By BOB CHRISTIE – Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation preventing temporary medical licenses issued under his coronavirus executive orders from being immediately invalidated when he ends the state of emergency that was enacted two years ago.
Friday’s action extends temporary licenses issued since the Republican governor first declared a state of emergency on March 11, 2020. They are valid until the end of the year if they were active at the beginning of this month.
Goodyear Rep. Joanne Osborne told fellow Republicans in a caucus meeting last week that more than 2,200 licenses are active, including about 1,200 that have been issued to registered nurses. A waiver issued by the Department of Health under Ducey’s emergency order allowed doctors, nurses and other qualified health professionals to be licensed even if they lack current training or other requirements for Arizona licensing.
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The renewal of temporary licenses gives the bodies that issue them time to process applications for permanent licenses. The bill passed the Senate and House of Representatives with a single no vote.
“If we want the emergency orders to end, this has to be done first,” Republican Rep. Regina Cobb said at the same meeting of GOP House members. “And once that’s done, the governor can do what he needs to do to end all emergency orders.”
Ducey hinted at the end of the formal state of emergency he declared on Wednesday at the start of the pandemic. He told Phoenix television network Fox10 that the state is “wide open” and he is working with the Legislature to “handle a number of purely administrative things.”
On Friday, the governor commended doctors, nurses and other health professionals who have been on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and announced the signing of the license extension and 16 other bills.
“When we needed them, they were there,” Ducey said in a statement. “Whether they just graduated from health school, got back to work, or were from out of state, these janitors and everyday heroes have grown.”
He said extending the temporary licenses meant people could keep their jobs and hospitals and other healthcare facilities could keep their staff.
Arizona has counted nearly 2 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its approximately 7.2 million residents since the pandemic began in early 2020. The Department of Health on Wednesday reported the lowest number of average daily cases since the summer of 2020, although the death toll is still relatively high.
The state has reported a total of 28,883 deaths from COVID-19, including 336 deaths reported Wednesday. The state releases new case counts and death counts every week.
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