While COVID-19 damaged much of the state’s tourism for most of 2020, the Arizona State Parks and Trails still managed to pump $272 million into the state and local economies during Fiscal Year 2020, according to a report released last week by Gov. Doug Ducey’s office.
“Arizona’s state parks are second to none! In addition to their unbeatable views, recreational activities and family-friendly opportunities, they have a significant impact on our state economy,” Ducey tweeted on Sept. 30.
The 82-page report about the economic contributions and impacts of the state’s 21 parks, 10 historic parks, and 3 natural areas covers Oct. 1, 2019 through Sept. 30, 2020. The data comes from the Arizona State Parks and Trails in collaboration with the Regional Economic Analysis Program at the University of Arizona and the Hospitality Research & Resource Center at Northern Arizona University.
The economic contribution of spending by nearly 3,000,000 visitors in and around Arizona’s 34 state park properties was $449 million, including multiplier effects. Of that, $272 million was counted toward Arizona’s gross state product, supporting 4,173 jobs statewide.
Included in the report are details about how Arizona State Parks impacts the 13 counties home to at least one state park. Yavapai County has seven state parks -the most in Arizona- while Pinal and Santa Cruz each have four. Greenlee and Maricopa are the only counties with none.
According to the report, most state parks stayed open during the pandemic, but temporary closures were implemented at Kartchner Caverns and the 10 historic state parks as a safety precaution. The closures caused visits at those locations to plummet 50 percent from FY2019, but combined visitors to the other state parks resulted in a net one percent increase compared to 2019.
Lake Havasu State Park in Mohave County counted the most visits at 533,757 in FY2020. In fact, the report found the top five most visited parks accounted for 53 percent of the total statewide total.
Visitor counts at Kartchner Caverns State Park and the Tombstone Courthouse State Historic Park, the two state parks in Cochise County, took especially harsh hits during FY2020 due to mandated temporary closures. The parks saw a combined 161,010 visitors, down significantly from the nearly 220,000 visitors the year before.
When averaged out, the visitor count across the system declined 7.6 percent. The majority of the visits occurred in the first six months of the fiscal year before COVID-19 shutdowns occurred across the United States.
As part of the state’s post-pandemic recovery efforts, Ducey has focused on promoting the benefits of Arizona’s park system for its relatively safe and inexpensive outdoor options.
The report released by the governor’s office also highlighted the growth in popularity of Arizona State Parks from FY2014 when 2,310,349 visitors were counted, to 2,971,844 visitors in FY2020. And the spending by non-local visitors during that same period increased by 20 percent.
Several changes were made to park operations over those years. For instance, Lyman Lakes State Park in Apache County went from seasonally hours to being opened year-round, and Oracle State Park in Pinal County went from weekends-only hours to being opened seven days a week.
In July, Ducey announced $20 million in American Rescue Plan federal funding was being earmarked for capital improvements at various parks. Another $5 million will be spent with the State Parks Heritage Fund for new open space development, restoration or renovation projects, historic preservation, and outdoor education program.
The FDA approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, now marketed as COMIRNATY, doesn’t mean it’s safe or effective, according to Dr. Jane Orient, Executive Director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS). Orient made these statements on the radio show, The Conservative Circus.
Orient asserted that this FDA approval was rushed. Due to the hastened timeline of the COVID-19 vaccine’s approval, Orient speculated that the FDA may be corrupt.
“What the FDA did was to rush this through without public hearings, without an investigation of the more than 12,000 deaths that have occurred within a couple of weeks of getting the vaccine, or the many thousands of cases of permanent disability,” said Orient. “That doesn’t mean the vaccine is safe – it may just mean the FDA is corrupt.”
In her interview with Conservative Circus, Orient also asserted that the Department of Justice (DOJ) opinion that emergency-use authorization treatments could be mandated wasn’t consistent with law.
Orient warned that the FDA itself admits that they can’t confirm the long-term effects of the vaccine.
“There are many authorities that say they would not give this vaccine to young people period because they have no way of knowing what the long-term effects are,” said Orient. “If you read the package insert that the FDA just released, it says that they are not able to say that the vaccine has been tested for effects on fertility, cancer, autoimmune diseases, or other things. These things take time to manifest, and there has not been time and the surveillance system is very, very poor.”
Included in the package insert is another warning for cases of myocarditis and pericarditis – heart inflammation that can be fatal – particularly within 7 days of the second dose. The clinical studies note that many recipients aged 16 to 55 reported adverse reactions mirroring flu-like symptoms: fatigue (70 percent), headache (65 percent), muscle pain (45 percent), chills (41 percent), joint pain (27 percent), and fever (18 percent). Recipients aged 56 and older reported less adverse reactions.
Orient pointed out that the government pulled the swine flu vaccine after a number of Guillain-Barre cases were reported (estimated at one in 100,000) which were linked to 53 deaths. She said that she doesn’t believe the COVID-19 vaccine is absolutely necessary for anyone.
The FDA and CDC have warned against the use of ivermectin to treat COVID-19. Orient said that this was “terrible advice,” along with their insistence that hydroxychloroquine shouldn’t be used to treat COVID. She said that hundreds of doctors and thousands of patients have used these drugs effectively to treat COVID.
“The safety is known for hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin. The safety is known for those two drugs,” insisted Orient.
Orient has testified before the Senate on the efficacy and safety of hydroxychloroquine.
Pfizer’s brand name for their vaccine, COMIRNATY, mashes up the words “community,” “immunity,” “mRNA,” and “COVID.”
Hundreds of Brophy College Preparatory (Brophy) parents, alumni, and donors urged the private school to overhaul its vaccine mandate in a letter issued Friday. Earlier this month, Brophy imposed a vaccine mandate similar to President Joe Biden’s mandate for federal employees and contractors – if an individual isn’t fully vaccinated, they must adhere to masking restrictions, social distancing measures, and frequent testing, not to mention limits on extracurricular opportunities.
In their letter, this Brophy coalition recommended a series of modifications to the mandate, each prefaced with lengthy citations from COVID-19 thought leaders like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO). The coalition suggested elimination of asymptomatic testing; testing of vaccinated students if asymptomatic testing remains; allowance for on-campus testing; exemptions included for medical justification, religious objections, natural immunity, and informed refusal; a zero-tolerance policy for any retaliation against families who capitalize on exemptions; no vaccine requirement for overnight activities; and allowance of a negative test in lieu of quarantine for students exposed to COVID-19.
The letter claimed that the mandate exempting vaccinated students from biweekly testing failed to follow its own rationale of ensuring student safety. It cited a July study from the CDC, which indicated that vaccination doesn’t necessarily reduce viral load or prevent transmission. It also questioned the scientific validity of enforcing quarantines for unvaccinated students, even if they test negative for COVID-19.
Additionally, the letter questioned why biweekly testing was sufficient to rule out COVID-19 cases in unvaccinated students for in-person learning, but not for overnight activities. Brophy currently requires students to be vaccinated for overnight activities and any extracurriculars outside of the Phoenix metropolitan area. It also questioned why the vaccine mandate didn’t address the interactions Brophy students would have with non-Brophy students on the weekends – those that may not be tested regularly or vaccinated – but extended oversight to overnight activities with Brophy students required to be vaccinated or tested.
On the same subject of Brophy’s testing requirements, the letter questioned why at-home and on-campus tests weren’t permissible, but laboratory or pharmacy tests were admissible regardless of their quality. The letter asserted that officials wanted to increase the cost and inconvenience of being unvaccinated. It also noted that no other corporations, schools, or government agencies in the state were subject to such frequent measures of testing, pointing out the WHO’s advice that asymptomatic testing is unnecessary.
The letter accused Brophy Principal Bob Ryan of crafting the vaccine mandate to be so burdensome that students would eventually relent and get vaccinated.
“Principal Ryan admitted to a television reporter, ‘I’ve heard from some of [BCP parents] who’ve said, “You know, this [choice between vaccination and twice-a-week laboratory tests] has kind of been the piece that’s pushed us over the line and so we’re now going to get our kid vaccinated” and we’re hoping for that actually,’” recounted the letter. (original emphasis included)
The letter also questioned why Brophy hadn’t bothered to accommodate for certain students, such as those with pre-existing chronic or genetic conditions, religious objections, natural immunity, and/or those who choose informed refusal.
The 9-page letter had a total of 35 citations, and 11 pages of signatures. A majority of those 11 pages were filled with the names of hundreds of parents, alumni, donors, and community members.
One city councilmember and 27 former and current state legislators also signed onto the letter.
From the Arizona House, State Representatives Brenda Barton (R-Payson), Leo Biasiucci (R-Lake Havasu City), Walt Blackman (R-Snowflake), Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale), Regina Cobb (R-Kingman), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Steve Kaiser (R-Phoenix), Quang Nguyen (R-Prescott), Becky Nutt (R-Clifton), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Kevin Payne (R-Peoria), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), Justin Wilmeth (R-Phoenix), Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert), and former State Representative Jill Norgaard (R-Phoenix) all signed onto the letter.
State Senators Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), Sonny Borrelli (R-Lake Havasu City), David Livingston (R-Peoria), J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler), Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert), Wendy Rogers (R-Flagstaff), Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), and former State Senators Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) and David Farnsworth (R-Mesa) were named in the letter as well.
Only one from the Phoenix City Council, Councilman Sal DiCiccio, signed onto the letter.
Criticism continues to mount in response to comments by President Joe Biden earlier this month about public health professionals possibly going door-to-door across the country to encourage people to receive one of the COVID-19 vaccinations.
Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs joined with 31 other lawmakers who comprise the House Freedom Caucus in sending a letter to Biden last week, calling it “deeply disturbing” that the federal government may be in the process of tracking the private health information of millions of Americans. Other Arizonans in the House Freedom Caucus who signed the letter were Rep. Paul Gosar, Rep. Debbie Lesko, and Rep. David Schweikert.
“There is no scenario where the federal government should be actively entering communities and traveling door-to-door to pressure Americans to receive a vaccine,” the July 9 letter states. “COVID-19 vaccine information is widely available throughout the country, and Americans have every ability to decide for themselves whether or not they should receive a vaccine.”
The letter was prompted by the President’s July 6 comments about the possibility of members of the U.S. COVID-19 Response Team going ““community by community, neighborhood by neighborhood and oftentimes door-to-door, literally knocking on doors, to get help to the remaining people.”
The letter asks for a response by July 23 to a series of questions related to what activities the Biden Administration has undertaken, or plans to undertake, connected to vaccination databases.
Biggs, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, made additional comments after the letter was sent.
“Instead of meddling in private medical decisions, the Biden administration should focus on addressing the border crisis, the rampant rise in inflation, and the crime wave that is plaguing American cities – all crises it created,” Biggs said. “The door-to-door spying on Americans is one more example of the burgeoning surveillance state by the national government.”
The House Freedom Caucus letter is just the latest criticism directed at Biden’s comments. Two more governors spoke out late last week about the suggestion of personal reach-out to unvaccinated Americans.
“The prospect of government vaccination teams showing up unannounced or unrequested at the door of ‘targeted’ homeowners or on their property will further deteriorate the public’s trust,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said in a statement.
In Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson tweeted that “sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination” would not be an effective nor welcome strategy in his state.
But despite the criticism, the prospect of a “who has been vaccinated” database may not be difficult to create. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) have been behind a COVID-19 tracking smartphone app that was been promoted by tens of thousands of doctors and nurses.
Called v-safe, the app is described as an after-vaccination “health checker” which users register with to answer surveys about side effects and to report dates of vaccinations. Parents can also register dependents under their v-safe account.
“Your healthcare provider will give you an information sheet on v-safe that explains how to register and get started,” according to the CDC website. “Through v-safe, you can quickly tell CDC if you have any side effects after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. Depending on your answers to the web surveys, someone from CDC may call to check on you and get more information.”
As to the confidentiality of a v-safe user’s information, the CDC website notes that “to the extent v–safe uses existing information systems managed by CDC, FDA, and other federal agencies, the systems employ strict security measures appropriate for the data’s level of sensitivity.”
The Arizona Department of Health Services is reporting that more than 3 million people in Arizona have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine. This number is well more than half of the population age 16 and older.
As of Friday morning, 5,233,507 doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered to 3,007,184 individuals, including 2,416,859 who are fully vaccinated. Nearly 1.5 million of those doses have been administered at state mass-vaccination sites in the greater Phoenix area, Tucson, Yuma, and Flagstaff, all of which accommodate walk-ins but continue to offer the convenience of appointments.
“We know through rigorous trials and federal reviews that each COVID-19 vaccine is safe and extremely effective at preventing serious cases and deaths,” said Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) Director Dr. Cara Christ. “What we are still learning is the long-term health effects on those among those who recover from severe cases of COVID-19, including young people. It’s a mistake to assume you are safe just because the percentages show you at lower risk of severe outcomes from coronavirus.”
Many sites across Arizona now offer COVID-19 vaccines, including grocery store pharmacies and standalone pharmacies. This week, doctors’ offices and other neighborhood healthcare providers were able to start directly ordering vaccine from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As early as next week, the federal government is expected to approve use of the Pfizer vaccine for those 12 and older, expanding from 16 and older. State-run sites offer the Pfizer vaccine, as do some pharmacies. ADHS offers a map of vaccination sites at azdhs.gov/FindVaccine that lists which vaccine types are offered at each.
Appointments for state sites and many others are available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov. Those without computer access or needing extra help registering can call 1-844-542-8201 to be connected with someone who can assist in English or Spanish. Appointments aren’t required at state sites, but can reduce the duration of your visit because registration is completed in advance.