Gov. Doug Ducey praises state's COVID-19 efforts despite rising case numbers

In his shortest State of the State, Ducey talked COVID-19 vaccines, reopening schools and budget changes

Arizona’s teachers and law enforcement officers will be prioritized as part of a new 24/7 coronavirus vaccination site at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Gov. Doug Ducey said in his seventh and shortest State of the State address Monday.

In an email Friday, ASU President Michael Crow said ASU faculty would be eligible for the vaccine starting on the first day of classes and that hundreds of ASU employees had already received the vaccine as part of Phase 1A distribution.

READ MORE: In-person ASU faculty eligible for COVID-19 vaccine, Crow announces

Public safety, education, infrastructure and loose priorities for the state’s budget and this year’s legislative session were all referenced, but the coronavirus was at the forefront of the governor's speech.

“The pandemic remains the most significant threat we face, and it will require vigilant attention for months to come,” Ducey said. “The risk is still serious, and so is the pressure on our hospitals and medical personnel.”

The State of the State is traditionally delivered on the floor of the House of Representatives, where the governor is surrounded by other lawmakers. But this year’s speech was just over 20 minutes and was delivered virtually from Ducey’s office due to COVID-19. 

The state has faced one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world, resulting in the deaths of over 10,000 Arizonans. More than 17,200 new cases were reported on Jan. 3, the highest number of cases reported in a single day in the state since the pandemic began. 

Cases are also rising within the ASU community, which reported four times as many active cases on Jan. 9 than at the start of the fall semester. Nowhere in the address did Ducey specifically address higher education.

READ MORE: COVID-19 cases still increasing at ASU as students return for spring semester

While College Republicans at ASU focused their social media reaction to the address on clearing the air about education funding, ASU Young Democrats fired off two tweets criticizing the governor’s handling of COVID-19 and said he “proves yet again that he doesn’t care about the health and wellbeing of Arizonans.”

Despite staggering case numbers, Ducey has refused to implement a statewide shutdown or mask mandate. The governor said life doesn’t stop during a pandemic and banning or restricting public gatherings would have a detrimental effect on the communities at large. 

"The critics can say what they want, but the path I’ve outlined is the right path for Arizona," Ducey said.

Ducey outlined a plan for K-12 education, saying there have been flaws and children are not receiving sufficient attention to be prepared to move from grade to grade. He said summer classes, longer school days and one-on-one tutoring could help. 

“Before COVID, we had an achievement gap in our schools, and it has only gotten worse,” Ducey said. “Starting now, let’s direct resources to helping these children catch up.”

Kathy Hoffman, superintendent of public instruction, wrote in a statement the governor’s address “ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students, and teachers."

The governor did not address turmoil in the Arizona Republican Party that has worsened after he stayed quiet on claims of election fraud for several weeks. He did acknowledge the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, calling it “a sickening day."

"In the United States of America, violence and vandalism have no place in the people’s House," Ducey said. "Perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Let us resolve that it never happens again."

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