Arizona Congressman Seeks Action After Virus Cases Surge

Arizona Congressman Seeks Action After Virus Cases Surge

PHOENIX (AP) -- A Democratic congressman wants to know what Republican Gov. Doug Ducey plans to do to address a recent surge in new coronavirus cases that has pushed some hospitals to near capacity in their intensive care units.

As the state becomes a hotspot, Rep. Ruben Gallego sent a letter to Ducey Wednesday criticizing him for failing to highlight the “seriousness of the growing public health emergency our state is facing.”

Gallego noted that Ducey has said the rise in cases was expected and partly the result of increased testing.

But public health experts have said it is clear the increase goes well beyond that, noting that the percent of positive tests have nearly doubled in the past few weeks.

Arizona is seeing more than 1,000 new cases per day, up from fewer than 400 a day when Ducey ended his business closure and stay-at-home orders in mid-May. On Wednesday, the state reported more than 1,500 new cases.

The state's largest hospital system, Banner Health, has said its intensive care units are at or near capacity and that it will soon exceed capacity. Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel is urging the public to boost their efforts to avoid contracting or passing on the virus by wearing facemasks in public, using social distancing and being diligent with hygiene practices.

Gallego's letter said “clearly, Arizona is going in the wrong direction. What does your administration plan to do about it?”

Ducey has praised the large majority of the state's residents who have followed social distancing guidelines but has declined to criticize large gatherings at nightclubs. His executive orders block cities from taking actions to stop activities that may spread the virus. And he is not requiring the public to take steps like wearing masks.

Ducey's office didn't immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Gallego's letter. He is likely to hold his weekly virus update news conference Thursday, although the event hasn't been formally scheduled.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

For some -- especially older adults and people with existing health problems -- it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

As of Wednesday, Arizona has 28,852 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and seen 1,095 people die from the virus since March.