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Ducey announces testing at airports, increased funding for hospital staffing

Doug Ducey news briefing 11/18
Posted at 3:48 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 17:48:24-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced several new measures to fight COVID-19 in Arizona Wednesday in his first news conference in nearly three weeks.

The governor acknowledged a troubling trend of case numbers and COVID-19 testing data in Arizona, and announced several new actions. He also strongly urged Arizonans to wear masks.

"Masks work," the governor said. "Please wear them. We've known for a while that a mask protects others, but a new study from the CDC confirms that they also protect you."

Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ also emphasized the importance of wearing masks in all settings.

"I can't stress this enough," she said. "We recommend that all Arizonans wear masks in every setting including public settings, public transportation, at indoor and outdoor events, gatherings and in private settings. Arizonans should wear a mask any time they're around other people who do not live in their household."

In Wednesday's news conference, Gov. Ducey announced a new plan to implement voluntary testing at airports, where incoming holiday travelers could learn their COVID-19 status. The program is expected to be rolled out at Phoenix Sky Harbor, Mesa Gateway and Tucson International Airport in the coming days.

The governor promises "quick turnaround" for tests conducted at airports, but didn't say whether the tests would be polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests -- which can take up to five days for results -- or rapid antigen tests, which can produce results in as little as 15 minutes.

The governor also announced $25 million in new funding for hospital staffing via the federal CARES Act, passed by Congress earlier this year. The governor's office says the funding can go toward higher staffing costs due to demand -- with hospitals across the country competing for qualified healthcare workers -- or bonuses for current staff, to reward their dedication and hard work over the last several months.

The state health department also released new Thanksgiving guidelines for how families can safely celebrate the holiday next week.