Arizona Democratic Candidates react to Coronavirus Trends in the Grand Canyon State

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Recent Coronavirus Demographic data for Arizona has revealed disturbing trends for senior citizens and members of the Navajo Nation.

As of April 13, 2020, 78 of the 115 fatalities attributed to the Coronavirus were senior citizens.

Sixteen percent of the deaths have come from the Native American Community. They only represent six percent of the state’s population.

Matt Grodsky, the spokesperson of the Arizona Democratic Party, released a statement that read in part:

“The Arizona Democratic Party has been very concerned about the impact this virus is having on older Arizonans (22 percent of the state population) and Native Americans across the state. The chaotic and confusing response from the Trump Administration and Governor Ducey has cost Arizona precious time. Now more than ever Arizonans need their leaders looking out for them and providing real solutions.”

 Democratic Candidates running for local, county, and Congressional offices also offered their views on the recent demographic trends of the Coronavirus Public Health Emergency.

Democratic Legislative District Twenty Three-State Senate Candidate Seth Blattman

 “The spread of COVID-19 is something we all need to take very seriously.    We particularly need to consider the safety of our Native Americans and elders as they are highly impacted by this virus.  We need clear and concise leadership with a  specific plan to ensure the safety of everyone.  Together we can overcome and end this pandemic.”

 Democratic Congressional District Four Candidate Delina DiSanto:

 “We need to realize that any person with chronic health conditions is susceptible to COVID19. As we are seeing data and hearing more than the main age of the deaths from this virus is 60 years old and older. It is mainly due to our immune response changes with age, and they can experience more inflammation early on in the course of illness, affecting their lungs.”

 “Nursing homes are at very high risk because they are older, weaker, and sicker. Plus they are not able to just leave and go to another nursing home or go home. Many do not have homes or if they have family in the area, their family does not have the resources to care for them. Many are in rooms of 2 or more. Then you have healthcare staff coming and going. And more important? PPE shortage. I understand how infections spread. I’m a registered nurse. But we have a White House, US Representatives, like Rep Paul Gosar, and Administration that are not using the Defense Production Act to get companies to make PPEs and ventilators. This does not nationalize our country, it is a temporary procurement of equipment to save thousands of lives.”

 “Then we have Native Americans getting hit hard or at very high risk. Many are faced with no running water, they have outhouses, many families live together, and they live far from any healthcare facility. Indian Health Services (IHS) in the area have 50% or more doctor and healthcare worker shortages. It is the grinding poverty affecting them. There are higher rates of crime, higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, gang membership and sexual abuse. Many feel defeated and have severe depression.”

 “This is a political wildfire that needs to be addressed. Tribes want more money and federal legislators don’t want to keep giving more money and this administration has made financial cuts to IHS. Legislators say there are corrupt tribal leaders and tribes say funding is not being appropriated as agreed by treaties. But while everyone is complaining, no one is stepping up to the plate to help Native Americans now.”

 “We need leaders that can take this crisis and look at the whole picture. Put people in charge that have the experience and know-how to manage a team and get things done, not politicians and not corporate stakeholders. We need to cut the red tape in congress so pertinent resources are getting to those who need it the most. Make decisions that won’t create a bigger crisis later. Get the funding that was promised in the CAREs Act to the people now. Stop the loopholes that big corporations are using to get small business loans, and depleting the funding.  People are starving, lost their jobs, lost their healthcare, have no savings. Those people will be the next wave of COVID19 infections, if we don’t make good decisions now.”

Democratic Legislative District Six State Senate Candidate Colonel Felicia French

“As a nurse, I’ve seen firsthand how our tribal communities lack access to preventative healthcare and critical infrastructure.”

“Members of the Navajo Nation have been the worst hit by COVID-19, with over 300 cases in Coconino and Navajo counties alone. Native American communities are already much more vulnerable than the general population during any pandemic, given the lack of access to water, food, and medical services, and the greater incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease that put this historically-disadvantaged community at higher risk of dying.”

“Even though Native Americans make up less than six percent of Arizona’s population, our underserved tribal members have accounted for 15 percent of our state’s COVID-19 deaths.”

“When forty percent of the Navajo Nation doesn’t have running water or indoor plumbing, it’s critical to address inequities in state policies, rather than wait for them to be exacerbated during an outbreak.”

Democratic Legislative District Eight State Senate Candidate Sharon Girard

“As a Physician Assistant I spent most of my career providing healthcare to those in rural communities. Older people are more likely to have existing health issues which negatively impact how they will deal with the virus. But more importantly, are those who live in small towns and underserved areas scattered about our state, where they already lack access to the care they need. Our provider shortages in these communities compound this problem, especially as we get closer to the coming surge.”

“We still do not really fully understand why people recover or succumb to the virus. There seems to be many factors in play. including immune state, current medication use or health issues. Surprisingly, a 100 year old walked out of the hospital and an infant did not. We are still learning so much. Young people are infected in higher numbers, perhaps because they are out and about, working or recreating. Older people are staying home if they can, though they die in higher numbers. Is it possible that infected young people who work spread the virus asymptomatically or before symptoms to vulnerable older people? We will only solve this issue when we test everyone who is working with the public. This should be our goal, sooner than later. Mask use needs to be universal out in public, especially N95, when production increases.”

“Doing so may protect vulnerable citizens who venture out to shop or visit with family.”

“The Native American community has always been underserved and we need to address this issue. The federal IHS has been understaffed and underfunded. We will see what lack of care and support will bring forward as we fight this pandemic. It will devastate an already compromised system.”

We can no longer kick the can down the road in the legislature. We must address our public health crisis in Arizona, lack of providers in rural areas and the high cost of medication. 750,000 people in Arizona do not have insurance. They are walking around with health issues they cannot afford to treat. Starting off with a deficiency is a set up for failure. The elderly ration important lifesaving medications, like insulin, because of cost. When they do become ill they are already in a compromised state of health, which interferes with their ability to fight disease.

Now is the time to listen to health care leaders. Nothing about this pandemic Is political. Everything about this pandemic is life and death.

Democratic Congressional District Five Candidate Joan Greene:

“Of the top 10 zip codes for the COVID-19, three of them are in AZ05. Andy Biggs, the current Congressman in Az05, voted three times against federal funding to protect our seniors and Native Americans who are being affected the hardest.”

“While we are experiencing a health crisis that is literally killing people in his district, Andy Biggs is not tending to the emergency at hand but continuing his sycophant behavior to capture the attention of Trump and his donors.”

 “Biggs’ mantra of ‘Open the Country’ is reckless and dangerous. Biggs does not have lasting business success on his own, no medical or economic background and continues to believe he is the smartest guy in the room, while evidence proves otherwise.”

 “We must listen to what the data tells us, demand testing for those who have symptoms and provide medical care for all who need it at no financial cost. We must increase funding for the Indian Health Service and accelerate the payment.

“The guidance of world-renowned medical expert Dr. Fauci, other health and science experts are who we must listen to, not Biggs who has told us repeatedly, our lives do not matter. “

  Democratic District One Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Candidate Jevin Hodge

 “None of the issues we are facing today are new. America has been forced to wake up to these problems in the worst possible way–when they are exacerbated by global catastrophe and neglected by ignorant leadership. As a county leader, I will prioritize working with tribal officials to aid those in the Native American community who lack access to clean water, reliable electricity, and top-quality healthcare. Similarly, assistance should be given to seniors who aren’t able to shop in their local grocery stores, receive the care they have needed since before this pandemic began, or draw on their savings that have been threatened by stock volatility. Our local and national governments have an obligation to look after all people, regardless of whether they vote in our elections or go to work every day. Let’s make sure we deliver on the prosperity and decency promised by elected officials and expected by those living and working in our state.”

Democratic Legislative District 11 State Senate Candidate Gunnery Sergeant JoAnna Mendoza

 “This pandemic has placed our nation and the world in a state of uncertainty and chaos. We find ourselves in uncharted territory, unsure of what lies ahead. One thing that we do know for sure is that this crisis has had a devastating impact on communities of color and our most vulnerable populations, especially isolated seniors, families and single-parent households, and those currently living paycheck to paycheck. Communities of color, like the Navajo Nation, have significant risk factors that place them at higher risk. They’re more likely to live in larger households, have less access to healthcare, have underlying health conditions, are less likely to seek medical assistance, and continue to work providing essential services. But these racial and economic divides existed before. This pandemic has just brought them to our attention. Not everyone has the option of working from home and practicing social distancing. Those of us who are lucky enough to work from home are few and far in between.” 

“In addition to providing a clear, consistent, and coordinated response to the pandemic, our federal, state, and local government must take action to address the disparities in underserved communities and vulnerable populations. We must ensure that folks in our communities have access to healthcare and that pharmaceutical and health insurance companies lower costs and suspend co-pays for life-saving medications and prescriptions. We need to expand unemployment benefits for all workers and paid sick leave for those affected by COVID-19, including those caring for affected family members. Proper funding for the SBA Disaster Relief Program is essential, with guarantees that minority-owned businesses are not left out. Small little fixes to cover up the problem aren’t going to cut it. To save lives in this crisis we need an actual pandemic response plan that is people-centered and action-oriented.”

 Democratic Congressional District Eight Candidate Michael Muscato

 “Arizona’s Eighth Congressional District is home to a majority percentage of Arizona’s retirement community. The overwhelming need for our seniors is “less talk, more action.”

 “Ensuring the health and safety of our seniors and Native American communities shouldn’t be a Democratic or Republican  ” political priority”. Safety measures and decisive decisions to support all Americans should have been done because it’s what our leaders are in place to do. Absent of both direction and leadership from Congresswoman Debbie Lesko and Governor Ducey, our campaign made the decision to suspend our campaign field operations and instead allocate our large volunteer base to deliver food and medications to seniors throughout CD8. The response to our efforts has been met with gratitude and appreciation for putting public service into action. Playing Monday morning quarterback doesn’t put food on the table or make sure seniors and those in need have the supplies they require. Leadership, as we are all seeing, requires more than talk. Our hometown and our country are always worth fighting for.”

 Democratic Congressional District Eight Candidate Bob Musselwhite

 “The flu pandemic of 1918 attacked people in their 20s and 30s.  The SARS epidemic of 2002 also attacked young people.  Viruses are known to mutate in their course and then direct their mortality rates to any given group.  The immediate answer is restoring funding to scientific research on these corona viruses that was going on before funding cuts so that we have a future in which we control these epidemics/pandemics so they do not control us.  Prior preparation and use of our scientific knowledge without delay would also be exceptionally helpful to everyone as would be wisdom in our elected officials to use it.”

At the virtual monthly meeting of Legislative District 18, State Representative Jennifer Jermaine advised attendees of a fundraising site to help members of the Navajo and Hopi Nations weather this crisis.

The link is https://www.gofundme.com/f/NHFC19Relief?fbclid=IwAR2Mc207-QKYsYzQhQjKP8OmRPU8mm1NMzSeSnWCoHG6ALQHPDGKw_c665o

She also recommended that people help the Post Office by buying stamps, commemorative sets, or other items they sell.

People should also consider donating to food banks like St. Marys Food Bank, Feeding America, and Meals on Wheels, to help impoverished families, especially those with children who rely on free and reduced breakfasts and lunch.

It is during these times of uncertainty that people rise to the occasion and do their best to help their neighbors and those in need.