Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik: Don't end COVID-19 Stay-At-Home order
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Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik: Don't end COVID-19 Stay-At-Home order

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

The current stay-at-home executive order issued by Gov. Doug Ducey is due to expire at midnight on May 15. There are certain political pressures weighing on the governor to allow the order to sunset and effectively ‘reopen the economy.’

However, the health-driven criteria issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all argue against doing so.

Since the middle of March, we have watched the state gradually ratchet down various activities throughout Arizona. Following the declaration of a state of emergency, Ducey joined in the decisions to shut down the public school system, and in keeping with CDC guidelines he called for the closure of dining in restaurants, shuttering bars, gyms and other non-essential retail and social gathering places.

Each executive order has called for a reevaluation in two-week increments. The decision to follow that timline is consistent with CDC guidance related to COVID-19.

One of the criteria we are called to evaluate before ending the order is finding 14 consecutive days of decreasing symptomatic cases.

There is no place in Arizona that has achieved that standard.

Some of the other CDC guidance includes having adequate personal protective equipment for first responders and health-care workers. Currently, Pima County is experiencing a huge backlog on orders for PPE.

The CDC guidance also includes widespread testing, and the ability to conduct “contact tracing” for all who test positive for a COVID-19 infection. We have tested well under 5% of the statewide population, and have no ability in place to track down “COVID-19 positive” contacts.

Across the nation we are seeing increased numbers of people infected with the virus. As testing increases, that’s to be expected. And because coronavirus can be spread for days before symptoms appear, the testing results mean we have people with active infections inadvertently interacting out in public, spreading the disease.

The data shows extra vulnerability for people who are stuck in congregate settings. Those include residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, and ICE detention facilities. As new residents are introduced into any such community, the likelihood of “community spread” is clear, and in many cases potentially fatal.

Another of the CDC criteria we are directed to observe prior to “reopening the state” is hospital bed capacity in the event of a resurgence of infections. We all remember the horrible scenes of emergency rooms and ICUs across the country when the outbreak first began.

Thankfully, due to the elimination of elective medical treatments, hospitals have been able to open up bed space. That has come at the expense of immense financial impacts on our medical care system, and at the expense of patients awaiting important surgical care.

Across the nation we’re seeing governors relax their stay-at-home restrictions. They do so ignoring the simple reality that the virus does not respond to two-week increment executive orders. It cares not a bit about political pressure to restore “liberty” and reopen commerce. The virus does what it does; that is, find a vulnerable target, infect that target, and spread. South Korea tested reopening, saw a surge in new infections and has now had to begin the process of “staying at home” once again.

Social isolation can have devastating effects on people. We must stay connected, even during this stay-at-home period.

The economy is suffering. We must continue to support local businesses as best we can through curbside purchases and takeout orders.

There is a social contract that calls on the government to help sustain businesses and families during times of need. We must continue to do so with ongoing federal support to local governments. And that support must come with few, if any, strings attached so local governing bodies can best target the funds to where the needs most urgently exist within their communities.

On May 15, Ducey should absolutely not end the stay-at-home order. None of the CDC guidelines have been met that would indicate ending the order is a prudent medical decision, save for one:

The pandemic is not over, but yes, we do have room for you in our ICUs for when you become infected.

Steve Kozachik, a Democrat, represents midtown Ward 6 on the Tucson City Council.

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