Maricopa County health official disagrees with decision to close restaurants, schools

There were some surprising comments at a Phoenix City Council meeting as one of the top health officials in Maricopa County said she did not agree with how Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is handling the coronavirus cases in our state.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine is the top infectious disease doctor for the Maricopa County Health Department. She says social distancing is important, but does not believe the governor should have closed schools, restaurants and other public places, saying the benefit could outweigh the costs in the end.

The changes are in line with the Centers for Disease Control's recommendations. The White House has been pushing to follow the recommendations for 15 days but Gov. Ducey has not stated how long businesses will remain closed.

Schools are set to reopen April 13, but that could change.

LIVE: Interactive Coronavirus case data and map

Dr. Sunenshine says she has full respect for the governor, but in her view, the benefits do not outweigh the losses.

"The science out there tells us that closing schools just does not have any affect on the spread of the disease, so that is why public health was urging the governor not to close schools..

I think that it’s important to be realistic about what the true cost and harms to society are from closing things and I think that if enough people lose their jobs, and lose access to food and learning, and their livelihoods, that you’re doing more harm than you are by having a minor illness..

I do public health for a living and health is not just the absence of disease, it’s being able to maintain food and nutrition and sometimes exercise and some socialization.. that’s why I don’t love these models.”

Sunenshine said one of the biggest issues is there is no exit strategy and with a vaccine being more than a year away, it's not really feasible to keep businesses shuttered for that long.

She said shelter in place orders should have been enacted when the health care system was getting close to capacity.

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