We now know why Pinal County has seen an explosion in new coronavirus cases.
Sheriff Mark Lamb has been campaigning.
On Wednesday the sheriff announced he had tested positive for COVID-19 while in Washington, D.C., to attend another photo op event with President Trump. He was sent home, where he says he will quarantine for at least 14 days.
But before that Lamb has been gallivanting around the county, and country, staging meet-and-greet events and producing video programming as if the pandemic didn’t exist.
In his announcement, Lamb said that his law enforcement job puts him in a position where he will be exposed to the virus more so than the general public.
“Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home. This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job. Today, that risk is the COVID-19 virus.”
But then the sheriff goes on to say that he was exposed to the virus during a campaign event in San Tan Valley. The video from the event, which was posted on one of his Facebook accounts, is disturbing. It shows a large gathering of people waiting in line to purchase Lamb merchandise and pose for photos with the sheriff. No one is wearing a mask, including the sheriff, who is seen hugging fans.
The sheriff chose to hold this campaign event. It was not something he had to attend as part of his job. Besides, the sheriff doesn’t even have an opponent. He successfully got his token opposition removed from the ballot months ago.
But the sheriff’s cavalier attitude about the pandemic hasn’t just been seen in his campaign videos. In another video, the sheriff held a meeting with selected members of the African American community to discuss policing efforts while the Black Lives Matter protests were going on. For the event participants are seen in the video crowded into a room. Few, including the sheriff, are seen wearing masks.
Who knows, our sheriff could be the coronavirus version of Typhoid Mary.
Pinal County has seen more than 400 new cases of the virus this week as the state sees a surge.
It has become a serious problem.
This week Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he will allow local leaders the choice of initiating enhanced safety measures, including requiring the wearing of face masks.
Lamb, who cares more about promoting his brand than promoting safe measures, is not someone who leads by example.
So that task falls on others, like Casa Grande Mayor Craig McFarland.
After the governor’s press conference this week, Casa Grande wasted no time in implementing some safety measures, including requiring masks be worn in certain places and under certain circumstances.
The mayor and Casa Grande leaders are aware of what is at stake.
Casa Grande has a manufacturing base that is vulnerable to the rapid spread of the virus.
It is our responsibility as citizens of a community to follow whatever regulations that city puts in place so we can help protect those most vulnerable, as well as the community’s economic well-being.
If one of our large employers has to shut down temporarily and furlough workers, it could have a devastating domino effect on our economy. Then it won’t matter how many nail salons and auto shops are open. The economy will shut down on its own.
Our mayor recognizes that threat. He also understands the marketing side of things. The city is currently trying to recruit more industry to the area. If we get identified as a community that won’t take measures to prevent the spread of the virus, then it could hurt such recruitment efforts.
The state right now is getting a lot of national media attention for the recent surge in COVID-19 cases, which is not the kind of attention we want for our tourism industry.
A co-worker in our office recently joked that he got uninvited to a family reunion in California because of Arizona’s surge.
Recently Kansas listed Arizona as a quarantine state. That means any Kansas resident who visits Arizona must quarantine for 14 days when they return home.
Kansas? That’s right. If Kansas is labeling you persona non grata, then you’ve got an image problem.
After being diagnosed in Washington, Lamb couldn’t fly back to Arizona. So he rented a car to drive the 2,300 miles home.
He told a New York Times reporter Thursday he was taking precautionary measures during his drive back to Arizona.
“I wear my mask, I stay away from people,” he said. “I use the sanitizer to clean the gas pump and everything.”
Better late than never.
Now the rest of us need to follow his example. (OK, maybe I was wrong about the sheriff.)
You can reach Andy Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org.