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Contact of political campaigning should come to a halt during pandemic

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

(Photo by Ryan Cook/RJ Cook Photography)

As a practicing physician and surgeon for more than 28 years, nothing more concerns me right now than the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is important to do as much as we can to create social distancing in our daily lives. Restaurants are closed or offering take-out only, and many businesses and government entities are encouraging or mandating work from home. All these efforts are intended to ease the spread of this deadly virus.

The spread of the virus is so concerning to federal, state and local leaders that some states postponed Democratic primary elections. Arizona, with a mostly mail-in ballot system, continued on with its election at a limited number of voting places. County election leaders told us they were using cleaning materials at these vote centers to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.

However, there are still a few areas of concern in the political process that remain – door-to-door canvassing, campaign events, rallies and petition-signature gathering.

Statewide initiative campaigns are sending armies of signature collectors out, with clipboard and pens in hand. Canvassing companies are knocking on doors with materials to hand out.  These implements of voter outreach and signature gathering present significant risks to anyone who touches these potentially dirty, unsafe materials.

Imagine just one person infected with the coronavirus using a pen and clipboard to sign one of these petition sheets. Anyone who touches that pen or clipboard for days to come faces infection through community spread.

The spread of the virus is increasing with each passing day. Government has taken drastic steps, like closing businesses and forcing layoffs or furloughs for employees. All this social distancing can be undone by a handful of careless people out gathering signatures for an initiative.

There is plenty of time until signatures are due, and plenty of time for knocking on doors, but just a short amount of days that we must nip this virus before it infects thousands of Arizonans. It would be wise for all such contact to come to a screeching halt until this virus is contained and managed. Politicians of all stripes have canceled large scale rallies and victory speeches in front of crowds – but even smaller gatherings pose a threat to the public health. Politicians realize the loss of some publicity for their campaigns pales in comparison to the damage that can be done to the public at large.

This virus could reach dangerous levels of contagion, but if we are diligent and use a little common sense, we can manage this outbreak and protect and preserve our lives and our livelihoods. We must break the chain of the contagion to defeat this virus.

I created a website which spells out a very simple “5+1” program for individuals to protect themselves, their loved ones and the public at large. I encourage you to visit my site to see what you can do to bring this crisis to an end.

Dr. Christopher Salvino is an acute care and trauma surgeon with more than 20 years of experience.

One comment

  1. I appreciate Dr. Christopher Salvino’s concern that the petition gathering process runs counter to the protocol for the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. However his prescription for lessening the risks associated with petition gathering sounds good, but misses the best solution: revamping the petitioning process for the 21st century by creating online petition “signatures.”
    As every member of the Legislature knows, because they already are allowed to use such an online system for their own nominating petitions, the online petition system works as close to flawlessly as possible.
    So, rather than promote even more obstacles to the citizens right to petition, focus on the actual problem: “How” signatures are collected.

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