After more than two years, Arizona is finally out from under the COVID-19 Declaration of Emergency ordered by Gov. Doug Ducey on March 11, 2020.
“Today I am terminating the state’s COVID-19 State of Emergency. Thanks to the hard work of many — health care workers, businesses, public and private sector employees — COVID-19 is no longer an emergency in Arizona,” Ducey said Wednesday of his action which takes effect immediately.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) reports that suspected COVID-19 cases now represent less than 1.5 percent of emergency room visits and hospital admissions. Ducey noted that while COVID-19 is not gone, the availability of the vaccine and other measures has allowed Arizonans to be better positioned to manage and mitigate it.
“COVID-19 challenged us in ways we never could’ve imagined. No corner of our state – no corner of our country or the world – was spared,” he said. “But we met that challenge head on by prioritizing lives, livelihoods and individual liberties. The time is right to move forward.”
ADHS’s website shows 29,268 death in Arizona attributed to COVID-19 since the pandemic started in 2020. Less than 400 COVID deaths were reported across the state in the last week.
Dr. Richard Carmona, who is serving as Ducey’s special advisor for public health preparedness, expressed confidence Wednesday that Arizona is prepared to address an expected future increase in cases due to virus mutations.
“We now have the experience and tools in place to address what may be to come while public health continues doing what we do best: infectious disease surveillance, prevention, and control,” Carmona said.
The termination of the public health state of emergency does not mean the end to various tracking of COVID-19 cases. According to ADHS, information about immunizations, deaths, hospitalizations, and lab results will continue to be gathered.
Ducey’s announcement allows each of the state’s 15 counties to continue any emergency declarations they currently have in place. The same is true for any cities and towns.
In response, the chairman of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors formally ended the county’s own emergency declaration from March 2020. That won’t stop the county from expending millions of dollars of American Rescue Plan Act funds to address the ongoing economic impact COVID-19 has had on Maricopa County residents, businesses, and schools.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced an informational panel convincing parents to vaccinate their children featuring Dr. Richard Carmona: a board of directors member for McKesson, a major distributor of the COVID-19 vaccine. The press release failed to mention Carmona’s membership on McKesson’s board. Carmona didn’t mention his director role during the virtual town hall, either. ADHS only identified Carmona as the former U.S. Surgeon General and Governor Doug Ducey’s special advisor for public health emergency preparedness. Ducey appointed Carmona to that role in August.
McKesson also made big moves with top Arizona officials in August, though not of the positive sort. Prior to Ducey’s appointment of Carmona, McKesson and several other major pharmaceutical companies reached a tentative $26 billion settlement with Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich over their role in the opioid crisis. Johnson & Johnson was also part of that settlement. Carmona wasn’t a director for McKesson at the time. About two weeks after the tentative settlement and Ducey’s appointment of Carmona as his special advisor for public health emergency preparedness, McKesson elected Carmona to their board and appointed him to their Compensation and Compliance Committees.
During the ADHS virtual town hall, Carmona claimed that the vaccine was safe because independent scientists have concluded as such. He promised that there was “very little risk, if any” for a child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The emergency use authorization tells you that scientists independently have studied this, validated it and feel that this vaccine is efficacious – meaning it works – and that it does no harm,” said Carmona.
Carmona said that parents should vaccinate their children not because COVID-19 poses a serious harm to them but “because it is a vaccinatable disease” and that it’s just what parents always do for any other vaccinatable disease.
“The science is sound. The science tells us this is the right thing to do, and we have a long, long history of understanding how vaccines work, and how it’s prevented our children from getting all of these diseases that grievously can cause serious harm and death – and today we don’t see that in society if our children are vaccinated,” asserted Carmona.
On November 2, McKesson announced that it began distributing ancillary supply kits needed to administer the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11, per the FDA’s emergency-use authorization (EUA) for child vaccinations.
McKesson has served as one of the biggest distributors of the COVID-19 vaccine. In July, McKesson reported that they’d distributed over 185 million doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccines to date. They added that they had readied enough kits to distribute another 785 million doses for all vaccine types once available. The latest data reflects an estimated 451 million doses administered in the U.S. so far.
Based on a report filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in June of this year, non-employee directors are compensated with $110,000 annual cash retainer, $180,000-value restricted stock unit (RSU) award, $240,000 annual premium (50 percent cash, 50 percent RSUs), and $10,000 annual cash retainer for chairing a standing committee or $20,000 for chairs of Audit and Compensation Committees. Expenses for attending board and committee meetings are also covered.
Carmona’s compensation wasn’t listed on the report because he wasn’t elected until September.
The former surgeon general has a wide array of leadership roles in other health-related areas. Carmona became the University of Arizona’s (UArizona) first distinguished professor of public health at their Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. He’s also been at the forefront of UArizona’s COVID-19 response plan.
Additionally, Carmona serves as a director for Herbalife Nutrition, a multi-level marketing company (MLM) offering diet supplements that has faced controversy over alleged connections between its products and damage to the liver or kidneys. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that MLMs are often a guise for pyramid schemes, which are illegal. Herbalife Nutrition settled with the FTC in 2016 for $200 million over allegations that they falsely told customers they could profit from the business.