The novel Coronavirus continues to run rampant across the United States and across the state of Arizona. Today, when I looked at the Arizona Department of Health Services website I saw that the number of confirmed cases in Arizona is now 1157, with 20 deaths. That’s 238 more new confirmed cases than yesterday. Remember, the state is adding hundreds of cases per day– despite low diagnostic testing rates.￼ You can check Arizona’s progress in the struggle against the Coronavirus here.
Last week, House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez sent a letter to Governor Doug Ducey asking him to call for a statewide stay at home order, as several mayors have done, including Tucson Mayor Regina Romero. It’s time for action.
It was Friday evening, March 27, when I recorded the video below. Governor Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ had just announced that they would de-prioritizing Coronavirus testing in a state with already dismal testing rates, a climbing infection rate, and no statewide shelter in place order. Four Democratic mayors Kate Gallego (Phoenix), Regina Romero (Tucson), Cora Evans (Flagstaff), and Ana Tovar (Tolleson) bravely bucked the governor and called for the shutdown of bars and restaurants in their cities. Now LD11 Senator Vince Leach is threatening Evans and the City of Flagstaff with an SB1487 preemption challenge because their rule is more restrictive than Ducey’s executive order. Seriously, Leach? You’re more concerned about power and politics– than you are about widespread disease and death?
Arizona needs more widespread testing to track and control the spread of the virus– not less. The number of confirmed cases in Arizona has almost doubled between my March 24 Coronavirus video and the March 27 video below. Now, on March 29, there are almost three times as many cases as there were five days ago. At that point, Arizona had 326 confirmed cases of novel Coronavirus, on Friday, there were 665, and today we have 919. The number of cases in Maricopa County has doubled in three days from 199 (March 24) to 399 (March 27) and is now at 545 (March 29). Pima County was at 42 (March 24) and more than doubled to 102 (March 27); now we are at 153 (March 29). Navajo County is also on the critical list. They have a relatively small population, compared to Maricopa and Pima, but for a while last week, Navajo was second only to Maricopa County in confirmed cases. Navajo had 32 cases (March 24) which jumped to 49 on Friday and 62 cases today (March 29). For the Navajo Nation as a whole, there are 115 confirmed cases. This is a tragic situation because their communities are far flung, roads are often rough, Internet is sketchy, and medical services are stretched thin… in normal times. These are not normal times.
We need widespread testing in the state of Arizona, so we can see where potential hotspots are. The bridge tournament in Tucson over the weekend of March 7-8 (right before the social distancing recommendations from the federal government) has received attention because one of the attendees had the Coronavirus and exposed hundreds of other people. One woman who handled the cards of the infected man died; another person who spent time with him at the conference has tested positive. According to news stories, the Adobe Bridge Club is trying to contact the 700 conference attendees of their exposure, but the Pima County Health Department hasn’t. WHAT?!
The Arizona Department of Health Services reports the total cases each day, statewide and by county and how many people were tested. I have not been able to find more detailed data. At a national conference last fall for state legislators, they talked about the importance of transparent government data. When federal, state and local governments put de-identified data online, random data nerds (like me), academics,￼ policy wonks, and college students can analyze it independently and potentially find trends– or mistakes. When you’re talking about public health data, more eyes on the data and more questions asked of the data are always a good thing.
Today’s video is about HB2409, small business investment tax credit extension. This is also known as the Angel Investor Tax Credit. In the big scheme of tax giveaways in the state of Arizona, this one is sort of small potatoes dollar wise, but I still have issues. It is an extension if $2.5 million per year tax credit for 10 years. The angel tax credits are for “qualified investors,” people who are licensed, trained, and smart enough to play the stock market and make otherwise risky investments wisely because of their expertise. ￼[My layman’s definition.] ￼
I have attended several Bioscience Roadmap events where they showcase research and new discoveries from the universities that are … just …about… ready for market. What they need is venture capital to get the new drug discovery or the next medical device from our universities to production to market.
I am very familiar with this topic because ever since I started my own small business in 1986, I have been writing about or working in public health and medical research. In fact, the first Bioscience Roadmap event that I attended featured Dr. Gene Gerner, Dr. ￼Tom Grogan and the story of how their research at the Arizona Cancer Center blossomed into huge NCI research grants, new drugs, and successful UA spinoff businesses. I knew them, wrote about their research, and photographed them when I worked in the communication office at the cancer center.￼
My point is that I value scientific research and believe that research jobs (and related jobs that come with big grants) are some of the best jobs in our state. One of the reasons that I don’t support the angel investment tax credit is that I found out that only 30% of the funds go to businesses that spinoff from our research universities.￼ Also, there is a $10 million ceiling to qualify as a “small start-up business” (who is eligible to receive funds from angel investors). If your business has $9 million in assets, is it really as “small business start-up”? ￼
The Coronavirus is spreading rapidly in some US states, including Arizona.
Let’s put this contagion into perspective. One man in New York has been linked to 28 cases of Coronavirus. Last week, we heard about Coronavirus in one senior living facility in the Seattle area; one week later, there are Coronavirus cases in nine senior living facilities in that area. When I recorded my video (below), there were three cases in Maricopa County. By the end of the day, there are six confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Arizona, including one in Pima County, and at least one Arizona Congressman has been exposed. Everything is moving fast.
Can the state of Arizona do more to protect the public? I think so. For the second year in a row, the state has extra funds to invest– $635 million in one-time funds and $300 million in ongoing funds. If you follow my video updates, you know that House Republicans have proposed 18 tax giveaway bills, which, if they all passed￼ and were signed into law, could total more than $1 billion. [For the record, I am not criticizing the state’s response to the Coronavirus. I am suggesting that the state take a more active role in preventing the spread by investing in tactics to keep people healthy.]
For months, I have been saying instead of giving away taxes to big corporations, utility companies, and selected special interest groups, we should be investing it in programs to help the people of Arizona, like reducing Adverse Childhood Experiences, fully funding public education, and fixing our roads.
Enter the Coronavirus… here is something we should be budgeting for… now.
I used to call these tax giveaways fiscally irresponsible, but with 18 tax breaks poised to pass the Arizona House and more coming our way from the Senate, we have crossed the line into insanity. Of the 18 tax giveaways, 11 have some cost estimate. Those 11 total close to $500,000 annually in new tax breaks starting next fiscal year; there are another 7 tax breaks with unknown costs. They’re not free; the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC) doesn’t know how to estimate their cost. You can read more detail about these bills these three articles here, here, and here. With so many unknowns, if they all pass, Arizona could be looking at $1 billion in new tax giveaways (AKA lost revenue) in next fiscal year or in the near future, since several of them automatically increase over time, and it takes a two-thirds majority to repeal any of them.
Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ￼Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent; or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.
Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.
Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.