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Council member Laura PastorEXPAND
Council member Laura Pastor
City of Phoenix

Sinema Argues With Phoenix Council Member's Staffer Over Restaurant Closures

Phoenix City Council member Laura Pastor opposes Mayor Kate Gallego's emergency declaration to close restaurant dining rooms and bars in the city to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, one of her staffers confirmed on Facebook.

Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema, meanwhile, has thrown her political clout behind Gallego's order, rebuking Pastor's staffer on his personal Facebook page because of his boss' opposition.

Known and often criticized for her reluctance to weigh in on big issues, Sinema has been a vocal supporter of restaurant closures to help avoid a worst-case death rate from the coronavirus. 

On Monday, she held a call with the mayors of 16 Arizona cities, including Phoenix and the leadership of 21 tribes, expressing the importance of "social distancing" to save lives. She has also privately expressed her concerns to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey over the fact that he has not shut down restaurants and bars statewide, someone familiar with the conversation said.

But late on Wednesday night, Sinema was focused on Phoenix.

Michael Petersen-Incorvaia, Pastor's research analyst, implied on Facebook that closing restaurants in Phoenix alone will do little good to fight the coronavirus without a similar statewide order. Petersen-Incorvaia argued that Phoenix would be subject to "cross contamination" from neighboring cities, such as Scottsdale, which has not ordered restaurant dining rooms or bars to close.

"All the cities do what we propose Phoenix alone does for two weeks and we will be ok. The sooner the better. This is simple," Petersen-Incorvaia wrote, a few hours after the City Council voted to delay a vote on whether to ratify Gallego's emergency declaration.

The vote is now scheduled to take place on Friday. Failing to ratify the declaration could allow restaurants in Phoenix to reopen their dining rooms.

Responding to Petersen-Incorvaia, Sinema wrote: "That is completely, wholly inaccurate." The senator pointed him to a British study that found that up to 2.2 million people could die from COVID-19 in the United States if it fails to take steps to prevent its spread, such as enforced "social distancing."

That study by London's Imperial College assumed it would take "many months" of suppression to have a positive effect. It noted the unprecedented social and economic challenges, stating that even with the measures, it is "not at all certain that suppression will succeed long term." But tough suppression efforts were the best chance of saving the most lives, it concluded.

"If we do a less good job of social distancing – such as leaving restaurants and bars and gyms open for business, 2.2 million Americans die," Sinema said. "By mid-July. The city of Phoenix must keep its current emergency measures in place. Relaxing them means more people die."

"NATIONWIDE IS THE KEY WORD," Petersen-Incorvaia responded. "WE NEED TO GET THE GOVERNOR TO DO TO THE STATE WHAT PHOENIX IS DOING. ALL OUR EFFORTS CAN BE WIPED OUT BY SCOTTSDALE. WE HAVE CROSS CONTAMINATION."

Sinema noted that she has been calling on the state to close bars and restaurants since Monday, the same day the White House recommended Americans stop dining in restaurants.

She added: "Right now we need Phoenix to vote on Friday to KEEP the declaration in place. They didn’t vote tonight — because some council members apparently aren’t ready to vote to support this life saving measure.
Everyone, call Laura Pastor and make sure she understands how important it is to keep this declaration."

"Girl I have no immune system but I know I trust my boss," responded Petersen-Incorvaia, who has stage IV nonsmoker's lung cancer. "Get some sleep."

Petersen-Incorvaia then put up another post on Facebook, stating: "Let me clear a few things up. My boss does not want to reopen bars and restaurants. My boss wants to stop cross contamination between cities. My boss wants to be sure we don't make anyone homeless in the process. My boss is the only council person with a proven track record and exact numbers of saving lives. Have a great night everyone."

Sinema responded: "This one is simple. Vote to keep the emergency declaration in place, or more people will die. Period."

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