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Ducey's 'State of State' misses Arizona's COVID SOS

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What the Devil won't tell you

Ducey's 'State of State' misses Arizona's COVID SOS

  • Gov. Doug Ducey spent much of his 'State of the State' address nitpicking about people who want to do more to tackle COVID-19. Overreacting to a pandemic isn't where Arizona's lies.
    Ninian Rei/FlickrGov. Doug Ducey spent much of his 'State of the State' address nitpicking about people who want to do more to tackle COVID-19. Overreacting to a pandemic isn't where Arizona's lies.

I started reading Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s "State of the State" address looking for anything that might be interesting and then I read the passage that made me stop paying attention to the rest of it.

Ducey has to be trolling us. He’s gotta be intentionally provoking a reaction from the press because he’s not so stupid as to believe what he’s saying. 

His speech read like a governor utterly out of touch with the fact that his state is groaning under the weight of COVID-19. Perhaps he was more in touch with his own future political ambitions.

Ducey spent a good deal of time defending his administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. He has refused to order lockdowns since the early days to battle both the summer and winter spikes that have left thousands of our fellow Arizonans dead, and thousands more with health problems.

I’ll let him take it from here:

“And in my fifty-plus meetings with the press, I’ve heard endless variations of the same question: Why not more and longer lockdowns? Why not more aggressive lockdowns? Schools, businesses, parks, weddings, funerals, church services – why not ban all gatherings and just lock everything down?

It’s a question that only makes sense if you forget about everything else – all the other troubles that lockdowns set in motion. The rest of life doesn’t stop in a pandemic, least of all our basic responsibilities.”

OK, gotta stop you there, chief.

Life actually does stop in a pandemic. In fact, 10,654 lives have stopped, just in our state. And counting. Six more just today. Last week, 1,080 Arizonans died from the virus.

Ducey: 'Vicious virus will require vigilant attention for months to come'

See, that’s a problem. See, that’s why we are all wearing masks at the grocery store — well, those of us with common sense and consideration for others. There’s a reason you are telling us to stay at home, even if you aren’t requiring it by law. This is why it’s a public health emergency. You declared one.

Ducey brought up opioids and this is true. There is a downside to stay-at-home orders, which include mental health problems, economic trauma and increased drug addiction.

Opioid overdose killed more than 1,000 people in 2018. COVID has killed 10 times that in about 10 months and that’s with people staying home, wearing masks and not going to movies, sporting events or concerts. It’s 10 times the threat but Ducey is treating COVID-19 as if it's just half the story.

Arizona is also likely to experience fewer road deaths and not as many people killed on the job. That’s true during any recession. It’s not grounds for prolonging one.

I feel safe in saying there may be a psychological issue with COVID-19 absolutely running over Arizona. If we were to lose 30,000 people and have 200,000 with long-term health problems, wouldn’t that create economic woes and widespread depression?

I have to think Ducey is trolling the Left because while he discussed a middle ground that would irritate “both sides” (those who believe in science versus those who think it’s a hoax), he delivered just one throwaway line during his speech discussing the real problem Arizona faces regarding COVID-19: Radical right-wingers treating the virus as if it doesn’t exist or is a false-flag Antifa plot to take away their rights.

Critical condition

The University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health released a report that efficiently summed up the state's coronavirus condition: "The SARS-CoV-2 virus is mowing through Arizona like a sharpened scythe."

From the UA:

  • Pima County hospitals experienced a 54 percent increase in COVID cases over the weekend. 
  • Just 5 percent of the region's ICU beds are unoccupied.
  • 68 percent of the intensive care unit beds are occupied by COVID patients.
  • Another 46 people died in Pima County from Coronavirus over the weekend. 
  • 1 in 1,000 Pima County residents have died of the virus.

The state has spent the last two weeks jockeying for the most COVID-soaked place in the world. Our infection rate is 122 per 100,000. California’s is 102. Ireland is at 132.

More than 1,000 of our neighbors died from COVID-19 last week. Another 62,000 were diagnosed with infections.

The Pima County Health Department on Monday told us that "since the pandemic started, 13,406 people have been admitted to county hospitals with COVID-19; more than half, 7,336, since Nov. 1 (there have been 2,404 admissions since Christmas Day)."

We heard no such figures from the governor in his address, but Ducey's speech on Monday still pleased the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. They saw no issues with it.

“Gov. Ducey’s State of the State address hit all the right notes and served as a needed reminder that the past year has proven that Arizona, despite tremendous challenges, is resilient," said Glenn Hamer, the chamber's president, in prepared praise sent out immediately after the governor's speech. “Better days are ahead thanks to the arrival of two effective vaccines and their statewide rollout."

The Chamber of Commerce has apparently taken a let-it-burn-until-the-vaccines-come approach to the virus. That's best for profits and why the hell else do any of us exist as sentient human beings other than to contribute to profits?

Ducey described the disease as a "vicious virus, taking some 10,000 lives in our state alone, (that) has left nothing but grief it its path."

But now that we have a vaccine, Arizona's pro-business leadership seems to be telling us other remediation efforts are burdensome and unnecessary.

It's like arguing there's no reason to board up a house because the hurricane will pass soon enough. Never mind that wall of water.

What we're talking about

If 4,797 cases on June 30 was unacceptably high, then explain how 4,818 cases are acceptable on Dec. 30? How are 13,753 cases not worth the trouble on January 8? If averaging 4,000 new cases a day over the summer warranted dire warning? How is averaging more than 8,000 cases per day since mid-December no big deal?

Ducey never said.

So I have to wonder what he meant,when he said: “All 50 states are focused now on saving lives, distributing the vaccine, and adding jobs. And in meeting these challenges, no state is better prepared than Arizona.”

Again. This must be a trap because it’s just too easy.

Are we best prepared because no other state has learned what not to do? Or is it that we are the closest to the chimera of so-called "herd immunity" because our leaders have failed to protect us from the virus?

I’ll admit that lockdowns weren’t necessary to break the curve of summer COVID cases peaking at 4,753 cases per day. Arizona got the daily case number down to the mid-500s in September and October. The state did it by finally allowing Phoenix and Tucson-area leaders to issue mask orders.

I’m dubious of their effectiveness now given how weary people are of dealing with this virus.

There’s conflicting evidence about the wisdom of shuttering schools or opening them.

There’s a problem with Arizona’s COVID response. It’s not the people who want action. It’s the naysayers who have decided that they “do what they want,” no matter whom they kill. We see them in Tucson, hanging out in an East Side coffee house and playing at politics in trying to recall Mayor Regina Romero. I’m not going to name names because they don’t deserve that kind of added publicity.

Ducey spent just a few words during his 22-minute address to speak to these deniers, albeit vaguely. He only defended how he would maintain Arizona’s state of public health emergency.

He devoted more time attacking those who want tougher restrictions. He spoke as if wanting fewer deaths is the act of insanity, and not cheering the “freedom” that allows Arizona again compete for the distinction of the COVID capital of the world.

I'm sure Hamer would agree. It's best for business leaders who pocket the winnings.

Here we go, '22

What Ducey’s 2021"State of the State" sounded like was the unofficial announcement of his 2022 campaign for the U.S. Senate.

He’s angered Arizona Republican primary voters by legally certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in Arizona. Ducey did that because Biden won Arizona, so it’s not like the governor had much choice.

So now Ducey is whacking around the pointy-head science nerds and the “save-the-grandma” crowd of mushy liberals. He sure sounds like he’s trolling the libs to make good with pro-insurrection MAGAs.

That’s fine and all. Governors can run for Senate. What Ducey should not do is downplay the state’s greatest crisis – maybe in its history – to pander to right-wing extremists.

That’s not a good enough reason for more Arizonans to die.

Blake Morlock is an award-winning columnist who worked in daily journalism for nearly 20 years and is the former communications director for the Pima County Democratic Party. Now he’s telling you things that the Devil won’t.

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