AzPHA Executive Director Editorial in the Arizona Daily Star

By Will Humble

610 days after the state’s first COVID-19 death, Arizona is tragically, incomprehensibly, and preventably approaching its 20,000th life lost due to COVID-19. 

The most devastating part of this horrible pandemic milestone: Many of these deaths, and the countless additional lives impacted by each of their tragic passings, could have been avoided had it not been for poor, misguided, and overly-politicized decisions by Governor Ducey and former Arizona Department of Health Services Director Cara Christ.

Their willingness to play political hardball with a deadly pandemic is nothing new, but it wasn’t always that way. For the first couple of months of the pandemic, their response was somewhat thoughtful and nowhere near the level of political gamesmanship that we’ve suffered since. 

The memory of Ducey’s initial mitigation measures — a successful stay-at-home order in March of 2020 and a later “pause” of business operations in June of 2020 as a summer surge brewed — feels like a fever dream. His willing collaboration with officials regardless of political party is now a distant memory as his lethal politicization of the public health crisis continues to cost Arizonans their lives.

As a public health practitioner with over thirty years of experience, I can’t underestimate the dangerous impact that the governor’s knee jerk decisions — most of which run counter to any scientific evidence — have had in our state. 

Instead of eyeing his next primary election and catering to anti-science politicos, we’re asking the governor to please step up, drop the partisan posturing, abandon his pre-existing unwillingness to use mitigation measures, and get to work to end the pandemic in Arizona once and for all.

Here’s the bottom line: we want Doug Ducey and his team to begin doing what President Biden has done from the beginning — guiding us out of the pandemic. What’s more: we’re willing to help. We’re facing complex problems that threaten not only the lives of Arizonans, but the stability of our economy and the safety of our schools.

Here we are, 610 days into the COVID-19 pandemic in Arizona, about to surpass 20,000 deaths, and our governor is more interested in posing in front of border fences and criticizing President Biden’s efforts to proactively address the pandemic than applying evidence-based mitigation measures that we know work.

Thankfully, we now know how to get out of the pandemic. Give cities and counties back their ability to implement masking and other mitigation measures.

Stop micromanaging the universities and community colleges and let them incentivize vaccination and have a reasonable student code of conduct that requires unvaccinated students to get tested weekly.

Take his boot off the throats of local school boards and allow them to use evidence-based practices like universal masking to keep students healthy and in the classroom this fall. Begin using evidence-based, targeted messaging to persuade Arizonans to get vaccinated.

We just need Ducey to find the courage and political will to get the job done.

Governor, respectfully, it’s time to start doing your current job instead of positioning yourself for whatever you see as your next posting. 

Nearly 20,000 Arizonans have died, and more will continue to suffer if you don’t put your partisanship aside. Your aspirations beyond the governorship can wait — the health and wellbeing of our state can’t.