I really thought Arizona was on the right track to recover from the COVID-19 global health emergency.

Now we’ve taken a wrong turn and we’re about to throw all our hard work away.

God, I hope I am wrong on this one.

Tuesday Gov. Doug Ducey announced the opening of all of Arizona on Friday. You can go swimming, get a haircut, shop for clothes, hang out at the coffee shop, catch a baseball game and go to the gym.

It’s really a huge mistake.

Other states opened ahead of us and I was really hoping Ducey was going to sit back two or three weeks more and see what happens with their case counts. Will they spike because they lifted restrictions? I would like to know before letting my guard down.

No, I won’t be going to restaurants to sit down and have a great meal in a great atmosphere. I miss that terribly as it was one of the things I used to do to pamper myself.

Still, now is not the time to relax.

Many of us have been hunkered down and working from home over the past 10 weeks. It would be a mistake to just give up now.

I know business owners and many laid-off employees cheered Gov. Ducey opening the state back up. I get that. Everyone wants to get things back to normal — whatever normal will mean in the coming months and years.

I would like to examine the data from the lifting of restrictions in Florida and Georgia. We need to determine if the lifting of the stay-at-home orders will result in an increase in COVID-19 cases before declaring a victory over the invisible virus.

If other states are reopening, the rest of us should sit back for a while and see what happens.

I laugh at the idea that the virus can be defeated with good old-fashioned patriotism and bravery. People are already shunning the idea of wearing masks in public because they have nothing to fear. Fear is not really the problem behind wearing a mask. Science is the reason for wearing one.

Wearing a protective mask is a sign of common sense and the ability to understand basic science. The mask (and even gloves) will help you, as well as others, not spread the virus. If you wear a mask and have the virus without knowing it yet, you lessen the chance of spreading it to someone near you.

If you wear the proper mask, it will also save you from breathing in virus particles if you are near them. A simple homemade mask will not protect you from the virus but it will lessen your exposure to others.

If you are wearing an N95, N100 or P100 respirator and some sort of face shield, you will be better protected from exposure. These respirators will not protect other people — only the wearer, as exhaust breath is not entirely filtered.

But of course you already know that these respirators are protected and nearly impossible to find.

Doctors, nurses and first responders have first dibs on these respirators under federal law. Why? Simply because they work.

If our society has any hope of beating COVID-19, we have to do many, many things.

As highly intelligent scientists work on making a vaccine, the manufacture of protective respirators must shift into high gear. Every American should be shipped or provided a fair amount of N95 or better masks by the federal government on a regular basis. Anyone out and about should be required to wear an approved respirator mask — one that stands a chance to protect them from the virus.

If you want to go out — and I know you do — get a respirator and face shield and use it. It is the only safe way, along with wearing gloves (to avoid cross-contamination only) and washing your hands a lot.

Every single person needs to be tested on a regular basis for the virus and quarantined quickly if they have it. Cases must be identified and stopped right away before it spreads from contact with others.

If the federal or state government would provide testing and personal protection equipment to every citizen, numbers of cases would ease up and our economy has a chance to reopen.

The idea of reopening now, without enough protection and testing for the entire population, only makes everyone open to COVID-19. Cases in Arizona will probably spike in two to four weeks and I hope I’m wrong about that prediction.

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Justice reporter Jim Headley can be reached at jheadley@pinalcentral.com.

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