For the politicians and businesses who are in a hurry to open up Arizona’s economy… SOON… the data, the computer models, and the small-government Arizona Way are not on your side.
Arizonans are suffering through a perfect storm of economic, ideological and medical circumstances that are working against us as our state government limply responds to the Coronavirus outbreak. First and most glaring, Arizona’s small-government Republican governors and legislators have been cutting taxes for corporations and the rich and balancing the budget on the backs of the people for decades. This has resulted in:
- One of the most volatile state budgets in the country
- An over-reliance on high sales taxes at state and local levels
- Extremely low corporate taxes
- Annual budgets riddled with corporate carveouts and tax giveaways
- Economic vulnerability when there are interruptions in retail sales
- Wages that are 85% of the national average
- Far too many residents holding multiple gig economy jobs
- Stingy social safety net programs (TANF, childcare subsidies, pre- and post- natal care, housing assistance)
- High poverty
- Underfunded public health, public education, and higher education systems
- Statewide healthcare provider shortages
- Counties declared as healthcare deserts
- The worst rate of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) in the US
- The least transparent state Legislature.
So… even before the novel Coronavirus hit the planet, many Arizonans were living on the edge economically, thanks to the Republican Party’s fixation with small, stingy government, privatization, deregulation, and tax giveaways. Add the state’s slow response to the COVID19 pandemic to the ideological economic mess we were already in, thanks to years of austerity, and it’s obvious why Arizona’s COVID19 cases are still increasing and getting “back to business” isn’t happening soon.
Arizona has one of the worst COVID19 testing rates in the country. We need significantly more testing, contact tracing, surveillance, and quarantine; finally state health officials are starting to listen. Other countries actually quarantined infected people in hotels– away from their families. We send them home to infect their families and encourage essential workers to work without personal protective equipment (PPE). Unfortunately, our public health system has been chronically underfunded– ravaged by years of budget cuts by small-government legislators. It doesn’t help our outbreak status that we have one of the highest rates of incarceration in the US. We are a retirement destination– resulting in many senior and long-term care living centers. And, obviously, Arizona is a tourist, travel, and business hub with many travelers.
We know from the research done on the naval aircraft carrier outbreak that asymptomatic but infectious people are among us. With minimal testing and contact tracing, Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ have set up a situation that guarantees we will be sheltering in place for weeks. OR risk even wider spread of infection and death.
Several recent articles detail what’s going on in Arizona…
On April 23, I posted this article about the dire conditions and lack of COVID19 testing in Arizona prisons and long-term care centers: Prison & Long-Term Care #COVID19 Data Needed to Judge Virus Spread in #AZ (video)
Within hours, this story was released: Correctional Model Predicts 99% COVID-19 Infection Rate In Arizona Prisons. It predicts widespread infection in Arizona Prisons because we are testing only 0.4% of the prisoners and excluding female prisoners from testing altogether. (Why?)
On April 24, this story stating that Thursday, April 23 was Arizona’s worst Coronavirus day was published: Arizona has worst day of confirmed coronavirus cases yet. Just a few days after the massive rally to open up the state, Arizona had it’s worst day with 310 new infections and 66 deaths in one day; the case count had risen to 5769. Two days later, we have 6280. (Watch the daily updates here.)
Also, on Arizona’s worst day yet, the Arizona Department of Health Services expanded the criteria for testing:
COVID-19 testing available to more Arizonans under newly expand criteria. Now anyone who thinks they have been exposed– even if they have no symptoms– can get tested for Coronavirus. You’ll remember a month ago, Dr. Christ said testing wasn’t a priority because they state lacked tests. No, apparently, we have tests but there have been reports of varying effectiveness of the tests. (What else can add to our uncertainty?!)
And today, April 25, this story dashed the hopes of the “let’s get back to business” people who hoped that Arizona’s COVID19 outbreak had already peaked: When Is It Safe To Ease Social Distancing? Here’s What One Model Says For Each State. This model uses each state’s current situation– detailed above– to predict when they could safely start to lift strict shelter in place orders. Due to our slow and bumbling response to COVID19 Arizona could be one of the LAST STATES to reopen. That date– which is based upon our current dismal public health response– is predicted to be June 26. North Dakota– which has an ironclad Republican majority in the Legislature is dead last at July 19.
Back on March 19, it’s too bad no one was listening to the House Democrats when we pushed for a comprehensive approach: Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video) . Our message was: Don’t give Ducey and Christ $105 million without guidelines on how to spend it. [I guess we were right about that!!!]
In the meantime, it’s not over. Stay home and limit trips to the store. If you have to go grocery shopping or go to work, please be safe and wear a mask and gloves if you have them.