/ Modified jun 4, 2020 6:07 p.m.

Gov. Ducey defends reopening decisions as COVID-19 cases rise

The governor also addressed statewide protests related to the killing of George Floyd.

ducey 0604 Gov. Doug Ducey at a June 4, 2020 press briefing.
Office of the Arizona Governor/YouTube

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and other leaders acknowledged a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the state during a news briefing Thursday. Ducey and state health director Cara Christ stated that the rise in cases was expected and defended the decision to gradually reopen the state three weeks ago.

Recent data show a rise both in the number of COVID-19 cases in the state, as well as a a growing percentage of positive results. The number of hospitalizations climbed over 1,000 for the first time this week, according to the state Department of Health Services, and the state was poised to break 1,000 total reported deaths, with 996 on Thursday.

"What you see here is a lot of data and information. We don't have a trend established at this time. We've seen some growth in cases as of late. We'll look at where we are in terms of percentage positive," Ducey said, adding that his hope is to see cases and hospitalizations trending down.

Christ added that her department is monitoring the rise of cases in Mexico, which is driving some cases in Arizona and California.

Pima County's Health Director also doesn't think the rise in coronavirus cases is going to overtax local hospitals. Doctor Theresa Cullen, who took over the position this week from Doctor Bob England, says the jump in cases seen in the past week is due to several factors, including the end of Governor Doug Ducey's stay at home order:

"I do think the reopening of public spaces, businesses, probably is contributing to the increase in the overall number of cases being reported'" she said "I just think we need to be cognizant that there were also two holidays in there and testing went up."

Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and the state's COVID-19 "testing blitz" all occurred around the time that businesses started reopening. Cullen says she continues to monitor the rise in cases, and predicted local facilities will be able to meet the increased demand

Ducey discusses protests and the state of emergency.

The briefing started with Ducey and law enforcement officials speaking about the response to protests in the state over the killing of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for nearly 9 minutes.

Ducey emphasized the peaceful nature of protests of thousands in the state, and then pointed to the actions of a smaller group of rioters and looters. The governor reiterated his statewide curfew lasts through the weekend.

The governor said that there is "a lot that can be done" to respond to demands from demonstrators across the state and country calling for police reform and an end to police brutality, promising "deliverables" based on talks with various minority leaders and communities.

The governor did not commit to any action in particular to address calls for action to address police reform or accountability in the wake the death of George Floyd, nor did Department of Public Safety Director Col. Heston Silbert, who said police reform has continually improved since the beating of Rodney King in 1991.

"Police reforms, accountability have grown leaps and bounds," Silbert said.

Of the number of unarmed people who die as a result of police harm, unarmed black people die at a disproportionately higher rate than any other group, according to 2013-2019 data from a group tracking police violence.

Ducey said he is committed to learning and having an ongoing conversation with African American and minority communities, amid concerns he suffers from white privilege. Ducey said in initial meetings that groups have asked for more COVID-19 testing for the African American community, reform, and more diversity on the Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, among other things.

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