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What the Devil won't tell you

Ducey's decision to leave CV-19 masks to locals is insufficient but encouraging

Prepare for MAGA freakout about 'jackboots' of local gov't

Just a day after Arizona's morning report of coronavirus cases doubled over 24 hours, Gov. Doug Ducey reversed himself and will now allow local leaders to require people to wear masks to stem the spread of the illness.

Mayor Regina Romero posted on Facebook prior to Ducey’s announcement that she told the city attorney to get cracking drafting a mask-in-public requirement. Pima County called a special meeting for Friday to follow suit. Local politicians had made public calls for him to loosen his hold on cities and counties, and were maneuvering behind the scenes to challenge his ban on them making their own regulations to fight COVID-19.

Whether that put any pressure on Ducey to make the decision is up for debate. I've yet to see evidence that Democratic anger, frustration or fatalities do a thing to move Republicans on anything these days.

Ducey, reportedly, isn't talking to the mayors of Phoenix or Tucson during a statewide health disaster. That's ... that's ... that's ... it makes my brain smoke. I don't care if Regina Romero killed your dog. The governor of Arizona needs to talk with the mayors of the two cities most associated our state.

If he needs their numbers, he can drop me a note; I'll help get them connected.

One thing at a time I guess. For a governor from a party short on shame, Ducey seems to be caving to some reason. About damned time.

Ducey also gave, during a press conference Wednesday. local leaders the power to police and cite people who don’t wear masks. The move exceeded Tucson leaders' anticipations. They were ready to take a step whatever Ducey allowed and fight it out in the courts, buying time (and lives) in the process. Instead, they are free to do what they want to do and can even police the requirement.

In other words, here comes the jackboot of liberal governance, local MAGAs. Prepare for freakout. Freedom as you know it is over. The rest of us see a glimmer of hope, maybe, that our governor isn't out of his mind.

Ducey concedes last week’s spin is no longer operable and boy did the Phoenix-area press jump all over him for the reversal.

Just six days ago, Ducey said the increasing number of COVID-19 virus cases was simply a matter of more testing, and no masking requirement was necessary.

"There's not a cure for this virus, and there's not a vaccine for this virus," the governor told reporters last week. "So this virus is something we need to learn to live with, and we need to make sure that we are protecting the most vulnerable in our society."

The problem is that more than a thousand of his state’s residents have found living with the virus quite impossible and instead died from it. What’s more, the number of daily reported cases jumped from 1,016 Monday to 2,396 on Tuesday. Wednesday's number was 1,849. Thursday morning, the state announced another 2,519 cases. So far, 1,271 people have died from the disease. More than 43,000 people have been infected in Arizona and that number has nearly doubled in two weeks.

So Ducey changed his jam completely.

“There is a trend and the trend is headed in the wrong direction,” he said. “And the actions that we are going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse that trend.”

Mistakes made

We know by now that Ducey's political base shows only spite for any measure to fight coronavirus. Deaths? What-evvv-errr. There’s an economy to resurrect so President Donald Trump can ride it to re-election and get back to the business of terrorizing people of color. C’mon, Arizona. Giddyup.

The press, meanwhile wasn’t having any of it. They didn’t want to hear that Ducey's just been following the numbers and they wouldn't settle for “mistakes were made.” They were rather insistent on the active-voice confession that Ducey made mistakes.

The biggest of those mistakes was ignoring and then firing a research team who were warning him the spike was imminent if the state reopened. Ducey decided to ignore researchers at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona in favor of secret Trump administration models that supposedly gave the state the all clear.

The governor for his part, says he is just following the data and recommendations from mayors.

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Hey, whatever it takes.

Yay, governor

Know what? Fine. Ducey's earned his hour in the crucible before a rough-and-tumble press and those hard-news reporters were within their rights to smack him around some. I'm a columnist. In my humble opinion, I'm more eager to encourage Ducey to take further steps to stop the virus.

Look, I’m just 48 hours the other side of calling Ducey everything up to a homicidal maniac for taking a laissez-fair approach to the outbreak. Time will tell if if requiring masks in some places and cracking down on nightclubs will cumulatively bend Arizona’s curve down.

Maybe it’s the granddad in me. See, when Alannah – age 19 months – stops doing the thing I want her to refrain from, I don’t yell at her for doing it in the first place. I give her a “Yay, baby!”and clap. Man, you think Trump lives by applause. There’s nothing this kid loves more than ovation. She smiles big, claps her own hands and “Yays” herself.

So, to his announcement I'm willing to clap and say: “Yay, governor!”

What he did was necessary and probably insufficient. The numbers will tell. Shelling him back to the bunker isn’t going to save lives. There will be a time to hold him and his party accountable if we so choose. Right now, we don't want a gun-shy governor pistol-whipped for doing the right thing too late.

Whatever moral superiority I may glean from saying “Told ya so,” if it saves lives, we would be better off encouraging more responsible behavior. Ducey's hiding under a table with his tail between his legs, to invoke another metaphor. It's not like we need to say "Who's a good boy?" We need him to feel emboldened to do more.

Toledo wrath

If mask-wearing alone doesn't cut it, the next step would be to at least give local governments the authority to impose tighter safety standards for how business operate than Ducey’s executive orders require.

He pleged to crackdown on business that were bad actors and not following any sort of social distancing standards. The Scottsdale bar scene basically Bronx-cheered Ducey, paying about as much attention to him as Antifa pays to protesters asking for calm and non-violence.

And it seemed to piss him off. Let me deploy my next relevant cliche: better late than never.

The governor also pledged to ramp up coronavirus testing and contact tracing. He’s promising firmer restrictions on long-term care facilities. He’s saying the right things but we’re going to have to wait and see how much incisor he puts into his words.

The GOP hates to say it's wrong about any of the conclusions it reaches prior to examining facts. So for Ducey to be even saying the right things, is a big step forward.

Shifty subversion

His journey has seen him twist and turn caught between The Donald and the deep new data.

In March, Ducey seemed ready to go the Mike DeWine route. The Republican governor of Ducey’s native Ohio has been acting like a regular participant in the fact-based world during the crisis, rather than a pioneer in Trump's alternate universe.

Then when Trump showed up last month for his first post-COVID outing, the whole state seemed to enter the Trump hallucination that the worst was over, the economy comes first and the people who die, well, they were mostly dead anyway. There was a pre-existing condition or they were too damned old.

Republicans in Arizona were ready for a revolt. Trump was flying in.

Suddenly, Arizona’s priority was to be open for business and health be damned. Ducey said he was going off the numbers. Well, the data was taken during the period when the state was basically living under partial quarantine. Of course the numbers looked acceptable. Tell the state to mix and mingle and of course they are going to spike.

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I summarize this because I think Ducey may have found a path out of his political conundrum – maybe, we’ll see (hedge, hedge, hedge). Ducey repeatedly referred to “White House” guidelines for reopening. These were the guidelines established under the Dr. Anthony Fauci’s bespectacled gaze.

They have absolutely nothing to do with what Trump actually wants. He wants factories humming with workers packed as cheeked to jowl as necessary. Mask? Masks are for wussies.

In citing the White House guidelines he can look Trump supporters — and Trump himself, in the upcoming presidential journey here — in the face and say “I’m just following orders.”

Those guidelines also call for temperature testing employees, establishing social distancing among workers, providing hand sanitizer and not letting sick workers stay on the job. Some more of that now, please.

If he has to mask his subversion in blind obedience, then so be it.

A tender moment

Ducey should be held accountable for cresting number of cases. There's a time and place for that.

By all means, remember Ducey’s colossal screw-up come election time. Remember the people in his party who demanded he send more people to their death to protect Trump’s reelection narrative, no matter what it does to his actual prospects.

In this tender moment, Ducey may be on the verge of doing more right things. If it takes clapping encouragement or a Milkbone and "whossagoodboy? The good boy calls the mayor of Tucson! Yes he does! Yes he does!" I'm ready to do it to beat this virus back.

We can only hope Ducey will take more of a hands-on approach. It is exactly like our lives depend on it.

Blake Morlock is a journalist who has spent 20 years covering government in Arizona and also worked in Democratic political communications. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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Photo by Michael Chow/The Arizona Republic | Pool photo

Some help is on the way to cope with the coronavirus as Gov. Doug Ducey allows local governments to impose mask restrictions but more is needed.


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