The Arizona Department of Health Services sent an email ordering an Arizona State University and University of Arizona team to “pause” the work they were doing compiling data on COVID-19 cases in the state. The schools were sent this order to stand down just hours after Republican Gov. Doug Ducey announced his grand reopening plans for Arizona, beginning May 8.
At the time, Gov. Ducey told the press that "We're making decisions with the confidence that we are going in the right direction.” The data that Ducey seems to be working off of is FEMA’s secret modeling—which must clearly conflict with the universities’ data. The very robust modeling done by the university team argues that the only potentially safe time to begin reopening the state is at the end of May.
ABC15 reports that the email sent by ADHS bureau chief Steven Bailey came a few hours after Ducey’s announcement. The modeling team had been providing data to Arizona Department of Health Services up until this announcement. At the end of April their research showed that Arizona might see peaks in the pandemic between May and June. ADHS told ABC15 that "The reason that ADHS is pausing the internal modeling is, as we have said before, we are looking at several national models and have determined that FEMA is the most accurate to help us develop and implement public health interventions to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak."
AZ Central reports that a mathematical epidemiologist at ASU, Tim Land, explained that the findings in April show that the only scenario that kept the trajectory of the virus’ spread in the state from surging was based on the state reopening at the end of May. “I can say, scientifically, no, it's not safe to reopen unless you're planning on, you know, shutting down again after a couple of weeks, and we can help figure out what the appropriate amount of time is to stay open before we shut down.”
The need to control what scientific data is available to the public in order to help pervert the public’s perception of the risks involved in the bad decisions being made by conservative leadership across the country is not simply an Arizona Republican Party invention. Florida’s Republican leadership has been very shady in hiding the list of people who have died in their state over the past few weeks.
According to state health director Cara Christ, the university team is not disbanded, and Arizona officials have not ruled out bringing them back at some point in the future. Maybe when cases surge again and Republican leadership needs to pretend it’s doing something?