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Arizona state governor blamed for failed policy against COVID-19
From:Xinhua  |  2020-07-12 18:27

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by Julia Pierrepont III

LOS ANGELES, July 11 (Xinhua) -- "The barn is on fire!" Will Humble, a former Arizona Department of Health Services official, said early this month.

Humble predicted that the COVID-19 pandemic in the Grand Canyon State could get worse, but he did not imagine that half a month later the state would become one of the hotspots for the fatal disease in the United States.

According to data updated by the health department Saturday, the state added 3,038 confirmed cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 119,930 with 2,151 deaths.

Moreover, a report from The New York Times which analyzed Johns Hopkins University data indicated that the number of confirmed cases had been growing more rapidly in Arizona in the past week than in any other state in the country, and faster than in any country in the world.

"Arizona has had more new virus cases (per capita) over the last week than any country in the world," the report said.

Kate Gallego, the Democratic mayor of Phoenix, has sharply criticized Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's haste to reopen Arizona, a scant six weeks after his reluctant and late shutdown on March 30, and weeks after California's shutdown, saying the Republican governor's early reopening caused the dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases sweeping across the state now.

However, though the number of residents testing positive for COVID-19 in Arizona has soared from 5 percent to a staggering 12 percent in the last two weeks, Humble felt it was not strictly the early reopening that had caused problems, but also the governor's failure to enforce the minimum social distancing and mask-wearing regulations, so businesses that complied were at an economic disadvantage to the businesses that flouted the restriction order.

The state is further hampered by a shortage of medical personnel, testing facilities, and an ineffective contact-tracing program, both Humble and Gallego agreed.

Arizona Governor Ducey, who has consistently followed the Trump administration's lead to underestimate the strength and seriousness of the virus, is also under attack from the public, and from the business community -- but for completely different reasons.

The public is clamoring for better containment of the virus and blames the governor for his "too little, too late" approach to containment and his ignorance about the severity and dangers of the virus -- especially in a state that has a larger-than-average population of elderly retirees and Hispanic residents who have been hit hard by the pandemic.

Kristin Urquiza, an Arizona resident grieving for her father's death from COVID-19, laid the blame squarely at the governor's and U.S. President Donald Trump's feet last week, and her grief went viral.

She publicly accused Governor Ducey of misleading the public to believe the virus crisis was over by beginning to reopen the state in early May.

She explained that her father, Mark Urquiza, had carefully obeyed the stay-at-home order, except to work in his "essential" manufacturing job. But believing Ducey and Trump when they announced that it was safe for people to resume their normal lives, he began going out again with friends until he was struck down by the virus and died last month.

"His death is due to the carelessness of the politicians," she wrote in her father's obituary carried in a newspaper last Wednesday, criticizing "a clear lack of leadership, refusal to acknowledge the severity of this crisis, and inability and unwillingness to give clear and decisive direction on how to minimize risk."

Yet due to the massive spike in COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks, the governor has ordered gyms, bars, movie theaters, water parks, and other businesses to shut down again for 30 days on Monday.

However, many businesses are lobbying against a longer lockdown. In fact, dozens of high-end bars, gyms and real estate landlords have filed suits against the governor, trying to force him to reopen more, not less, despite more COVID-19 cases and deaths in the state.