Transcript: Phoenix Mayor Francis Suarez on Face the Nation January 31, 2021

The following is a transcript of an interview with Phoenix Mayor Francis Suarez that aired on Face the Nation on January 31, 2021.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. We’re going to Phoenix now, still a hotspot for COVID-19. Mayor Francis Suarez is here. Good morning, mayor.

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ: Good morning MARGARET. It is a pleasure to be with you this morning.

MARGARET BRENNAN: According to the CDC. Florida is the state with the most cases of B117. This is the strain that was first discovered in the UK. It is highly contagious. And I know there is a concentration in South Florida. What mitigation measures are you taking in your city to curb this?

MAYOR SUAREZ: Well, you know, we have been prevented from taking mitigation measures. I had a public order mask implemented when we were allowed to do this in the summer, and that reduced cases by 90%. Now we are not allowed to implement a mask in public order. It’s something I talked to the coronavirus task force about. The good news is that unlike the summer we had 2,300 COVID patients nationwide, which put a tremendous strain on our hospital system, we now have fewer than a thousand patients. You know, although we are obviously struggling with a new strain, luckily this has not yet been seen in further hospitalizations at this point.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When you say this is not allowed, you are probably referring to Governor DeSantis, a Republican who put restrictions in place to prevent local governments from enforcing mask mandates. So are you telling him that as mayor, I need power over my own city?

MAYOR SUAREZ: Sure, yes. I’ve tried several times to reach him to tell him to give us the opportunity, not only here in town but also in the county, to introduce things that we think are reasonable, that we will think of science supported and we can show that they are supported by science. I have a table that has been shown to show that masks are used in public work. Fortunately, many of our residents do it anyway. I think they are obviously concerned about their own health. And certainly we’ve been hammering home the point in pressure-sensitive adhesives in the past few months, you know. And I think that’s one of the main reasons our hospital stays remain low. I am very grateful that our residents listen, even though we cannot dictate it.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And the governor probably didn’t answer your questions?

Mayor SUAREZ: That is correct. Correctly.

MARGARET BRENNAN: I was looking at the White House report for your state this week, which highlighted the Phoenix metropolitan area as being in the red zone. But your restaurants can be fully occupied, of course with social distancing. But your bars, your nightclubs, your gyms are all open. Should you reconsider?

MAYOR SUAREZ: Well, as I said, you unfortunately know that this is not our responsibility. The governor decided that. And of course we are – we are blessed that, I believe, our residents are also paying attention to warnings and using masks, even though there are significantly more people in these facilities. Because of this, our hospital stays have decreased since the summer. And as I said, we are in a place where we have significantly less than before. Obviously, for our aging population, we are focusing on vaccinating that population just as we speak. And that was our priority to make sure we can protect those who are most vulnerable and who are most at risk of losing their lives if they contract the virus.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Do you know if you have any of the cases of P1, the tribe from Brazil, or B1351 from South Africa?

MAYOR SUAREZ: I haven’t yet. I have received no indication from the State Department of Health that we have any of these charges. It is very possible that we will do it. What we do know, and what we have been told, is that the vaccines we give for both Moderna and Pfizer are effective against the British strain, which of course we all know is far more contagious than you, the species the previous version of COVID-19. So we both continue to vaccinate around 7,000 a week at Marlins Park in Phoenix City. We’d like more vaccine. We think if we get significantly more we can vaccinate both the vulnerable population and the general population faster.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Now vaccine tourism is drawing people to Phoenix too. I know you tried to stop some of this, and your governor said to give priority to residents, but last week there was a shot on social media Mexican TV star who flew to Phoenix and then flew back to Mexico. Rules are still being broken here. How do you intend to prevent that?

MAYOR SUAREZ: Yes, it’s awful, and I think you know we don’t control all of the vaccine that is being given. We control approximately 7,000 of the 22,000 administered nationwide. Many of them are managed by the hospital system and other organizations that we do not control. We’re very faithful to making sure we ask for ID that people have Florida ID because we think it’s disrespectful. I mean, we have people in this church living here who, you know, are dying, honestly, and, you know, they want and they deserve priority when they’re vulnerable. We need to get them vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure they can live a peaceful and comfortable life without worry.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Are you investigating some of these rule violations? You say you are confident that people will be asked for ID, but obviously people are taking advantage of it.

MAYOR SUAREZ: Well, as I said, we only do about a third of all vaccinations, so it is very likely that these cases will occur in the other two thirds. But – but definitely ours – our fire brigade that manages it is on heightened alert and will certainly investigate any cases that we believe may result from any of the vaccinations we have given.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The Phoenix Herald, as you know, local newspaper there, says higher median income communities got more doses than impoverished neighborhoods. Why is this happening?

MAYOR SUAREZ: Here too we only control what we give. We started doing this at Marlins Park about a week ago, and I can assure you that the ones we are doing are for the general public – it’s a government registration system, but it is possible that people will get preferential treatment in hospitals . And that’s something that honestly needs to stop right away. We have focused on our minority communities, on our underserved communities, to ensure that the vaccine is fairly distributed to those who are at risk and who need it most.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Mr. Mayor, thank you very much for your time this morning.

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