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Thomas Volgy: Arizona's COVID-19 response, re-opening risks our lives and economy
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Thomas Volgy: Arizona's COVID-19 response, re-opening risks our lives and economy

Coronavirus dramatically spiking in Arizona

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The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

It appears that the state of Arizona is conducting a live experiment and we, Arizonans, are the guinea pigs. Several weeks ago the state opened for business. It has also prohibited local jurisdictions like Tucson and Pima County from enacting stronger provisions to protect their citizens from the coronavirus.

What’s the result of this experiment so far? We have had the largest spike of cases since the pandemic started, and Arizona is spiking at a rate virtually unmatched by other states. This is now our second spike. Having somewhat contained the first, the state opened up and now our second spike is worse than the first one!

I understand the critical importance of keeping our economy going. Too many Arizonans are suffering from the loss of jobs and income, especially in a state and in a city where too many people are hurt by low wages and inadequate job opportunities.

But that does not excuse the state from failing to do two things. First, to create a marker that will tell us when/if this “experiment” has failed. Do we know how much more of a surge it will take before we end the experiment? How many more people will need to be infected and how many more will need to die before we reprioritize the health and lives of Arizonans?

Second, why didn’t the state mandate the wearing of masks and social distancing as we opened the state? Clearly that would not have been too much to ask as a trade-off for trying to protect the economy and the livelihood of small businesses and workers. But we didn’t, and the state won’t allow the city to impose these minimal requirements. Why not?

I, for one, do not accept this experiment — not for my family, not for my friends, not for my fellow Tucsonans. I do not accept the state’s response that this huge increase in cases (and the number of deaths that will follow) is a function of more testing. All other states are now testing more but virtually none of them are seeing the spike we are experiencing. Tucson’s recent spike was the highest we’ve had since the pandemic started!

I want to know from the state under what conditions we are going to stop the “experiment.” I want to know who will take responsibility for the lives that are in the process of being lost.

And if this experiment is so salient to the economic survival of the state then I expect — and we all should — that the governor and the Legislature reconvene in a special session and offer a real solution to the pandemic accelerating in the state.

Unless that happens, the result of this experiment will be a dual tragedy: many, many more lives lost and an economy that will be shredded again as we cope with all the damage done to our lives.

It is time for public officials at the state level to be upfront, honest and transparent about how they are gambling with both our lives and our livelihoods.

We deserve to see the real road map — if it exists — for preserving both our lives and our economic liberties. And if the state doesn’t have one, then we have the right to know that as well as we go vote in November.

Tom Volgy is former mayor of Tucson and a professor of political science at the University of Arizona.

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