the end of October. No one should face homelessness in the middle of a pandemic and triple digit heat. This is just one of the many measures Senate Democrats have been advocating for several weeks to help Arizonans.
We look forward to learning more about the school reopening plan and hope the Governor listens to Superintendent Hoffman and public school educators on what they believe is best for students, parents and staff. Our top priority regarding schools reopening must be community health and safety, and ensuring that our schools have the funding and PPE they need to keep our communities safe. More aggressive mitigation measures now will allow us to safely reopen in the future.
We still need a more comprehensive approach to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. This fragmented strategy has clear consequences–consequences that could have been avoided had we taken the pandemic seriously earlier. Senate Democrats have repeatedly called for a statewide mask order, ongoing funding for free COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, and PPE for medical professionals and schools. These measures are the only way we can expect to slow the spread of this virus.