The following is the opinion and analysis of the Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board, which operates independently from the Star’s news reporters and editors:
Arizona’s record spike in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths have prompted a group of wise, elected state leaders to take decisive action to protect the public — unfortunately for us, the governors taking action are from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and they’re protecting their residents from Arizonans.
And what are Arizona’s elected officials, like Gov. Doug Ducey, Rep. Debbie Lesko and Sen. Martha McSally doing?
Posing for photo ops with President Trump without wearing masks to protect each other from the coronavirus — wasting a high profile opporunity to send the message to their fellow Republicans that wearing a mask is smart, and necessary.
Ducey was photographed wearing a mask at an indoor rally in Phoenix, but didn’t wear it on the tarmac. Ducey, McSally and Lesko showed they’re followers, not leaders. Because in the Grand Canyon State, in a grand show of hubris, Trump supporters and Republicans have bought into the bizarre fantasy that wearing a mask to help slow the spread of a highly contagious and deadly virus is an act of submission.
Submission to what exactly isn’t clear — submission to science? A look to history shows that preventing the spread of a deadly infectious disease is the more American course of action: Smallpox was ravaging Boston and Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 and during the Revolutionary War it took a high toll in military and civilian deaths. In fact, Gen. George Washington ordered new army recruits be inoculated from smallpox.
The illnesses are different, of course, but the principle is the same: If there is a way — especially a simple and painless way — to help keep others from getting sick, why wouldn’t you do it? How is taking care of your neighbors somehow un-American?
The mask-as-submission rallying cry makes as much sense as the fake patriotism “freedom fries” fad from the early 2000s — refusing to eat french fries to protest France’s opposition to the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
When the coronavirus first struck America, it hit the coasts particularly hard. States like New York, New Jersey, Washington and California bore the initial brunt of cases and casualties.
Other states, at the time not as badly affected, issued stay-at-home orders, as well as mandatory quarantines of any residents coming from more affected areas. Soon, the virus found its way to Michigan and Louisiana, leaving more chaos and death in its wake.
However, in the last two weeks, many of the areas hardest hit by the virus are showing slow – but steady – signs of recovery. Across the country, case loads and fatalities have shown a marked decrease. There is hope.
Part of that hope depends on individuals taking personal responsibility, and part depends on local and state governments communicating and coordinating messages of best practices to protect the public health.
In most parts of the world and other parts of the country, that means a continued adherence to at least 6 feet of social distance from other individuals while out in public, washing hands and (most controversially) wearing face coverings. Locally, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and the Pima County Board of Supervisors have taken appropriate action, requiring most people wear masks in most situations. After a stay-at-home order that he let expire too soon, Ducey’s biggest contribution to the public safety efforts has been to finally get out of the way and allow municipalities to make their own decisions on how to best fight COVID-19.
On Wednesday, the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut announced a travel advisory for potential travelers to the area from 10 states, including Arizona, where coronavirus cases recently spiked. The advisory requires a 14-day quarantine.
At least some politicians somewhere are doing something about what’s happening here in Arizona. Our own Republican state officials are doing their best to undermine any public health message — at all our peril.
The Arizona Daily Star Editorial Board includes President and Publisher John D’Orlando, Editor Jill Jorden Spitz, Opinion Editor Sarah Garrecht Gassen and Opinion Writer Edward Celaya.
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