Even basic necessities and staples relied upon by everyone are beginning to falter as well. Major food providers are warning that supply chains are breaking down and we should expect shortages. Hospitals are beginning to lay off and furlough employees since the Covid-19 peak promised by the models never materialized. And our entire energy market is in disarray after the oil markets crashed last week:
U.S. equity markets slid Monday as oil crashed below zero and closed at its lowest level since record keeping began in March 1983.The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by as many as
489 points, or 2.02 percent, before paring its losses. The S&P 500 and
Nasdaq Composite were down 1.53 percent and 1.01 percent, respectively, at
Ongoing concerns over swelling oil inventories pushed West Texas
Intermediate crude for May delivery plunged
305 percent to
a record low -$36.73 per barrel. At a price below zero, buyers would be
paid to take delivery as there are costs associated with transportation and
Just 2 months ago the oil industry was thriving in America.
Now traders are being forced to pay vendors to unload their
product as inventories exceed capacity. That’s right, if you can safely store
crude on your property, someone is willing to pay you to take it (delivery not
The reality is that lives are being lost and ruined by the current shutdown, and it will only get worse every day that we wait. Arizona must reopen, and fast. Governor Ducey announced that he is working on a reopening plan for the state, which will likely include a phased-in approach largely based on the guidelines provided by the Trump Administration.
That is good news, but the next step is going to be the toughest. Reopening Arizona is not going to be easy, especially since any discussion on relaxing the Covid-19 restrictions has become a politically divisive issue. The rhetoric has become so intense that in some corners any mention of ending the shutdown means putting the economy ahead of lives. This is complete nonsense.
Supporting an end to the lockdown means understanding
that lives can be lost to economic destruction just as easily as they are to
Covid-19. This is being recognized in other countries, as Austria,
Norway, the Czech Republic, Poland and many others has already begun easing
restrictions. Here in the US, states such as Texas,
Tenessee and Florida
have begun taking action as well on a reopening plan.
Arizona needs to follow suit, and it can be done in a smart
and safe way. Mitigation efforts such as continued social distancing,
encouraged teleworking, mask wearing and the suspension of congested gatherings
(such as sporting events) will continue. Extra precautions can be taken to
protect the most
vulnerable populations (senior citizens and those with chronic illness)
impacted by Covid-19. If the purpose of the lockdown was to prevent our
healthcare system from being overloaded, then a phase down of the restrictions
will be more than enough to prevent that from happening.
The end of the current stay-at-home order is April 30. That is the perfect time for Arizona to begin reopening for business. The process won’t be seamless, but the cost of inaction at this point will be worse than staying home.
Just like the rest of the country, Arizona residents have since mid-March hunkered down, self-isolated and followed the advice of medical experts and our political leaders to stop the spread of Coronavirus. The rationale provided to us was that if extreme actions were not taken, hundreds of thousands of people in the Grand Canyon state would perish. Hospitals would be overrun. It might be as bad as the Spanish Flu of 1918.
How do we know Covid-19 might be this horrific? Whenever this question was asked, defenders of the shutdown immediately pointed to the various models proving their case. Two in particular were cited the most—IHME and CovidActNow. Both produced dire forecasts for Arizona and both recommended draconian mitigation strategies. Both have proven to be wildly wrong.
The IHME Model
Designed at the University of Washington, the IHME model has been the most frequently cited the last 3 weeks and was the foundation for the nationwide projections developed by the Trump Administration.
On April 1st, IHME predicted dark days for Arizona. IHME forecasted that by April 15th over 2,500 beds would be needed and that Arizona would be at its ICU and ventilator capacity. At our peak on April 27th, Arizona would have 4,000 hospitalized Covid-19 patients and a ICU shortage of nearly 100 beds. Over 1,300 would be dead by August 1st.
Founded and developed by four volunteers with very questionable credentials, CovidActNow became a frequently utilized source for politicians and governmental entities early on during the pandemic. In Arizona, CovidActNow was the primary model used in March by the University of Arizona College of Public Health to develop their pandemic response recommendations, which were cited by the media and referenced by politicians throughout the state.
On April 1st CovidActNow had concluded that Governor Ducey’s shelter-at-home policy was far too lax and that a much stricter statewide lockdown was necessary:
Without a “strict” stay-at-home policy, CovidActNow declared that Arizona on April 15 would have nearly 1,500 hospitalized, a hospitalization peak of 40,000 by June, and 28,000 dead by mid-summer.
Models vs. Reality
It is embarrassing how poorly both of these models performed compared to reality. As of today (April 15), Arizona has fewer than 500 Covid-19 patients hospitalized and around 100 admitted to ICU, a fraction of the predicted amount. Ventilator use is in decline and the state has already reduced their federal ventilator request from 5,000 to 500.
Fatalities are lagging behind the IHME model and will never approach the laughable figure cited by CovidActNow. There has been no Coronavirus hospital crunch. In fact it has been just the opposite–healthcare workers have been furloughed due to all of the empty hospital beds.
The excuses to explain away the modeling errors have been coming as fast as the downward revisions being made to both forecasts. Defenders of the modeling claim that the lower projections only prove that the current policies are working and thus fewer deaths and hospitalizations have been the result. The flaw with this argument is that both models as of April 1 were based on the mitigation efforts that are in effect today. This argument is simply an attempt to move the goal posts and avoid any discussion about why the models missed so badly.
Others have suggested that it is not really the fault of the modeler’s–Covid-19 projections are difficult and that a lack of data and changing assumptions hampered their effectiveness. These are all valid points, except that none of these issues were ever brought up when the public was being sold on their reliability and used as the justification for a nationwide shutdown of the economy.
Some are even saying that it doesn’t really matter that the models were wrong and that everyone should just be thankful that it is not as bad as they thought. This argument is not only wrong, but offensive. Thousands of people have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, and some will lose their lives because of the actions taken based on these models. If the goal is to completely erode all public trust and credibility in our institutions, this is the quickest way to do it.
Unfortunately, what has transpired up to this point cannot be undone. Mistakes were made, yet rather than dwelling on them we need to start working toward solutions that address our overreaction.
The top priority should be to reopen Arizona in a safe and healthy way. Governor Ducey has announced that he is developing a plan to open up the economy; our hope is that it coincides with the expiration of the existing stay-at-home order on April 30th (if not sooner).
Of course, this doesn’t mean that Arizona should not take any precautions or that there won’t be certain restrictions when the shutdown ends. The models were useless, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have data showing that Covid-19 is a real danger to certain segments of the population (predominantly seniors and those with chronic illness). The Club believes a solution exists somewhere between doing nothing and the current draconian shutdown.
The other lesson that should be learned is a healthy amount of skepticism when politicians start using forecast modeling as their justification for their radical policy prescriptions. The public might have been fooled this time by the so-called experts and their doomsday modeling, let’s just make sure it doesn’t happen again.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the US in early March, it
became evident that the government lacked the capability, efficiency and nimbleness
to effectively contain the spread. Critical measures such as developing
accessible and reliable testing turned into a bureaucratic
nightmare, and a lack of critical life saving medical supplies and
infrastructure threatened to overwhelm our medical professional heroes on the
front lines trying to save lives.
Thankfully and in the true American spirit, the private
sector is coming to the rescue. Businesses large and small, entrepreneurs and
citizens have mobilized throughout the country to fight the pandemic.
In Arizona the story is no different. We are fortunate that
so many have been willing to step up to the plate and deserve recognition for
their efforts. Here is a list of some of the businesses working to fight
Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwill
donated $1 Million to the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which will go toward PPE for
hospitals, food banks and provide technology to disadvantaged students needing
to transition to online learning.
The Arizona Diamondbacks have
donated over $1 Million to numerous charities to provide food, support for
children of healthcare workers and PPE for medical professionals.
Depcom Power located in Scottsdale donated
10,000 surgical masks, 10,000 N95 masks and over $225,000 toward Coronavirus
Arizona Based Brooklyn Bedding has
repurposed their facilities to make hospital beds during the pandemic.
Honeywell is ramping
up their Phoenix facility and is hiring 500 people to produce N95 masks and
other protective gear.
Several hotels in the Phoenix area are providing
of charge to medical professionals.
We acknowledge that this is not an exhaustive list, so feel
free to email the Arizona Free Enterprise Club at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know of other
Arizona companies and individuals that deserve recognition for pledging their
time, energy and resources to the Coronavirus effort.
In an effort to save their failing ballot measure campaigns,
a coalition of liberal organizations have gone to state
and federal court to be granted the ability to collect initiative signatures
online. Among the groups looking to change the signature collection process are
proposals to double the state income tax, increase taxpayer funding for
political campaigns, enact same day voter registration on election day and roll
back school choice options for parents and students.
Their main argument is that the Covid-19 pandemic was an
unforeseen circumstance that requires special relief and that since online
signature collection is allowed for candidates, a similar process must be
provided for ballot measures as well. Neither argument holds merit and should
be rejected by the court.
Their lawsuits assert that under the current social
distancing/shelter-in-place requirements, it is not possible for them to safely
acquire the necessary signatures prior to the filing deadline in July. That may
or may not be true, but if lack of time is truly an issue that is a problem that
they created for themselves.
No one disputes that collecting the minimum signatures
required to qualify for the ballot is a tall task (237,645 for statutory
measures, 356,467 for constitutional changes), which is why the constitution
provides 20 months to anyone looking to submit an initiative to the ballot. That is more than enough time to gather signatures
and to plan for any unforeseen circumstance, including a pandemic.
Instead, most of these groups decided to wait until this
spring to go the streets, ignoring the risk associated with such an approach.
The court should not bail them out for choosing not to use the lengthy
collection timeframes afforded to them under current law.
The other obvious problem with their request is that online
signature collection for initiatives would violate the state constitution. While plaintiffs and supporters of an online
signature platform frequently cite that candidates can collect their signatures
online, they ignore the fact that Article
4, Section 1 of Arizona’s constitution prescribes the signature collection
process for ballot measures.
Specifically, the constitution requires that all signatures
collected must be “attached to full and correct copy” of the measure, that
every sheet is “verified by the affidavit of the person” circulating the
petition, and that all signatures collected are “signed in the presence of an
affiant.” For the court to allow such a process to occur would require a
complete rewrite of the constitutional framework for initiatives that was drafted
by our state founders.
Hearings on both cases are scheduled to be heard next week.
Democrat Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who likely supports all of the liberal
ballot measures being proposed, announced
that she would not defend the law and is ready and willing to create an online
process for ballot measures.
Thankfully the legislature decided to step in and intervene
to defend our election laws against this frivolous lawsuit. Additionally,
Governor Ducey came out strongly
against the suit and made it clear that his office would not use any of his
emergency powers during the pandemic to provide relief. So now it is up to the
courts to decide whether pandemics can be used as an excuse to ignore the rule
It is difficult amid the chaos
and unpredictability surrounding our Country’s new COVID-19 reality to think
about what life will look like when this crisis subsides. Yet it is during the most difficult of challenges
when nations decide if they will surrender their fundamental
values in exchange for the promise of security.
Whether our leaders argue that
drastic times call for drastic measures, the ends justify the means, or promise
that everything will go back to normal after the crisis abates – it is
imperative that there are voices questioning, “what will our Republic look like
after the storm passes?”
Afterall, as reasonable or
necessary as some measures appear to a fearful populace, many in our ruling
class want to make sure to not let a good crisis go to waste.
The New York
Times recently highlighted several
chilling examples of major constitutional and human rights violations being
adopted in democratic nations with lightning speed and little resistance:
Right to Privacy – Infringement Through
Draconian Surveillance: In Israel the Prime Minister has authorized
tracking citizens through cellphone data they developed for counterterrorism
efforts. They are tracing citizens’ every movements and can even throw people
in prison for up to six months for defying isolation orders.
Right to Access the Ballot Box: Fair and
free elections are a cornerstone of any democratic republic. The “interim President” of Bolivia has
suspended their presidential election, unilaterally seizing a longer term and
denying citizens a basic right to choose their leader. Hungary’s Prime Minister has legislation
drafted that is likely to be passed which among many infringements also
includes the ability for him to suspend all elections and referendums. How his government ever peacefully wrest this
power away from him again is left unanswered in the legislative package.
Freedom of the Press and Speech: Several countries are violating
basic free speech rights and persecuting journalists that publish “dissenting”
or “false” information contrary to the government. Hungary again is an offender, allowing the
public prosecutor to imprison people for up to five years for disseminating
what they consider false information.
Right to Assembly: Our
friends overseas in Great Britain sprinted out legislation that allows their
ministries to ban pubic gatherings with little oversight as well as potentially
detain and isolate people indefinitely. In
the United States, democrats pushed hard to include language in the
COVID-19 relief package that would force non-profits and charitable
organizations to disclose
their donors, a practice that has been ruled unconstitutional
by the US Supreme court in NAACP VS
Right to a Speedy Trial and Habeas Corpus: Israel
Prime Minister Netanyahu has shut down
courts supposedly in the name of public health. It also conveniently serves his own interests
as he was scheduled to stand trial for corruption charges. The United
States’ Department of Justice has tried similarly dangerous
tactics, requesting Congress give them the authority to indefinitely detain
someone during an emergency as well as suspend court proceedings pre and post
arrest and trial.
These infringements are hitting
close to home in Arizona. Shortly after
the crisis began, several mayors unilaterally declared a state of emergency
without notifying Governor Ducey or their fellow council members. Some used
these powers to close businesses and limit hours, often with no consideration
with how disruptive it would be for employers to comply with a patchwork of
restrictions varying city to city.
Even after Governor Ducey wisely
stepped in and established a uniform policy for the entire state, Coral Evans
of Flagstaff has willfully and publicly defied
state law. She has unilaterally
closed city salons and similar services in obvious defiance of the Governor’s
Executive Order which preempts cities from employing more restrictive orders
than outlined by his administration.
The bottom line is that citizens need
to keep a close eye on the trade-offs government officials will be asking us to
make. The fearmongering being stoked by
some politicians should be looked upon with suspicion, especially when their
solutions involve long term power grabs, endless bailouts or indefinite
shutdown orders. As scary as Coronavirus may be, ceding our rights and freedoms
to a permanent police state is a much bigger threat.