Arizona Health Department Issues Ambiguous Warnings on Monkeypox Spread

Arizona Health Department Issues Ambiguous Warnings on Monkeypox Spread

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has been issuing warnings about the spread of monkeypox, an infectious viral disease mainly spread through intimate relations. ADHS noted that monkeypox is transmitted through “close contact” — to date, most cases have occurred in sexually active gay men. 

According to the CDC’s latest data, Arizona has 11 of the 1,814 reported cases. Nearly all cases were located in Maricopa County. The first probable monkeypox case in the state occurred last month: a man in his late 30s. Most recently, one monkeypox case was discovered outside of Maricopa County: a man under 40 years old in Pima County.

The ten states with the most cases are: New York, 489; California, 266; Illinois, 174; Florida, 154; District of Columbia, 108; Georgia, 93; Texas, 76; Massachusetts, 51; Virginia, 44; and Pennsylvania, 43. As of the end of June, there were over 12,500 cases globally. 

Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) noted that gay men comprise many of the monkeypox cases, though they didn’t disclose a specific number. A United Kingdom (UK) study of nearly 700 monkeypox cases earlier this month discovered that 97 percent were gay men. 54 percent of those men had another sexually-transmitted infection (STI), 30 percent had HIV/AIDS, and 31 percent had 10 or more sexual partners in the last three months. 

Monkeypox’s spread and public response are reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, though monkeypox is proving to be far less deadly. That may explain the ADHS’s ambiguity. Health care providers and government officials have vocalized concern over how to warn gay and bisexual men about monkeypox without inciting discrimination against those communities. 

ADHS has echoed the CDC’s messaging on monkeypox, which claims that anyone can catch and spread the disease.

Raymond Embry, founder and CEO of the eponymous COVID-19 testing company Embry Health, questioned the lack of coverage of a monkeypox spread in Phoenix around Independence Day weekend.

Embry’s mother, JoEllen, was Embry Health’s former medical director. The Arizona Board of Nursing fined her $10,000 and placed her on a 24-month probation in April for erroneous billing that resulted in too great of reimbursements. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Congresswoman Lesko Asked CDC to Explain Its Tracking Of Americans’ Locations, Movements

Congresswoman Lesko Asked CDC to Explain Its Tracking Of Americans’ Locations, Movements

By Corinne Murdock |

Last Friday, Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (R-AZ-08) joined a letter asking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Rochelle Walensky what legal authority her agency had to purchase Americans’ location data.

The CDC reportedly shelled out $420,000 for one year of phone data from at least 20 million Americans’ phones. The CDC’s transaction and its purposes were exposed through documents obtained by VICE through open records requests. 

The CDC documents outlined plans to use the data to not only track COVID-19 curfew and quarantine compliance but visits to places of worship, K-12 schools, pharmacies, neighbors, parks, gyms, weight management companies, grocery stores; as well as the movements of Navajo Nation peoples, K-12 bus route users, and college students, to name a few. According to the documents, the CDC purchased the geotracking data from the controversial data broker SafeGraph. In doing so, the CDC relied on the same type of data currently being scrutinized for its use to track potential ballot harvesters, or “mules,” as highlighted in the controversial documentary “2000 Mules.” 

Lesko joined 18 other legislators led by Congressman Kelly Armstrong (R-ND) to demand answers from the CDC. They expressed concern over the legality of the CDC surveilling Americans, citing a 2018 Supreme Court ruling that determined that mobile location information fell within a reasonable expectation of privacy. 

“This violates the rights of Americans!” tweeted Lesko. 

The congressman asked the CDC to explain what legal authority they had to acquire location data (especially concerning places of worship and its relation to the First Amendment), whether they obtained legal advice in order to do so, and whether they informed Congress of their intent to do so; if they’d requested Congress within the last five years to enact legislation specifically authorizing the purchase or acquisition of location data; what specific appropriation line item funded the purchase of the location data, and if they conducted an internal review to ascertain the compliance of their purchase; what form they purchased the data and if it included any personally identifiable information or it was in an aggregate, anonymous form; whether the data had been deleted or was being repurposed for other uses; what conclusions, analyses, or other methods were the results of their data acquisition; whether this was the only instance of them purchasing location data; who decided to purchase the data; and who has access to the data.

This wasn’t the first time that the CDC relied on SafeGraph. Throughout the 2020, they relied on SafeGraph information to conduct their reports on Americans’ compliance with stay-at-home orders. According to the documents obtained by Vice, the CDC continued relying on SafeGraph’s public data until the company no longer provided their data for free last March.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

1.2 Million Arizona Workers At Risk of Losing Jobs Due to Biden Vaccine Mandate

1.2 Million Arizona Workers At Risk of Losing Jobs Due to Biden Vaccine Mandate

By Corinne Murdock |

Data from the Census Bureau and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicated that nearly 1.2 million Arizona workers would lose their jobs under President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate. Senator Rand Paul’s (R-KY) office conducted the research, published through the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Businesses & Entrepreneurship days before Thanksgiving.

The 1.2 million workers account for 33 percent of Arizona’s workforce. Compliance would further cost Arizona businesses at least $70 million total. The main types of workers impacted come from America’s backbone: wholesale trade, retail, and manufacturing. These three categories of workers were largely classified as “essential workers” throughout 2020 and this year. Arizona ranked 12th for the number of workers it may lose, after California (nearly 4.8 million), Texas (over 4.5 million), Florida (over 2.9 million), New York (over 2 million), Ohio (nearly 1.9 million), Georgia (over 1.8 million), Illinois (nearly 1.7 million), Pennsylvania (under 1.7 million), North Carolina (under 1.6 million) Michigan (under 1.5 million), and Tennessee (over 1.2 million).

According to the research, nearly 45 million workers nationwide are at risk of losing their jobs: about 22 percent of the nation’s entire workforce, ringing in at a compliance cost of at least $1.29 billion.

Biden’s vaccine mandate relied on the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to require companies with 100 or more employees to have employees fully vaccinated or following standard COVID-19 safety protocols: masking and weekly testing. The mandate would require companies to provide paid time off for workers who get vaccinated, but it wouldn’t require costs of acquiring tests – though individual states or local laws might.

Based on recent court rulings, it’s unclear when the vaccine mandate would be implemented. A federal appeals court halted Biden’s vaccine mandate last month. Another federal court also halted a similar Biden mandate requiring Medicare and Medicaid health care workers to get vaccinated, in a case launched by a coalition involving Attorney General Mark Brnovich. Following that ruling, OSHA decided to suspend enforcement of the mandate.

The vaccine mandate also may face a challenge in the legislature. The Senate will vote on a resolution to effectively bar Biden’s vaccine mandate. Through the Congressional Review Act (CRA), the House and Senate may overturn a federal regulation without presidential approval. However, such a resolution would likely not advance in the Democrat-controlled House. 

Last month, one of Biden’s chief economic advisors, Jared Bernstein, told CNBC that adverse financial impacts due to the mandate would be overshadowed by the economic growth afforded by vaccinations. When asked if the Biden Administration expected companies to sacrifice their revenue growth, Bernstein said that he couldn’t speak for individual companies and that many would face “a very different outlook.”

“Those forecasts are for 4.5 and 6 percent. The connection between a strong economy and vaccinations and the trajectory of the caseload is extremely clear to me – and, in fact, quite elastic, it happens very quickly. And, of course, that is the motivation behind the vaccination program,” said Bernstein. “I’ve looked at almost every important variable I could find. Yet that does certainly make the case that vaccines, economic progress, strong growth, revenue growth, income growth, wage growth, jobs, GDP, industrial production – every variable I look at seems highly and positively elastic to these wiggles in the caseload.”

Bernstein serves on the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA) alongside Chairwoman Cecilia Elena Rouse and fellow member Heather Boushey. Rouse served under Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama on the National Economic Council (NEC) and CEA, respectively. Boushey would have served as the chief economic advisor for failed presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s transition team.

According to the CDC, a vast majority of the elderly are either partially or fully vaccinated. 88.8 percent of individuals aged 50 to 64, 99.9 percent of individuals aged 65 to 74, and 97.7 percent of individuals over 75. About 10 percent of those from each age range are awaiting their second dosage. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

Ducey Urges Homeland Security, CDC To Maintain Title 42 Restrictions At The Border

Ducey Urges Homeland Security, CDC To Maintain Title 42 Restrictions At The Border

Governor Doug Ducey on Tuesday expressed serious concerns regarding reports that the Biden Administration could soon lift Title 42 border restrictions.

“I urge you to keep these restrictions in place. Lifting them will threaten the health and safety of not only Arizonans, but all Americans, and our already broken border will explode, overwhelming border patrol, law enforcement, non-profits and health care professionals,” the Governor wrote to U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle P. Walensky. “By lifting this policy, the Biden administration will be responsible for not only exacerbating our border crisis, but in effect, proactively and knowingly importing COVID-19 variants into the United States, starting in our border states.

The Governor is urging Secretary Mayorkas and Director Walensky not to lift a public health rule known as Title 42, which allows federal officials to prohibit the entry of those who potentially pose a health risk, including COVID-19. There are reports that the Biden Administration will lift these restrictions, endangering the health and safety of law enforcement professionals, health care personnel, border communities and all Arizonans.

“Title 42 is one of the only measures remaining in place which allows not only the federal authorities but also state and local public health professionals to maintain public health that they have worked so hard for over the past 17 months of this pandemic,” Governor Ducey wrote.

The letter comes as the Wall Street Journal is reporting “the pandemic is raging in South America, which has just 5% of the world’s population but now accounts for a quarter of the global death toll.”

On June 30, Governor Ducey signed Arizona’s FY 2022 budget, which includes $25 million for the Arizona National Guard Border Mission. It also includes $30 million to assist local and county law enforcement with border security costs, in addition to the existing state support for the Border Strike Force mission.

On June 10, Governors Ducey and Greg Abbott, of Texas, urgently requested all U.S. governors to send available law enforcement resources to their states along the U.S.-Mexico border as illegal border crossings, apprehensions and unaccompanied migrant children in federal custody increase.

On May 11, Governor Ducey joined 19 fellow governors to issue a letter calling for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to reverse their destructive policies that have created the crisis at the southern border.

On April 29, The State Emergency Council, convened by Governor Ducey, voted to allocate up to $2,536,500 from the Governor’s Emergency Fund to help fund the Arizona National Guard border mission. The Council also approved an additional $200,000 for the Search and Rescue Fund to support county sheriffs.

On April 20, Governor Ducey issued a Declaration of Emergency and announced he is deploying the Arizona National Guard to the state’s southern border to support local law enforcement efforts as the nation experiences a rapid increase in apprehensions and migrant children in federal custody.

The following day, Governor Ducey and a delegation of state lawmakers toured Arizona’s border in Yuma and received a briefing on the escalating humanitarian and security crisis from Border Patrol, local law enforcement and community leaders.

On March 24, Governor Ducey while visiting the University of Arizona criticized President Biden and Vice President Harris’ lack of focus on the situation at the border.

On March 19, Governor Ducey traveled to Douglas to get a first-hand view of the situation at the border. After taking an aerial border tour, the Governor received a briefing and held a press conference and a border security roundtable.

Ducey Sets March 15 Deadline To Get Students “Back In The Classroom”

Ducey Sets March 15 Deadline To Get Students “Back In The Classroom”

By Lori Hunnicutt |

On Wednesday, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order returning schools to in-person, teacher-led instruction.

The governor said his team, relying on the metrics developed by the CDC, have determined that 12 of Arizona’s 15 counties “are in phases where all schools are safe to open, including in the state’s two largest counties, Maricopa and Pima.”

Ducey’s order requires schools to return to in-person learning by March 15, or after Spring Break.

The order includes an exception for middle and high schools located in counties with “high” transmission of COVID-19, as defined by the CDC ⁠— which currently includes just three Arizona counties: Coconino, Yavapai, and Pinal.

While the governor recognizes the decision may be controversial, he noted in his announcement that the “CDC is clear that there is a safe pathway for all schools to open at any transmission level, and to stay open if they implement proper mitigation strategies. A student may continue participating in virtual instruction if their parent or guardian chooses so.”

Scot Mussi, President of the Free Enterprise Club said that Ducey’s announcement “is a major step in the right direction.”

“Arizona’s children have been out of school for far too long,” said Mussi. “The Club commends Governor Ducey for standing with parents and students and taking action today that follows the science. ”

“Since August of 2020, I have supported schools reopening and remaining open,” said Arizona State Rep. Beverly Pingerelli, who is also a member of the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board. “The scientists were telling us that our younger population was significantly safer than our older populations and we had appropriate precautions in place. And we know students learn best when they’re in a classroom setting. Teachers using sick outs to protest is not acceptable in my view, particularly when they have had priority access to the Covid vaccines and many I’ve spoken to have already been vaccinated.”