Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is coming under fire for starting to loosen the state's coronavirus restrictions despite warnings from public health experts -- including one scientist whom Ducey is accused of firing after warning against reopening too soon.
As Laurie Roberts claimed in an opinion piece for AzCentral.com, Ducey has gone against public health models that show the coronavirus is still a danger in the state and that reopening now would lead to a dramatic spike in cases.
"Just hours after Ducey announced on Monday that he's accelerating the reopening of parts of the state's economy, state health officials told a team of university experts to stop working on models that project what will happen next," Roberts wrote, noting that Ducey is instead basing decisions on a federal model that is not available for people to see.
Ducey has declared that some businesses in the state will be open again on May 11, including barbershops and hair salons. But this comes weeks after warnings from scientists employed by Arizona to model the spread of the coronavirus warned that it would not be ready to start opening up yet.
Roberts also accused Ducey of firing the scientists who raised those warnings about reopening. Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at Arizona State University, told AZCentral.com in an April 22 interview that it was not yet safe to resume business unless the state was planning to have to shut down again in a few weeks.
"Shortly after Ducey's Monday announcement that he's reopening parts of the economy, DHS notified Lant and his team that their services are no longer needed," Roberts wrote. "And not only that, but they'll be cut off from access to state data they need to continue their modeling."Officials have since disbanded the Arizona State group creating the modeling, working instead with the aforementioned federal models.
Though Arizona has come under fire for cutting off work with the group of public health experts who created the models, state health director Cara Christ said that the modeling team was not disbanded entirely and was only asked to "take a pause for a little bit." She said that the state continues to get updated information from models created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which she said are more representative of where Arizona stands today.
Christ said that the disbanded group at ASU could have more work as the summer goes on, especially as the influenza season starts later in the year.
"But we did tell them to please stay engaged, because we may need to bring them back in the fall to look at modeling during flu season," she added, via AZCentral.com.