Some elected officials in Pinal County this week sought a court order to obtain more specific information about where COVID-19 cases are. Meanwhile, health officials have seen problems with that, including a potential false sense of security in low-infection cities and towns. However, with the epidemic’s downhill side possibly in the foreseeable future, that information will be welcomed by many residents.
State and county officials each day release data on new cases and deaths by county, and thankfully, the number is much lower than in some other parts of the country. On Wednesday the state health director said more information would be released and the lawsuit was dropped, although the director denied there was a connection in the state’s decision.
New York City now has more deaths than it suffered on Sept. 11, 2001, and that is sobering. Meanwhile, Pinal County has had two deaths reported, and it seems to be benefiting from an increased shutdown of business and activity.
Of course, the law requires protection of people’s identity in health reporting. Dr. Shauna McIsaac, Pinal County’s public health director, believes that a COVID-19 breakdown by city might present a false picture because of a lack of testing and also the fact that some people with the coronavirus lack symptoms that would prompt a test. Bad data might cause people to be careless.
Meanwhile, the officials, including the mayors of Casa Grande, Maricopa, Eloy, Florence and Apache Junction, have a different view. State Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, who represents part of northern Pinal County, also was a plaintiff in the action filed in Pinal County Superior Court. Part of their argument was to give more information to first responders. “We believe the unprecedented pandemic of the COVID-19 in the United States is prima facie evidence for the compelling need of this immediate and full disclosure,” the court petition stated. That is a strong argument, and it will be more so as time goes on.
Soon there will be a push to restart more of the economy because of the devastation occurring and signs of improvement on the health front. Having more information about locations available to government officials — and the public — should outweigh any harm done.