Transcript: Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego on "Face the Nation" July 12, 2020

Phoenix mayor: City still has "real challenge with testing"
Phoenix mayor: City still has "real challenge... 04:58

The following is a transcript of an interview with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego that aired Sunday, July 12, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to one of the nation's hot spots, Phoenix, Arizona. Mayor Kate Gallego joins us. Good morning to you, Madam Mayor.

PHOENIX MAYOR KATE GALLEGO: Good morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I read that your county has been ordering refrigerator trucks in the expectation that morgues will be overwhelmed. Can you give us a reality check of what is happening on the ground?

MAYOR GALLEGO: It continues to be a very difficult situation in the greater Phoenix area. We are seeing positivity rates above 20%. We continue to have a real challenge with testing, although there was some very good news this week about additional resources that are coming. We are setting records of the type you don't want to set for the use of ventilators by COVID patients, acute care beds. Our health care workers are telling us they are already tired and they are worried that there could be an additional growth after the Fourth of July. There was a little bit of flattening in the rate of growth, so maybe too early to celebrate. And we don't have a firm trend yet. But I'm looking for positive news.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, I read that the city of Phoenix does not have its own health department. But given that the pandemic hit the east and west coast of this country so hard back in February, why wasn't there more planning to surge testing to your city and to your area?

MAYOR GALLEGO: We really have had huge issues. We've had people waiting eight, 10, 13 hours. Back in April, I started requesting federal support for additional testing. At the time, our peer cities such as Houston, which is the fourth largest city, we're the fifth largest, were getting federal support for mass testing. And I requested it at the time. They said we didn't have sufficient caseload. Now we clearly have sufficient caseload. And I began making the requests again and again. It came up at the White House press briefing this week. I think they felt that- the- the term they used for me was out of tune. But the good news is they did finally decide that they are going to be bringing that federal testing to our community, and it cannot come a moment too soon.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The governor in your state has now made some accommodations. He's limited indoor capacity at restaurants to 50%. Bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks have all been ordered to cease operations. What is it that you want to do in Phoenix that you cannot do right now, and what needs to be done to get control?

MAYOR GALLEGO: I joined mayors from across Arizona to ask the governor to put in place significant expansion in safety precautions. We do not have a statewide requirement for facial coverings in Arizona and we need one. We would love to see additional protections, including moving restaurants completely to takeout. We would also like to have some of the risky or personal care situations like nail salons. We think that's just not necessary right now while you're seeing such high levels of the virus.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The governor did say this week that he's going to push back school reopenings in your city, in your area. Is there any way you can safely open school districts in the coming weeks, given the numbers you're seeing?

MAYOR GALLEGO: We have separately elected school boards, and we're now seeing many of those elected leaders say we can't open until at least October with the levels of the virus so pronounced in our community. They just don't feel like it's a safe environment for teachers to go in, and they're concerned about our students, as well as spread of the virus. I hope they'll be full financial support for those school districts, including digital programming.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, there is so much financial hardship right now, and in looking at what's happening within your state, the moratorium on evictions expires July 22nd. Do you have a sense of whether the state will extend that moratorium? And in your city, are you expecting a spike in homelessness? And what do you do with that in the middle of an outbreak like this?

MAYOR GALLEGO: The best advice that public health professionals give is to stay home, but that's difficult if you don't have a home or are about to be evicted from it. I'm deeply worried about the expiration of the eviction order. What we're hearing is particularly renters are at risk. Many mortgage companies have been willing to say, we have a 30 year mortgage. We'll add a few months at the end. But if you were in month six of a year lease, you're at huge risk of- of being evicted, and I- I feel for our landlords- landlords. We have many retired couples who own a duplex, and that's a big part of their retirement. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

MAYOR GALLEGO: So we need to think about landlords as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: OK. 

MAYOR GALLEGO: What we're hearing is that our communities of color, who are already so hard hit--

MARGARET BRENNAN: Yeah.

MAYOR GALLEGO: --are likely to be among the highest levels of eviction. So it's- it's concerning from many levels--

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will--

MAYOR GALLEGO: --in Phoenix.

MARGARET BRENNAN: We will be watching that. Thank you. Thank you, Mayor. Good luck. We'll be right back.