Arizona Gov Doug Ducey Repo's Scientists' Coronavirus Data

The life of an Arizonan is always insane

Arizona's Doug Ducey joins the long list of Republican governors juking the stats to make it seem like, actually, opening up their states and getting lots of their citizens killed is a really good idea. Because if you don't like the data, you can just change it!

ABC's Phoenix affiliate reports that the Arizona Department of Health Services ordered scientists from Arizona State University and University of Arizona to quit working on a coronavirus model — and went so far as to repossess the data. On Monday night, just hours after Ducey announced that restaurants and beauty salons would be reopening, Steven "Rob" Bailey, an ADHS bureau chief, emailed the scientists to say that their services were no longer required.

"We've been asked by department leadership to 'pause' all current work on projections modeling," he said, adding later that the health department planned to "pull back the special data sets which have been shared" with the modelers.

The department later told the station that the state plans to rely on FEMA's model going forward, although that model can't be released to the public right now because, ummm, reasons.

In mid-April, Tim Lant, a mathematical epidemiologist at Arizona State University who supervised the state-level model, explained the difficulty of modeling the COVID-19 death rate when doctors are still grappling with the disease, testing is inadequate, and individual behaviors are affected by multiple external factors.

"The only stable solution to an epidemic is if everyone gets it or if it never happens in the first place," he told the Arizona Republic, "Everything else is just an unstable area of what could actually happen."

At the same time, he's certain that re-opening without restriction will dramatically increase the state's death toll.

Lant models five scenarios, from best case to best fit to a free-for-all.

The slowest curve, based on if the state reopens at the end of May, is "the only one that doesn't put me immediately back on an exponential growth curve," Lant said. That's because transmission rates would be lowest at that time, he said.

"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," he said.

But Ducey doesn't like those numbers. He prefers the secret ones from FEMA that say it's totally fine to eat in restaurants and get your nails done next week. So he's just out there trashing all the models, because LOL, whatever!

"Over the course of time when you see those models changing willy-nilly like that, what hasn't changed is what we know about our hospital capacity, what we know about our supply of equipment, the handle we have on ventilators," Ducey told the Republic. "So regardless of which one of these models happens to be right, we're prepared."

And in one sense, he's right. The prediction that Arizona would need upwards of 10,000 ventilators to prevent hospitals becoming overwhelmed was wrong. But it wasn't wrong because the data scientists don't know how to math — the model changed because the NIH changed its recommendations about ventilator use, meaning many fewer patients required intubation. And Ducey's glib dismissal of pandemic response as a simply ventilator supply issue, rather than an obligation to keep people ALIVE, is some serious goal shifting.

In the end, Ducey and all the other Republican governors are hoping that the science will bail them out again. Maybe the scientists will be wrong about the disease's lethality and transmissibility. Maybe it can't live in hot weather. Maybe hydroxychloroquine. Or remdesivir. Or drinking bleach.

Or maybe not. Because, unlike two months ago when we were just learning about this disease, we have historical data to go on now. And even with social distancing in place, 33 people died of this virus in Arizona yesterday, bringing the state's total to 395 deaths out of 9,305 infections.

And Ducey can mock the modelers for getting the ventilator question wrong, but the reality is that his state's deaths have dwarfed the optimistic predictions of the University of Washington IHME model, which projected 13 deaths per day and 1,390 infections total by May 5. But that would hardly support his conclusion that it's totally safe to go eat at Arby's today, so of course he won't.

Instead Governor Ducey is going to shit on the data scientists and hope that everyone will simply get used to their neighbors dropping dead. Because if we can put up with 33 deaths a day, why not 45? Or 60? The important thing to remember is that all life is sacred and you can't get an abortion. Amen.

[ABC15 / AZ Central / Arizona Republic]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.


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