PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey remains adamant he’s not going to force anyone to get inoculated or even wear a mask as COVID cases in Arizona rise to the highest level since before the vaccine was available.
The governor said Monday he believes that these decisions should be made by individuals in consultation with their doctors. But he did acknowledge that some people are not checking with medical professionals but instead self-medicating with things like a drug designed to treat parasites in horses.
“Well, I think you do everything you can to get the facts out there,” he said. “You want to go to a physician versus Facebook, that’s what I would say.”
The governor’s comments come as the number of cases in the state has trended upwards in the past month. More notable is the fact that the daily cases are hitting levels not seen since January, before the vaccine was available.
At the same time, the most recent figures showed just 545 vacant inpatient beds at Arizona hospitals, the lowest since the pandemic began.
But there is a shift: Just 2,470 available beds — 28% — were occupied by COVID patients, versus in January when those with the virus took up nearly 60% of the available beds.
But the governor, who has been a proponent of people getting vaccinated — but only if they want — rejected the idea that whatever the state is doing is not working.
“Listen, the virus is transmissible, it’s contagious, it comes in waves,” he said.
“It does appear seeing the data over the past several weeks that there’s another wave on its way,” the governor continued. “I would encourage people to talk to their local health care provider or to their family doctor on what they should do in terms of next steps.”
The governor did not disagree that there are people instead are self-medicating, using non-proven alternatives — like ivermectin which is generally used to fight parasites in horses and is not recommended as a treatment or preventative for COVID.
That, Ducey said, come back to his point about doing what can be done “to get the facts out” and not using social media for medical advice. But the decisions on the vaccine and even more passive prevention methods like masks, the governor said, are beyond what government should be doing.
Not everyone agrees.
Some school districts are requiring faculty and students to wear face coverings while on campus. And cities like Tucson and Phoenix have told employees they need to be vaccinated.
Ducey, who at one time tried to curb those practices with executive orders, noted they can do that, legally, as state laws that sought to them were declared void.
But the trial judge never ruled that the edicts themselves were illegal. What was, said Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Katherine Cooper, was the fact they were improperly enacted.
The governor appears interested in revisiting the issue — presumably trying to have the restrictions reenacted, this time in a way that is legal. But that is not likely to happen until the legislature reconvenes in January, with Ducey saying Monday he still is “reviewing” a request by Attorney General Mark Brnovich for a special legislative session before then.
But he clearly was not happy about what is being done in the interim, particularly by cities.
“We’re a state that wants to fund the police, wants to support our workers that are out there,” the governor said. “I want to give people the information and respect their choice.”
And Ducey said the Phoenix mandate is not being well received.
“I’ve got friends on both the police force and the fire department,” he said, speaking of one person who called him just Monday.
“He said if they’re going to terminate him he’s going to to take the termination,” Ducey said, saying he is hesitant to get vaccinated. “He shared with me his reasons. I respect his thinking on this.”
And Ducey said the mandates aren’t likely to make a difference but will only cause problems.
‘‘People have made up their mind where they are on this,” he said. ‘‘And the city will be less safe because of these foolish, short-sighted decisions.”
The governor himself does not share that hesitancy about getting vaccinated, having rolled up his sleeve himself and provided financial resources to make the vaccine available But Ducey said that, beyond that, its not his role to change individual minds.
“When someone has questions, they want to go to a subject matter expert on that,” he said. “I think that’s a medical doctor or a health care professional.”
Separately Monday, Brnovich expanded his existing lawsuit against the Biden administration’s mandate that federal workers and employees of those with contracts with the federal government be vaccinated. He added unions representing police and fire fighters in Phoenix.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Michael Liburdi rejected a bid by Brnovich to enjoin enforcement of the mandate. But the judge gave the attorney general the opportunity to amend his complaint and try again.