Arizona Gov. Ducey extends medical licenses, key to virus emergency end

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed legislation that will prevent temporary medical licenses issued under his coronavirus executive orders from immediately becoming invalid if he ends the state of emergency he issued 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 will be valid until the end of the year if they were active at the start of this month.

Rep. Joanne Osborne of Goodyear told fellow Republicans in a caucus meeting last week that more than 2,200 licenses remain active, including about 1,200 issued to nurses. A waiver issued by the Department of Health Services 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 an Arizona license.

The extension of the temporary licenses will allow boards that issue them time to process permanent license applications. The bill passed the Senate and House with only one no vote.

"If we want the emergency orders to end, this has to be taken care of first," Republican Rep. Regina Cobb said at the same meeting of GOP House members. "And then once this is taken care of, then the governor can do what he needs to do as far as ending any emergency orders."

Ducey hinted at the end of the formal state of emergency he declared at the start of the pandemic on Wednesday. He told Phoenix television station Fox10 that the state is "wide open" and he was working with the Legislature to "wind down a number of things that are purely administrative."

On Friday, the governor praised doctors, nurses and other health professionals who have been on the front line of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic while announcing the signing of the licensing extension and 16 other bills.

"When we needed them, they were there," Ducey said in a statement. "Whether they just graduated with their health care degrees, returned to the workforce or came from another state, these caretakers and everyday heroes stepped up."

He said extending the temporary licenses means people can keep their jobs and hospitals and other health care facilities can 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 early in 2020. The Department of Health Services reported the lowest number of average daily cases since the summer of 2020 on Wednesday, although the numbers of deaths is still relatively high.

The state has reported 28,883 total deaths from COVID-19, including 336 deaths reported on Wednesday. The state releases new case count and death totals each week.

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