Her statements come as new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising across the United States, including in Arizona. Some states, like Idaho, have reinstated restrictions on outdoor and indoor gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
McSally's comments were made during an October 26 interview with Robert Kraychik of Breitbart News, a conservative news outlet. McSally had been asked for her "thoughts" on the coronavirus and "lockdowns."
In response, McSally, who has consistently trailed her Democratic challenger Mark Kelly in the polls during the course of her reelection campaign, repeatedly claimed that government-imposed lockdown measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially when enacted in "blue states," are about "power" and "control." She also asserted that Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and Kelly will "lock down the country."
"If the Democrats get power, you’re right, they’re going to lock down the country. Joe Biden, Mark Kelly, to me this is about control and power more than it is about whatever excuse they’re using for safety," she said. "We have got to learn how to mitigate and minimize risk like we do with everything in our lives and allow people some sense of normalcy to provide for their families."
"I don’t live in fear," McSally added. "You manage it, you mitigate it, you don’t be reckless."
While Biden has said that if he would pursue lockdowns if scientists advised him to, he's also said that there is "no need" for a shutdown of the "whole economy," according to Reuters. Jacob Peters, a spokesperson for Kelly, did not respond to New Times' request for comment on McSally's comments. (Update November 2: In a statement submitted after publication, Kelly spokesperson Jacob Peters didn't respond directly to New Times' question regarding lockdowns, instead writing that Kelly will "listen to public health experts, follow their lead on suggestions to keep Arizonans safe, and be guided by science, data, and facts.")
Later on in the Breitbart interview, McSally reiterated her lines about lockdowns being about government "control."
"Especially in the blue states, it's about control. It's about power and overreaching," she said. "Let's not have government control over our lives that violates our constitutional freedoms and our national character."
Caroline Anderegg, a spokesperson for McSally, did not respond to New Times' requests for comment other than to correct a typo in a transcription of the Senator's comments.
Brad Bainum, a spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Party, said it was "troubling that Martha McSally is once again putting partisan politics ahead of science and trashing public health experts' guidance to score cheap political points."
Currently, public health experts aren't clamoring for a return to stay-at-home orders amidst the new wave of COVID-19 cases nationwide. They have, however, warmed to the notion of a national mask mandate proposed by Biden.
"At the beginning we didn't know that much about how this virus was spread, so the gut reaction on the public health community at the time – I'm talking about April – was that you needed to have a complete stay-at-home order that really was very restrictive in order to have an effect," said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. "What we’ve discovered now is that you can be more targeted about the interventions that you use."
"Do we ever need to shut down barber shops and nail salons again? I don’t think so," he added. "Will we need to shut down bars restaurants and nightclubs again? Maybe."
While many conservatives have been critical of previous stay-at-home orders and pandemic-related shutdowns, President Donald Trump and some other Republicans have continued their hostility to coronavirus mitigation techniques that are endorsed by public health experts. For instance, Trump continues to hold large, in-person rallies around the country — including in Arizona — while Republican Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has adopted his messaging on the issue.