Arizona And Its GOP – Poster Children For Politicized Pandemic Irresponsibility
Most of America is in and has been in the clutches of the Fall and Winter surge of record breaking COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths for months.
Not exactly headline news unless you believe, as do a significant segment of GOP voters, that the Coronavirus pandemic is a massive false flag event concocted by government authorities and the media for the purpose of curtailing or stealing your “freedom” and “liberties”.
But a handful of states have been vying for the distinction of being exceptional in mismanaging the public health crisis with their inconsistent and lackadaisical approach to implementing community mitigation – mask mandates and restrictions on commercial businesses known to be environments where the virus pathogens are most likely to spread.
Arizona is second to none in this regard.
Most of the month of January of this new year, Arizona has held the regrettable title of highest rate of new COVID-19 cases in a nation that has led the world in its statistic of positive cases and deaths.
Correspondingly, the CDC (Center For Disease Control) reports that the state also is contending for the highest number of weekly COVID-19 deaths per capita in the nation. Arizona is also ranked by the CDC as 41st among all states in vaccines administered per capita.
What accounts for these statistics will probably not come as a surprise to anyone that has been paying attention to the persistent warnings of epidemiologists and public health officials.
Part of it – the front end of it, one might say, has to do with individual attitudes about the reality of the pandemic and the other part deals with how firmly and effectively government regulates human activity and behavior in the crucible of a deadly and highly contagious disease. On both counts, the status of Arizona, emblematic of many regions of the United States, is inexcusable.
National Compass, quite early on, identified Arizona as epitomizing precisely the mentality and response to the Coronavirus that would increase, not decrease the needless suffering and death – as in this article from May of 2020, illustrating how elected officials turned a blind eye to public behavior that inevitably led to a dramatic ramping up of cases and ultimately, deaths in the state.
The overarching component of all of the death and suffering in Arizona, is the same as is found to one extent or another in nearly all states that are experiencing devastation from COVID-19 – right wing political extremism and its fierce opposition to masks, social distancing and curtailing non-essential activities.
The inextricably related factor is the anxiety and trepidation of elected officials who rank the disapproval of their voters higher in priority than the spread of the virus and the casualties it has and will continue to claim.
One example of the atmosphere among Trumpublican political elements, was the recent censure of Governor Doug Ducey by a majority vote of the Arizona Republican party, where the state GOP rebuked Ducey for agreeing to emergency orders, which they asserted, “restrict personal liberties and force compliance to unconstitutional edicts.”
It wasn’t the only axe party leaders had to grind about Ducey as well as John McCain’s widow, Cindy and former Senator Jeff Flake.
Also on the list of grievances was Ducey’s lack of opposition to the state’s certification of Joe Biden as the winner of Arizona’s slate of electors as the 46th President. The expectation of course, was for Ducey to ignore both the state’s Constitution and the federal Constitution and in defiance of the majority of voters in the state, award Trump the state’s 11 electoral votes.
Ducey, in response to his having been censured by his party, attempts to thread the needle politically, as opposed to demonstrating any courage or resolve to actually use the power of his office to bring the spread of COVID-19 to a halt in his state.
On one hand, he dismisses the influence of the elements in the Arizona GOP that have condemned him and on the other hand, denies that Trump attempted in a personal phone call to coerce him into reversing his state’s presidential election results.
“The President has got an inquisitive mind,” Ducey said. “And when he calls he’s always got a lot of questions, and I give him honest answers, direct feedback and my opinion when it’s necessary. And that’s all I’m going to say about it.”
That Ducey lacks the moral courage to lead, even in the face of catastrophe, is demonstrated by the numbers.
In mid July of 2020, Arizona had a case count of 129,000 and a death count from COVID-19 of 2,337. In just seven months, the cumulative case count since the onset of the pandemic, stands at 762,000 and the number of dead at 13,124 – an approximate one hundred fold monthly increase.
And in each of the last seven months, Ducey has and continues to oppose the imposition of a statewide mask mandate.
This while 37 states plus Washington, D.C., require face coverings in public. The governor has also been tepid at best concerning the lack of enforcement of mitigation efforts in the various jurisdictions that have enacted them.
An Arizona Republic analysis of police data through early December found that no one in the Phoenix area’s 12 largest cities, Tucson or Flagstaff had been cited for disregarding local or countywide mask mandates that had been in place for six months to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The Republic also reported the following:
Few other virus-related enforcement measures were taken. Only a handful of businesses had been cited for staying open or not following reopening guidelines, despite a mountain of complaints.
Phoenix area police and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office last year cited or referred fewer than 75 businesses out of more than 3,500 complaints, according to The Republic investigation. The state health department issued closure notices to a dozen businesses for violating reopening guidelines.
Businesses and homeowners that held gatherings or broke guidelines typically just received phone calls or warnings rather than citations, fines or closures.
The director of Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, Dr. Joshua LaBaer, recently told reporters that state officials erred in loosening regulations too soon.
“At the beginning of September things looked really good, and then we decided that everything looked good and then we opened everything up again, and almost within a month, we saw those numbers start to rise again,” LaBaer said.
The executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, Will Humble, believes that Arizona’s dismal status regarding the state’s COVID-19 situation nationally, is not accidental.
It’s not “bad luck or fate,” he said. “It is largely because of a series of bad decisions, misplaced priorities and an inability to execute core responsibilities.” Humble wrote in a Jan. 24 association report about the pandemic in Arizona. He says the current circumstances are accountable to “the consequences of missed opportunities.”
Humble continued that, “Sadly, many of these COVID cases and deaths could have been avoided if Governor Ducey and Director Christ (state health department director Dr. Cara Christ) had implemented evidence-based public health policy interventions and had learned from their successes and mistakes. Because they did not, many thousands of lives have been unnecessarily lost. It is an unimaginable tragedy.”
In pre-Trumpism times, national disasters, of which this pandemic can be classified, lacked an intense political dynamic. In this one, where impeached former president Donald Trump weaponized the pandemic for the purposes of his electoral agenda, politics has dominated the calculus of the response to it.
But the Trumpublican element (the majority) of the GOP in Arizona, functions as a megaphone for the resistance and resentment among their Trump loyal constituents against directives purposed to curb the spread of the disease and the tragic, but predictable consequences of not observing safe behavior.
Sadly, there is a lesson that could and should be learned – actually should long ago have been learned from the past 11 months of this pandemic, but has not and will not be learned, even at this point, where 445,000 have died and millions have sustained lifelong injury to their health. That won’t change with the foreseeable deaths of half a million fellow citizens.
Even 750,000 deaths would have no impact on their thinking, nor their foremost desire to prioritize “freedom” to entertain themselves, even at the expense of human life and suffering. What is being seen in Arizona, is the political Supernova of selfishness and ideological extremism.
The GOP’s star will die here and nationally, but before it does, it will claim many more victims. It’s a form of bio-warfare against fellow Americans. “Bio-treason” is an apt description.