Guest Editorial: COVID Realities

By Recker McDowell —

Arizona is seeing some improvements with the COVID-19 pandemic with fewer hospitalizations as well as patients on ventilators and in intensive care units.

Let us hope the media report improvements with the pandemic with as much vigor as they chronicled the rise in cases and not just search for the next political fight to stoke.

But the state and country are not out of the woods when it comes to COVID-19.  A new report shows Arizona with the highest number of kids with the Coronavirus per capita on the country.

The data shows Arizona with 22,180 COVID cases among children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association. That translates into a rate of 1,208 Arizona children with COVID per 100,000 persons.

By comparison, California has a per capita COVID rate for children of 545.5 per 100,000, Florida (805.2) and Louisiana (980.8). New York City, which has been a COVID epicenter especially for deaths, has a rate of 390.5.

We know COVID tends to the hit older folks and those with underlying conditions harder than kids and young people. Still, the rate of cases should certainly be part of the equation as school districts in Arizona and across the country figure when and how to reopen.

What we hope does not happen is for the media (local and national) to not focus on improvements with COVID and to go searching for the next controversy, the next partisan fight.

The media has been essential (at times) in getting information to the public about COVID, responses to the virus including snafus with testing and the debates over closures and reopening.

The media, however, can also be faulted (at times) for fear mongering, grandstanding at press conferences and focusing on the politics of the virus rather than digging into issues such as the spread of COVID among populations with limited access to health care and the deadly decisions in New York and some other states to place COVID patients in nursing homes.

Unfortunately, too many in the media focus on whether a governor is a Republican or friend of President Donald Trump and the latest viral ‘Karen’ incident involving masks.

Remember, going to protests, shopping at big-box stores and reopening universities are acceptable events while going to church, or a bar, or a Trump rally are not. Trump or a conservative advocating for college football to be played is dangerous but the media narrative changed when players made the same push.

When and how K-12 schools reopen have become contentious —especially when it can pit teachers’ unions against Republican governors and Trump allies — while universities reopening have not.  Most universities have seen faculty and staff also petition to postpone physical openings. But that has not grabbed the same media attention.

We would be better served to see more stories on why COVID has hit some Native American, African American and other communities so hard and less about media members chastising individuals who will not wear masks at a store.

Media critics are right to question some of the coverage and social media focus.

But they should also recognize the important stories that have been covered and are still out there. 

COVID has been a moving and unprecedented target for doctors and the health care system, for elected officials, for small business and workers — and for the media.

Let us hope the next chapters for the pandemic involve covering the improvements as much as the challenges and problems. This will be important to keep the public informed and build confidence for the best ways on when and how to reopen the economy and more of public life.