On Wednesday, March 24, the vaccine eligibility in Arizona was changed to include everyone 16 and older. This is a big step a year into the pandemic, and there is suddenly a lot more light at the end of the tunnel. The vaccination rate has been at an all time high and Arizona seems to be fairing this pandemic relatively well at this point.
Unfortunately, one day after the vaccination eligibility was changed, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that he would be lifting restrictions that were previously in place in the state to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. On March 25, he wrote in a tweet, “Today we are in a different spot, and we are also a lot smarter. I’m confident Arizona’s businesses and citizens will continue to act responsibly as we gradually get back to normal.” Putting all responsibility on businesses and people to “continue to act responsibly” is remarkably irresponsible and threatens all the hard-fought progress Arizona has made.
What does the lifting of all restrictions mean? Well, in most places, mask mandates cannot be enforced, bars and restaurants are allowed to fully open and events with over 50 people can go forward without government approval. Cities, as stated in the executive order issued by Ducey, do not have the power to enforce any of the restrictions previously in place.
Yes, Arizona is doing much better than before. COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations have dramatically decreased as more and more people get vaccinated. This is good news, but not good enough to lift restrictions and convince everyone that we are suddenly back to normal. This is only pushing us further from the normal we have been so desperately begging for since March 2020.
As of April 4, 31.5% of people in Arizona have been vaccinated against the virus, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Herd immunity occurs when between 50% and 80% of people are immune. While we are getting there, we are not close enough.
Also, with new variants of COVID-19 that are more easily spread and deadlier now detected in Arizona and on the University of Arizona campus in Tucson, this decision is rash. The false sense of comfort created by the lifting of all restrictions will cause significant harm in the long run.
I want everything to go back to normal, not a false sense of normal where risk still abounds. If there is one thing I have learned from this year, it is that we should always err on the side of caution. Playing it safe is key to making sure that everyone is safe. Is it really that hard to wear a mask? We have been wearing masks for so long, that you’d think it would not be as big of a nuisance anymore. It really is a small price to pay and not asking much of anyone. We may all be tired and over this pandemic, but the pandemic is not over for us.
Throughout the pandemic, we have seen many cases where a politician is governing based on their own political agenda and not in the best interest of the people who elected them. This is truly disheartening. I would have hoped that all rulings are made for the people they affect, but sadly it is not looking like they do.
With that all being said, please continue to wear a mask, social distance and be safe, so that we can get closer to the true “normal” we actually deserve.
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Payton Toomey (she/her) is a sophomore majoring in journalism and information sciences and esociety. She loves to cook and golf in her free time.