Gov. Doug Ducey is declaring the spread of the coronavirus in Arizona a public health emergency and has issued an executive order that will cover the cost of testing for the virus and prevent price gouging on testing, among other things.
“We are anticipating additional positive cases and we are not taking any chances,” Ducey said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon. “This is about public health and protecting lives.”
The virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, was declared a worldwide pandemic on Wednesday by the World Health Organization.
The announcement comes after the Arizona Department of Health Services announced three new additional presumptive cases of positive COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 9 in the state.
“We now have community spread of COVID-19 in Arizona and we are expecting more cases,” ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said.
The declaration will allow the state to waive licensing requirements for delivering services and gives health care providers flexibility and gives state health officials additional resources, Ducey said. It also allocates $500,000 in emergency funds to “aid in measures and resources to protect public health.”
“These would be the types of licensing requirements for, say you had a healthcare institution that had a space where they could put additional patients but may not have beds that we have licensed,” Christ said. “We would be able to go in there and rapidly license them without potentially having some of the normal rules that we would put into place for that.”
The executive order requires assisted living and nursing home facilities to implement visitor policies such as symptom checks for workers and visitors and requires insurance companies and health plans to cover out of network providers for coronavirus. Additionally, the order also fully covers the cost of testing for coronavirus covered and prevents price gouging of testing.
“These are our latest steps, and they will not be our last steps,” Ducey said. “But nothing here today should be misinterpreted: These are proactive measures to limit community spread.”
Arizona is also setting up a COVID-19 hotline, which is being run in a partnership with poison control and drug information centers. The number will act as a way for residents and healthcare providers who are looking for information on the virus and if they are experiencing symptoms and can be reached at 1-844-542-8201.
Ducey and Christ urged that healthy individuals still attend work but take precautions such as washing their hands, not touching their face and ensuring a sanitized work environment. They also urged anyone who does feel sick to stay home.