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Ducey announces free vaccinations, new funding for hospitals, businesses

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Posted at 11:29 AM, Dec 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-02 19:12:08-05

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced new funding to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona, including upcoming vaccinations.

First, the governor announced an additional $60 million of funding from the federal CARES Act to go toward hospital staffing. That's in addition to the $25 million announced last week. Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ said Arizona will work with a health care staffing company to bring in about 500 nurses for Arizona struggling hospitals.

The governor's office also announced details of the upcoming vaccine distribution. Dr. Christ said the state should be receiving "hundreds of thousands" of doses of vaccines before the end of the year, pending FDA approval. Ducey also announced that the vaccine would be free of charge to all Arizonans by insurance companies.

The governor also said the state would be prioritizing health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, vulnerable populations and educators to receive the vaccine first.

Despite pleas from health care administrators and epidemiologists in the state, the governor did not announce any new mitigation measures or closure orders aimed at curbing the spread of the virus. The governor said he remains focused on the broader health of the state, beyond the virus.

"There are other things around public health that we're not talking about today, like suicide attempts, like depression, like emotional and social disconnection, like child abuse and like domestic violence, that are all part of the suggested lockdowns that are coming from people that are only focused on the totality of public health," Ducey said at Wednesday's press conference. "So I am listening to the smartest and best people in the medical profession and making the policy decisions that I belive in my heart are best for all the people of Arizona."

RELATED: COVID-19 Modeling Team urges state to take action before disaster hits

In Tucson Tuesday night, the city council voted to implement a mandatory curfew in the city from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. from Friday, Dec. 4 to Wednesday, Dec. 23 in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. At the city council meeting, several hospital administrators and local health leaders voiced support for the measure.

Several council members and the mayor said they hoped the measure would slow the spread of the virus enough that they wouldn't have to take more drastic measures as local hospital systems further strain.

With some question as to whether the policy conflicts with the governor's previous executive order barring local governments from implementing measures beyond those at the state level, Ducey declined to weigh in on the issue at Wednesday's press conference. The governor said he disagrees with the strategy, but will let "attorneys" determine whether it's legal.

RELATED: Does Tucson's curfew conflict with the governor's executive order?

More than 3,800 new COVID-19 cases were reported in the state Wednesday morning, including 510 cases in Pima County.