#COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

Phoenix with no traffic

Inhabitants of Earth are nearly six months into the most disruptive year of our lives, thanks to the novel Coronavirus. The United States was slow to react to the pandemic that had already spread across Asia and Europe and killed thousands. Early denial by leaders in multiple countries– like the US, Brazil, Russia, India, and the UK– has proven deadly for the general population.

As of today, June 14, 2020, there  have been 7,767,336 cases and 429,555 deaths worldwide. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have close to 30% of the cases (2,074,526) and 30% of the deaths (115,436).

Those of us who are not essential workers, sheltered in place for roughly two months as states declared public health emergencies to flatten the curve and contain the spread of the virus. We stopped driving and flying. Traffic disappeared — even in Phoenix. Air pollution cleared. We could hear the birds sing. We started walking our dogs regularly. We rediscovered or learned new skills like cooking and sewing and took on home projects that had waited for months or years due to lack of time in our previously harried schedules. Gardeners sprouted all over Tucson, as evidenced by the almost continuous activity on the Tucson Backyard Gardeners Facebook Group. We started making COVID19 masks and giving them away to friends and strangers, alike.  We went to more online meetings than we had ever imagined… and even went to church online… and in most cases it worked just fine. With a dearth of COVID19 information from the government and loads of misinformation on the Internet, we turned to moderated groups like Fear > Facts Tucson Coronavirus Facebook Group for trusted updates. We were separate, but we built community in different ways to stay connected. Did we really need all of the meetings … the events … the driving … the flying … the stress … the missed evenings with family?

Continue reading #COVID19 Pandemic Is Both a Problem & an Opportunity

#COVID19 Shines Spotlight on Inadequacies of Profit-Driven Health Care (video)

hospital

As of today, June 8, 2020, there have been 7 million cases of COVID19 worldwide and 402,555 deaths. The US has the worst COVID19 track record with 2 million cases and 110,514 deaths. Although the US has 4.25% of the world’s population, we have had 28% of the cases and 28% of the deaths.

Why does the US have such a dismal track record in fighting the novel coronavirus? I thought we had the “best healthcare system in the world.” We have the most expensive healthcare system in the world, but when you look at our public health data and our response to COVID19, we definitely do not have the best system in the world.

The United States is the only developed country in the world that does not have a national health plan that guarantees care for all residents. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was a nice try, but its efficacy and affordability have been whittled away by Republicans in Congress.

Why is the US response to COVID19 so disorganized and inadequate? Before the pandemic, we had an over-priced, inequitable system based upon profit and a just-in-time supply chain of personnel, equipment and beds. The novel coronavirus turned the spotlight on inadequacies and inequities of our health care system. In the United States, the health care you get depends on your income and your ZIP Code– not your needs. If you’re a resident of the United States you should have access to the same healthcare across the country. A person living in Chinle should have the same access to care as a person living in Paradise Valley. Now the person in Chinle not only does not have adequate medical care, they may not have running water or passable roads.

Continue reading #COVID19 Shines Spotlight on Inadequacies of Profit-Driven Health Care (video)

#AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

OK, I’m back in the saddle again. Back in the Arizona House, that is.

To be safe, I am doing Floor sessions on the Floor with my mask and gloves but all other meetings remotely.

Today, we had a very interesting Democratic Caucus meeting in the morning. ASU data modeling scientists presented data and answered many questions about COVID19. Following that, the Grand Canyon Institute presented on unemployment insurance and what a mess it was in Arizona, even before COVID19. Both of these presentations were excellent; it was such a breath of fresh air to hear the Grand Canyon Institute speak, instead of the Goldwater Institute! It gave me a glimpse of what the Arizona Legislature could be if the Democrats took control this year. (The meeting will be available in the Capitol TV archived videos.)

At the beginning of the floor session today, Rep. Arlando Teller from the Navajo Nation proposed sine die. This would have ended the 54th session, as the Arizona Senate has already voted to do. The Navajo Nation now has a higher COVID19 infection rate than New York City. Both Teller and his seat mate Rep. Myron Tsosie talked about the friends and family who have been sick with the novel Coronavirus and those who have died. Several Democrats gave speeches about focusing on the pandemic rather than focusing on pet legislation that is not an emergency. Rep. Kelly Townsend accused the Democrats of politicizing the issue. Teller’s motion was vetoed on a party line vote.

What did the House Republicans do next? They put up 15-20 unnecessary, non-emergency bills for debate and a vote.

Continue reading #AZ House Passes Insurance Bills, Ignores Calls for #COVID19 Special Session (video)

Arizona House Resumes 54th Session on May 19. Now What?

Arizona House

The Arizona House of Representatives has been adjourned since March 23, 2020, due to the COVID19 pandemic. Some of us wanted to vote to sine die (end the session) on March 23 and come back later for special session(s) focused on COVID19 public health and economic issues. Others– mostly Republicans– wanted to stay in session and adjourn because they had hopes that their bills would still pass during this session. I say “mostly Republicans” because even though the Democrats make up 48 percent of the Arizona Legislature, the majority party refuses to move more than a handful of Dem bills each session.

Truth in Renting? No way. Expansion of maternal and child health?  No way. Ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment? No way. Fully funding P-20 education? No way.

The majority party refuses to hear these types of bills that would help the people of Arizona because these bills are not backed by special interest groups, big money donations, individual corporations, the Chamber of Commerce, ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council), the Goldwater Institute, Americans for Prosperity or the “Institute for Justice” (quote marks added to emphasize the irony of their name).

Continue reading Arizona House Resumes 54th Session on May 19. Now What?

Prison & Long-Term Care #COVID19 Data Needed to Judge Virus Spread in #AZ (video)

prison

Forty percent of Arkansas’ COVID19 cases are prisoners. In a Marion, Ohio prison, more than 1800 prisoners and 100 guards have tested positive for novel Coronavirus. That is 73% of the inmates in that prison. Although prisons and jails are hotspots for the novel Coronavirus across the country, Arizona has no clue what in happening in our prisons with COVID19.

We have tested only 0.4% of the 41,594 prisoners in Arizona. NONE of the nearly 5000 women at the Perryville prison have been tested. Only six of the 5000 prisoners in the Yuma prison have been tested. Arizona is in the dark about the extent of the novel Coronavirus spread in our prison system, and Governor Ducey and the Department of Corrections  (DOC) are making no moves toward improving the situation or the lack of transparency. The DOC has a dashboard up, but the data are minimalist.

In addition to not knowing what’s going on in the prisons, there is no transparency in the Arizona data related to COVID19 in long-term care facilities. In New York, 25% of the COVID19 cases are in long-term care (LTC) facilities including the senior living centers. Arizona long-term care providers tell me they are providing data to federal, state and county governments, but those data are not on the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) website.

The people of Arizona are being kept in the dark about COVID19 in prisons and LTC centers. Many of us have loved ones in an assisted living center, a nursing home, a skilled nursing facility, a jail, or a prison– or who work there.

Until we know the extent of infection in these high-risk facilities, we have no idea what the spread of the novel coronavirus is in the state of Arizona. The caregivers and prison guards are unknowingly working with infected patients and inmates without protective gear. This situation puts prisoners, guards and all of their families at risk.

Continue reading Prison & Long-Term Care #COVID19 Data Needed to Judge Virus Spread in #AZ (video)

Parents, How’s It Going? ADE Offers Flexibility to Parents & Students (video)

Rep. Pam Powers Hannley and ADE Chief Kathy Hoffman

Parents, how are you all doing as you shelter in place in your homes with your children? I’d like to hear your stories.

I know that many of you led busy lives before the novel Coronavirus hit our state. You were probably rushing here and there… dropping off children at school or day care, driving to work, going to the store, going out to eat, watching a soccer game at the park, taking vacations, but now you’re home with each other. You may have work-at-home obligations, while at the same time you’re trying to help your children with their schoolwork.

So, how are you doing? How are your children doing? I have talked with many moms in the past week. They seem a bit stressed out with all of the things they are now juggling, on top of what they were juggling already. Their experiences with the schools has been mixed, but after all, the teachers and schools were also thrown into this. You don’t just set up an online learning curriculum with the snap of your fingers.

On Wednesday, the Arizona House Democrats had our weekly update phone call. This week our special guest was Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, (She and I are pictured here at the 2019 Arizona Public Health Association Conference, where she was honored as public official of the year.) We are lucky to have this woman heading up our educational system. She’s smart, and she has heart.

A few days earlier, she and Governor Doug Ducey announced that Arizona schools would be closed for the rest of the school year. School is still going on, but the buildings will remain closed. Initially, when the two of them announced the shutdown, they said that students would go back to school after Easter.

According to Hoffman, there is quite a bit of variability across schools, school districts, and geographic areas in the state. Some schools are attempting online learning. Some students are meeting with teachers via video chat, but no all schools districts, schools, teachers or students have the technology at home to do this. It is my understanding that 50% of the students in TUSD– and an unknown number of teachers– don’t have the Internet or the hardware to access online classes. Hoffman said TUSD reported needing as many as 11,000 laptops or devices for students to attend classes remotely.  Some schools are distributing paper packets– particularly to younger students.

Some parents are getting creative with nature walks — even if they are around the backyard– and old fashioned, hands-on learning about plants, animals, the weather, gardening and the environment. One parent told me last week that her son’s school was gearing up slowly for online learning but that she has her son on a schedule. (Go, Mom!) He has to do one worksheet of math, do one hour of silent reading, write a few paragraphs, and practice his trumpet for 30 minutes. I encourage parents to engage their children with other types of learning activities like journaling, science experiments, research papers, poetry, music, cooking, gardening, handicrafts, art. Children and young adults need ways to express themselves … and ways to stay busy. Why now combine learning with self expression?

Children will learn lessons during this time. It might not be book learning, but they will have experiences they will never forget. Parents, consider having your children write a paragraph a day in a journal about their lives. It will give them a record and a personal history of this time and also give you a glimpse into what they’re thinking and feeling.

Since I have been talking with parents and educators, I was interested to hear about her expectations. Basically, seniors who are on track to graduate will graduate. All students who are performing at grade level will progress. There will be no standardized testing this year. Hoffman and the school board are “trying to be as flexible as possible” with the parents and students.

I agree with Hoffman’s approach. In this difficult time, we all need to be kind and patient with each other. This includes parents, children and educators.

March 31 is my daughter Alex’s birthday. In her honor, this video focuses on families.