The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.
These last few weeks have been filled with uncertainty and anxiety. Like most of the nation, Southern Arizona is feeling the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic — schools have been closed until further notice, the University of Arizona canceled commencement ceremonies, small businesses are struggling, thousands have lost their jobs, many are ill, and some have passed away. Spring is blooming in every corner of the desert, but Arizonans are stuck indoors, contrary to every fiber of their being.
While the facts and figures are alarming, one thing is for certain: Arizonans are resilient — and we will get through this, together.
A remarkable feature of our desert ecosystem — the one we call home — is that it is filled with species that learn and adapt to new challenges. Like our prized saguaros, which grow tough and resilient in dry and sweltering conditions, Arizonans persevere and rise up to the challenge — no matter the difficulty.
Southern Arizonans have taken action to ensure no one is left behind during these unnerving times:
Tucson Unified School District, among many school districts, is offering meals for students while schools are closed.
Our teachers have been working diligently to ensure a smooth transition to online classes, making sure no student is deprived of their education.
Cathey’s Sewing and Vacuum made roughly 2,000 masks in a single week for local hospitals in Southern Arizona.
Grocery and retail stores across Tucson have set special shopping hours for seniors to keep them safe.
Local restaurants have been helping those who are struggling: Welcome Diner and Sammy’s Mexican Grill are offering free meals to those in the Tucson area who have lost their job due to the pandemic. These are only two examples of hundreds of locally owned restaurants that have opened up their doors and hearts to those adversely affected by the crisis.
Only in her post for five months, Mayor Regina Romero has shown more leadership than both our governor and the president by swiftly enacting proactive measures to keep Tucson residents safe.
The actions taken by Southern Arizonans have renewed my hope that we will be able to rise up stronger when this virus is behind us. As your representative, however, the rapidly developing pandemic has also served as a cautionary tale unfolding in real time.
For the past 15 months, I have served on the Appropriations Committee and the Defense Subcommittee. These opportunities have given Arizona leverage in securing funding for our state. In my tenure in Congress, I have made it a priority to support a robust defense portfolio for both our national security and our region’s economy. I know how important it is to have a strong and well-equipped military.
But now we are facing a different kind of war, right here on home soil — are we sufficiently prepared to fight in it?
The truth is, we are not. And we are seeing the consequences every day — medical professionals are begging for personal protective equipment (PPE) and our hospitals are cracking under the pressure of resource shortages.
We have failed to equip those on the front lines with the tools they need to fight this war. Unfortunately, we have learned that no matter the strength of our military, we are not sufficiently prepared to combat an accelerating health crisis that is affecting all of us.
Right now, we need the president to strategize beyond just the day-by-day — he ignored the warning signs for too long and continues to be reluctant to take aggressive action. We need companies to manufacture home testing kits and we need more ventilators sent to hospitals that need them. We must also create a task force of health-care professionals, technology companies and business owners to help create a recovery plan.
But most of all, we must reevaluate our federal and state government spending priorities. We cannot afford to send ill-prepared communities to battle ever again. The cost of that is too high, and it includes thousands of innocent American lives.
While I continue to stay at home for the safety of our community and my family, I will reflect on what we can learn from this crisis. I will never forget the kindness and generosity I have witnessed over the last month. The true spirit of Arizonans is one of resilience in the face of challenge. Health-care professionals, first responders, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, food production workers, teachers, small business owners and the people they serve — like you — are making huge sacrifices to help our community overcome this. You are the real heroes of this war. You deserve leaders who put your health and financial security first on their list of priorities — always.
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