Sinema: Ducey doesn’t ‘have the time or the interest’ to talk to her about COVID-19

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema. Photo by Gage Skidmore | Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said she’s “not satisfied” with Gov. Doug Ducey’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis, and suggested that the governor and the director of the Arizona Department of Health Services have refused to speak with her about the situation.

During an interview on the “The Gaydos and Chad Show” on KTAR on Tuesday in which she pointedly criticized Ducey, Sinema was asked whether she’d spoken to the governor about her concerns. After a lengthy pause, she intimated that her attempts to do so had been rebuffed. 

“The director of the Department of Health Services and the governor have chosen to run a program that they feel is appropriate for Arizona, and have indicated that they may not have the time or the interest to spend a lot of time with me on the phone,” she replied to hosts Larry Gaydos and Chad Benson.

Asked if Ducey and ADHS Director Cara Christ refused to take her calls, Sinema wouldn’t answer.

“Let’s just move onto the next question, guys,” she tersely responded.

Sinema, a Democrat, was unsparing in how she felt the Republican Ducey had mismanaged the outbreak. She said Ducey re-opened the state too early, noting that a team of experts from Arizona State University and the University of Arizona warned of that outcome.

“The spike in cases was not unexpected. But what’s concerning is the severity of the spike is increasing daily, with today being very sobering in terms of the number of new cases confirmed. And it means that our hospital systems are on edge and could be overwhelmed in less than three weeks,” Sinema said.

ADHS on Tuesday reported 2,392 new COVID-19 cases, a record high that shattered the previous high of 1,680. 

Sinema said Arizona needs to do three things to slow the virus’s spread.

First, she said the state needs to increase its testing, which she said was inadequate, despite a five-week “testing blitz.” According to Johns Hopkins University, Arizona is 42nd in per-capita testing among the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. 

Second, Sinema said the state needs a well-funded, well-organized, statewide contact tracing campaign in which anyone who’s come into contact with someone who’s diagnosed with the coronavirus can be tracked down and warned so they can get tested and isolate themselves if need be.

And third, Sinema said individuals and businesses need to follow guidelines established by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, including staying six feet from other people, wearing face masks while in public, and staying home whenever people can. 

“We’re not seeing those three things happening at an efficient or consistent level across Arizona, and that’s why the spread is dramatically increasing,” Sinema said.

Sinema did not recommend mandatory face mask usage, a policy that many medical professionals and others have urged Ducey to enact in recent days.

Sinema declined to speculate on why Ducey hasn’t taken additional actions to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

“I can’t answer what the governor’s thinking. And that’s not my job,” she said.

But Sinema was critical of his recent focus on hospital capacity. Ducey has indicated that he has no plans for additional regulations that would help slow the spread of the disease, but has repeatedly emphasized his belief that Arizona hospitals have enough capacity to handle increases in COVID-19 cases.

Sinema said she’s hearing otherwise from hospitals and medical professionals. Banner Health’s chief clinical officer said on June 6 that the state’s largest hospital system was about to run out of intensive care unit beds, though Banner and other hospitals issued a joint statement several days later saying they have enough capacity to handle future coronavirus patients.

“I don’t think it makes sense to design your policy based on whether or not there are enough hospital beds for people to die in,” Sinema said. “I think we should be designing our policy about how do we reduce the spread so fewer people are dying, fewer people are in the hospitals and fewer people are contracting the virus. And we can do that while also safely reopening our businesses and our economy.”

A spokesman for the governor did not respond to Sinema’s comments.