Governor Doug Ducey held a conference on August 31 on the same day that Arizona reported 174 new coronavirus cases but no new deaths. This was his first news conference in months. He spoke, not about the coronavirus, but the flu, urging Arizonans to get a flu shot.

The governor also responded to criticism about his recent trip to Washington, D.C. where he was spotted not wearing a mask.

Aug. 31’s news conference was all about the flu season as Ducey said preventing the flu is more important than ever before. That’s because this flu season creates more challenges with the double whammy of COVID-19.

Ducey says 700 people die from the flu each year in Arizona and in 2019, the state had more than 36,000 cases of flu — the highest ever.

Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Director Dr. Cara Christ went on to stress the importance of getting a flu vaccination and said the flu shot is the single best way to prevent the flu. It reduces symptoms and the amount of time you are contagious.

In an effort to expand access to vaccinations, they will be available to the underinsured and uninsured. The vaccines will also be available at some COVID-19 testing sites.

Here’s what Dr. Christ had to say about what could happen this flu season:

“With this upcoming flu season and with COVID-19 still circulating in our communities, there is a potential that our healthcare system could be overwhelmed.. that’s why it’s critical for us to take proactive steps to prevent the spread of both diseases.”

Christ warns that with flu season/COVID, hospitals run the risk of being overwhelmed. Last year, Arizona had more than 36,000 cases of flu – the highest ever. She also stated AZDHS will follow up COVID-19 guidance complaints with law enforcement, just like they did with three bars over the Aug. 29-30 weekend (Bottled Blonde, Casa Amigos and Glow Shots & Cocktails). 

Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

Get five free fask masks

Students and parents can get five free face masks through a partnership with Hanes. AZDHS provides a mask order form that requires an email address, first and last name, and mailing address at https://www.azdhs.gov.

According to the AZDHS website, “We encourage anyone in a vulnerable population, who is a student (or parents on behalf of students) or school staff member, or who may not be able to purchase a mask to place an order below. Each order will provide 5 washable, reusable cloth face masks, one order per household. If you have questions about ordering or for information about how this program works, visit our FAQs page. For questions about your order or the product itself please contact Hanes at 1-800-503-6698.”

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Arizona sees a downward trend in hospitalizations 

The state Department of Health Services said on August 31 that the number of total coronavirus cases since the pandemic began stands at 201,835. The number of deaths remains 5,029 after officials realized a death had been counted twice.

Hospitalizations, including ventilator and intensive care unit bed usage, continue to inch downward.

D.C. Mask Controversy: Ducey explains why he was spotted not wearing one

The governor also responded to criticism about his recent trip to Washington, D.C. where he was spotted not wearing a mask. Ducey said the event was outdoors. When he’s indoors, he wears a mask. He says he’s not wearing one while taking questions from reporters because the deaf community said they need to read his lips, in addition to the ASL interpreter.

“People can exercise their First Amendment rights whether it’s a protest or political event which is what I was at, a political event, which happened to be outdoors.. when I indoors, I wear a mask. When I’m in a business, when I’m in a grocery store, when I’m in the office, where I’m anywhere inside, where I can’t socially distance or it’s mandated, I’m wearing a mask,” he said.

Meanwhile, a bar near Arizona State University in Tempe became the third metro Phoenix establishment to have its liquor license suspended over the weekend for violating requirements to reopen under coronavirus protocol.

State health officials have been watching for bars that are in violation of social distancing, masking, dancing, standing, and table occupancy limitations in Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order issued June 29.

In general, the number of coronavirus infections is thought to be higher because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

For most people, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a few weeks. But for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Get the latest coronavirus news by downloading the FOX 10 News App. Our promise is that our alerts are there to inform you – not scare you.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Monitor your health daily

MAP: Worldwide interactive Coronavirus case data

MAP: Arizona Coronavirus cases by zip code

FULL COVERAGE: fox10phoenix.com/coronavirus

CDC: How coronavirus spreads, symptoms, prevention, treatment, FAQ

Arizona COVID-19 resources, FAQ: azdhs.gov/coronavirus

On CoronavirusNOW.com, you’ll find extensive coverage about COVID-19, including breaking news from around the country, exclusive interviews with health officials, and informative content from a variety of public health resources.

RELATED:

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

Right now there’s one big difference between flu and coronavirus: A vaccine exists to help prevent the flu and it’s not too late to get it. It won’t protect you from catching the coronavirus, but may put you in a better position to fight it.

To protect yourself, wash your hands well and often, keep them away from your face, and avoid crowds and standing close to people.

And if you do find yourself showing any of these flu or coronavirus symptoms – don’t go straight to your doctor’s office. That just risks making more people sick, officials urge. Call ahead, and ask if you need to be seen and where.

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