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A patient is taken to the hospital in the Navajo Nation town of Tuba City in Arizona in May. Photo: Mark Ralston/AFP

Disability advocates in Arizona are criticizing a decision by the state allowing hospitals to activate a Crisis Standards of Care Plan that enables statewide triage protocols for acute care facilities.

Why it matters: Gov. Doug Ducey (R) said at a briefing the policy would help combat surging coronavirus cases. But disability rights groups issued a statement Tuesday urging health officials to revise the plan because they said it "could result in discriminatory denial of life-saving healthcare during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"It's not needed today, but we’re anticipating that it will be there in the future. This is our time to act to save and protect as many Arizona lives as possible."
— Ducey's comments at Monday's briefing

What they're saying: The Arizona Center for Disability Law said it wrote to the health department earlier this year asking officials to modify the CSC guidelines "to incorporate explicit nondiscrimination requirements and provide for reasonable accommodations for persons with disabilities."

  • However, these changes weren't incorporated into the guidelines and it received no response from health officials, the group said.

The other side: A petition from medical providers, signed by more than 1,100 people, asked state leaders to "utilize crisis care standards" because they say they are working under "a huge strain on an already stressed hospital system."

  • The petition, which also calls for the stay-at-home order that expired in May to be reinstated, notes the Crisis Standards of Care Plan (CSC) is "something that most of us, when choosing our career, thought we would never be doing," noting it was usually only implemented in extreme situations in the U.S., such as terrorist attacks."
  • Arizona hospitals asked the state health department last Friday to formally activate the CSC. An Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association spokesperson told KPNX, "Moving to crisis standards of care will allow consideration of regulatory waivers as well as additional liability protections."

The big picture: Ducey announced at Monday's press conference he was ordering bars, clubs, movie theaters, waterparks and gyms to close for 30 days in response to spiking cases.

  • More than 79,000 people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the state, with over 4,600 new cases on Tuesday, per the Arizona Department of Health Services. More than 1,600 people have died from the virus in Arizona.

Go deeper

D.C. urges Rose Garden ceremony attendees to get tested for COVID-19

Staff and visitors during a ceremony to announce Barrett as Trump's nominee to the Supreme Court in the Rose Garden. Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The Washington, D.C. Department of Health on Thursday asked attendees and White House staff at the Rose Garden celebration for the introduction of Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett on Sept. 26 to seek medical advice and get tested for COVID-19 by their local health department.

Why it matters: The outbreak tied to the White House contributed to an increase in the District's caseload. D.C. experienced a 26% increase last week, rising from some 40 new cases per day to about 50.

Washington's big contact tracing problem

Photo Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images

The D.C. Health Department is trying to jump-start contact tracing efforts around the White House's coronavirus outbreak. Tracing has been inadequate so far even as cases spread deeper into the city.

The big picture: The White House has decided not to move forward with recommended public health protocols of contact tracing and testing since President Trump tested positive for the virus. 

Medical ethics in pandemic times

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic is rife with scientific and medical uncertainty, including debates about the ethics of using experimental treatments.

The big picture: As the global pandemic continues, the tension between providing the best available care for patients and performing trials to determine whether that care is effective risks complicating the medical response.