Miner Editorial | Public deserves to know about COVID-19
In the week ending Wednesday, Oct. 13, 17 residents of Mohave County were killed by the coronavirus. The week before, 19 perished. In the four weeks ending on Oct. 13, the toll was 72.
If 72 people were murdered in a month in Mohave County, you’d better believe that would be a story. They’d be calling out the National Guard.
And if 17 people died in one week in auto collisions on our highways, that, too, would make headlines. And if 17 people were washed away in flash floods, ditto.
Those are all preventable – and thus unnecessary – deaths, the same as deaths from COVID-19, which can be avoided in nearly all cases by the simple act of getting vaccinated, or acquiring prompt treatment with an array of available drugs.
By releasing information about COVID – information gathered with taxpayers’ money – the government agencies that provide COVID data to the media have the opportunity to not only warn residents about the dangers of the virus, but also to inform them about ways to protect themselves. That’s time and money well-spent. And it’s especially important here in Mohave County, where the vaccination rate lags far behind the state and national averages, and the deaths-per-capita rate far exceeds them.
Our newspaper has been repeatedly criticized for the so-called “death corner,” the location on page one where this story has been rightly reported for the past 18 months as the pandemic rages. But people need to be aware of the dangers; they need to know how to avoid becoming a victim; they need to know how to protect their loved ones from this deadly disease.
Our primary source of information is the Mohave County Department of Public Health, which for months at the beginning of the pandemic issued daily updates on the toll the virus is taking in our communities. Then they cut it back to five days a week. Now it’s three days a week.
And at least one member of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors would like the county to reveal even less. Travis Lingenfelter, who represents the Kingman area in District 1, at a board meeting on Oct. 4, said there has to be a “logical end” to the reports, reports that keep his constituents – some of them elderly, vulnerable and unvaccinated – aware of the status of the local outbreak, which is still quite severe.
Lingenfelter questioned the need for thrice-weekly COVID updates from the county. He questioned the need for county health officials to continue to keep the public informed about the ravages of a disease that has killed nearly 1,000 Mohave County residents, and infected nearly 30,000. He said residents could visit the state COVID dashboard at https://www.azdhs.gov/covid19/data/index.php, which doesn’t have as much local information as the county provides – including in which communities that cases are recorded – if they want an update.
But ignoring the virus, and stopping the flow of information, won’t make the pandemic go away. It won’t stop the suffering of friends and families who lost loved ones; it won’t stop the virus from mutating into more deadly variants; it won’t free up county employees to do something more useful. This is as important as it gets.
We need more information, more transparency, more candor – not less. County health officials need to continue to issue reports, and provide even more information if possible.
The “logical end” to those reports? That would be the day this pandemic is finally over.