By Holli Ploog, Sedona Resident
(April 27, 2020)
How do we reopen our economy safely? What costs and risks as a society are we willing to accept? What will it take to accomplish even the narrowest relaxing of stay-at-home restrictions?
There is so much unknown about this virus and it’s potential for reoccurrence. A vaccine or treatment does not appear imminent. We can’t wait 18 months or longer before we reopen our schools and businesses. Businesses may not survive in the interim.
We know that social distancing does work and has flattened the curve where practiced early and with vigilance. Health professionals tell us we need to test and trace, and test and trace again, before we can safely get back to work and limited activities. Availability of testing kits and protective equipment should be the number one priority of government and elected officials.
Once we have sufficient testing, contact tracing should be the next priority. Hiring, training and deploying contact tracers will give our workforce, teachers, students and the public confidence in returning to socially distanced workplaces, classrooms, restaurants, shops and other venues.
This is the time for strong leadership. A decision on whether Arizona’s stay-at-home order will expire, be extended or modified is due next week. Our city does not have the authority to determine when and how we will reopen our economy. Will local Mayors and elected officials have a say in determining readiness to reopen? Will any latitude be given to cities and towns with a vulnerable tourist based economy?
We must not reopen without a safe-to-open strategy in place. The state is not currently meeting the criteria set by the federal government as a condition for phased reopening. Share your concerns with Governor Ducey at azgovernor.gov or 692-542-4331.
Your article does not reveal what your opinion is on opening up the State. An important fact since you are running for City Council. It merely repeats what is being said nearly every day. Sweden did nothing and is better off than this country is. As for testing, I have no faith in it. A person could test negative on Monday morning then positive in the afternoon or a day later. First they say a person who had the virus without symptoms would have the anti-bodies they could use for a vaccine but, now they have backed off that. Why is the whole country being treated the same and as if we are all in NYC where the Governor ordered virus patients to be transferred from hospitals to nursing homes which greatly escalated the number of deaths Also there massive transit systems with people shoulder to shoulder helps the virus to spread. The government is handing out money to huge corporation like Ritz Carlton and one received 403 million while the owners of mall businesses get nothing only the employees who have to stay home. There is no oversight whatsoever on how the money is spent and so much was given to huge corporations so quickly which is the reason the fund ran out of money so quickly. We need to open up everything before it is too late for half the businesses especially restaurants which employ 11 million to come back as already many cannot. The Hong Kong flu and the swine flu were far worse with the later affecting 60 million Americans and 650,000 hospitalized with tens of thousands dead and we had no lockdown. Since you are a candidate for the Council we need to hear your opinion not just meanderings of general information, we need to hear specifics. There is danger to our food supply with hogs, cattle, chickens and worse, the layers so egg market will be affected soon, farmers ploughing under vegetables and fruits, dairy farmers throwing out millions of gallons a week due to no restaurant, schools, cruise ships buying. Many of these farmers are now broke with no money to buy more seeds and fuel or enough animals to procreate. What is happening is far more of an emergency for our food chains than anything else as it will affect the future and Lord help us pray not food rations like WW11. Not far fetched. It is frightening and not being addressed I do not hear Governor Ducey let alone our City Council address these problems or even any sympathy for those who are struggling to feed us and the workers who cannot feed their families, make car payments etc. I am retired, not a business owner nor relative of one and my heart is broken into so many pieces it cannot recover and the stress is getting too much seeing so many losing everything. These lockdowns have put our national security in grave danger and China is already on the move.
Joan, thank you for your thoughtful response to my letter to the editor. I am as concerned as you are about lives lost, businesses shuttered, increased domestic violence and isolation impacts on mental health.
There have been many different approaches to coping with this pandemic across the world with varying results. There is not a “one size fits all” answer and I support a regional reopening strategy.
One thing we know for certain is that social distancing has flattened the curve and the more people practice it vigilantly the more lives are saved. We also know there is a well placed fear in our society about returning to “normal life”.
The Federal government has issued general guidelines on how to reopen our economy in phases leaving the details to state governors to implement. Cities and towns have no say in the matter and cannot issue rules that vary from the Governor. To achieve a truly regional approach that meets local needs, I support returning local control to local government.
Within these federal guidelines are requirements for a decrease in new cases over a 14 day period, hospital capacity in the event of a surge in new cases, continuation of social distancing and rigorous testing to allow those that are infected to self quarantine. I support these guidelines.
There are pitfalls in these approaches as you have rightly pointed out. However, in order to protect vulnerable citizens and restore confidence to the general public that it is safe for re-entry, we must follow these guidelines and not reopen without a specific strategy in place.
As of 4/29/20, Arizona has the second worst per capita testing rate in the country at 9,906 per million. Put another way we have tested .0095 (.95%) of the total population of Arizona.
Not exactly the kind of robust testing figures outlined for safe re-opening. Kinda flying blind.
Testing is OK, I guess, but as Joan said, you can get tested in the morning and be infected in the afternoon and not show any symptoms for two weeks – or if you are younger EVER show any symptoms.
Using common sense procedures when you go out will help, summer will help BIG TIME as virus does not like sun or warm temperatures.
And in Arizona, treating Phoenix like rural Arizona makes no sense. 8 states never did shut down. They had recommendations but pretty much went on.
This is much more serious for the people who are shut in at home. According to the AG, domestic violence calls to the hot lines are up 830%, that was almost two weeks ago. Suicide hotline calls are way up, opioid and drug overdoses are increasing. Not to mention the financial stress of no money to pay bills.
The food bank is strapped, we did a program for them a couple weeks ago. Got 4 truckloads of things together for Verde Valley Sanctuary and other groups.
Hospitals are going broke. Some rural hospitals may not recover. Politicians – NOT DOCTORS and MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS have been ordered elective surgeries to be cancelled. This means no revenue and empty beds all over the country. They Mayo Clinic has furloughed or reduced pay and hours to 30,000 (not a typo) of their employees. A medium size Hospital (the largest) in a state capital is now $15 million in the hole and has started firing nurses.
The time is coming that this is going to cost MORE lives by doing nothing.
Think about it – the people making these decisions are all getting a paycheck and have a job.
Many of the people wanting this extended have other sources of income. They have time to wait.
Actually, the Hong Kong flu and the swine flu (H1N1) were bad, but not the killers that the novel COVID-19 is. The Hong Kong flu had a low death rate. Then, in the U.S., between April 2009 and April 2010, the CDC estimates there were 60.8 million cases of swine flu, with over 274,000 hospitalizations and nearly 12,500 deaths — that’s a mortality rate of about 0.02%.
The mortality rate for the novel COVID-19 is much higher so far, around 2% (although the number will likely change as more people are tested). That’s much higher than the swine flu and a lot higher than the Hong Kong flu. There have already been more deaths (over 60,000 in the USA) than we suffered during the 10+ years of the Viet Nam War.
This pandemic could have been handled much better if we had learned anything from the swine flu and previous pandemics. However, the current administration both shutdown the agency dealing with our response to pandemics and declined to act when their own experts (medical and economic) warned that the new contagion could be devastating. So now, we’re playing catch up.
Sweden is taking a different approach than other European countries and more people are dying in Sweden. But they may be building their “herd immunity.” That’s great if you’re not one of the people who died.
As an economist, I’m very concerned about the small businesses and the local, under-paid workers in this area. I would like to see more businesses open, but only if their staffs and customers take the proper safety precautions. Unfortunately, there are some who put their freedoms above the safety of others. If people can get over that and use common sense, it would be good to have an orderly reopening process. There are many other systemic issues regarding the innate imbalances in our economy that this pandemic are bringing to everyone’s attention. I hope we learn from all of this and make some long-overdue corrections that can help small businesses and workers thrive…after this is over. And then, we need to prepare for the next one.
This pandemic could have been handled much better if China and WHO had been more honest and transparent about the initial outbreak (that may have occurred as early as Nov 2019), it’s transmission (no evidence of human-to-human transfer) and isolated all travel from Wuhan (instead of just within China). If China and WHO had learned anything from the swine flu and previous pandemics the global race for massive testing and medical supplies may not have been necessary.
Many of the systemic issues regarding the innate imbalances in our economy are the result of decades of various policies developed by our career politicians (along with the advice of their economic advisors and lobbyists) that relocated higher paid manufacturing jobs overseas (from steel and electronics to PPE, antibiotics and the clothes you’re wearing) creating a society of primarily consumers served by low wage retail sales and service clerks working for small businesses, many operating on razor thin margins and increasing regulations.
I hope we do learn from all of this and make some long-overdue corrections. I’m just not very confident that all our elected officials have the political will to do it.
My suggestion to Holli Ploog and all others who feel it is too dangerous to re-open Arizona/America, stay home but don’t dictate to businesses and their emoplyees that they have to destroy their lives just because you are political pawns who are willing to give up your rights of freedom given to us by our U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Holli, do everyone a favor and stay home if that’s what you want. And don’t forget to wear your mask.