In Arizona and Texas, the reopenings are so far along, and the cultural “return to normal” is so deeply ingrained, that even epidemiologists there are reluctant to broach the possibility of another lockdown. Ducey “has basically taken it off the table as an option, and I think it at least needs to be put back on the table,” Kristen Pogreba-Brown, an epidemiologist at the University of Arizona’s College of Public Health, told me. She said that “at a minimum,” Arizona should have a mandatory mask order. “From a purely empirical public-health perspective,” Pogreba-Brown said, “given that our cases are far higher than they were when we actually did have a stay-at-home order, you should probably be looking at shutting things back down. But from a political and a pragmatic point of view, I also just want to do what we can actually accomplish.”
Governors such as Ducey and Abbott seem to have a different attitude entirely.
Following the lead of Donald Trump, the Arizona and Texas governors are treating mask wearing and social distancing as matters of personal responsibility, or even choices. The simple act of wearing a mask—or a “face diaper,” as some conservatives derisively call it—is a new front in the culture war. Mandates for businesses are out, and “guidelines” are in. In Arizona and Texas, the governmental efforts to fight the coronavirus are now focused entirely on preparing hospital systems to meet an inevitable surge. Containment may have been a goal in the spring, but not anymore.
“We are not going to be able to stop the spread,” Cara Christ, Arizona’s public-health director, said last week, “so we can’t stop living as well.”