By Bob Hembree
Lake Powell Chronicle
PAGE – Mayor Levi Tappan wants to test everyone and get Page back to work.
Tappan reached out to the University of Arizona, hoping to secure 8,000 antibody tests. The tests can determine if someone has had COVID-19 and recovered. Many Page residents suspect they may have had it in January and in early February, but assumed it was a cold, the flu, or allergies. One report estimates 25% of the population has had the virus and didn’t know it, while other estimates are below 5%. Antibody testing could restore confidence and open doors for those immune to the novel coronavirus.
On April 14, Gov. Doug Ducey announced a partnership between the state of Arizona and U of A to provide antibody tests for 250,000 health care professionals and first responders who are on the frontlines in the battle against COVID-19. Antibody tests, immunity durations and their strength fighting the novel coronavirus a second round, are still unknown. So far, the FDA has approved only one out of the hundreds of fast-tracked home kit products entering the market, many with unreliable results. The state-university partnership is a promising move toward reliable antibody testing.
The mayor, along with many businesses in town, is eager to open Page back up for tourism. In an interview with the Chronicle, Tappan said he is aware everything rides on Ducey’s next move, and wants to be prepared when state restrictions are lifted. He said, “I don’t want to watch the bus drive on by.”
Marketing plans are in place to attract younger, less-at-risk visitors within a 500-mile radius. He envisions younger people getting back to work first, while advising those at risks to continue exercising caution. He believes people should decide for themselves rather than the government making their choices for them.
Tappan encourages everyone to use the free time to get their yards cleaned, make repairs, get things fixed up. The county is still giving health inspections, so businesses can take care of that too and operate safely.
The city of Page releases regular COVID-19 updates. They include resources, closings, new restrictions and how they’re working with county, state and federal agencies.
On April 20, in regard to reopening the economy, the release stated, “Many are anxious to reopen the economy and start the process of resuming our normal lives. During our discussions with state government officials, including the governor’s office, it is evident this topic is forefront in their minds, but they are clear that this will only occur when it is safe to do so. We are assured that the governor is being driven by science and is seeking ways to responsibly open the economy when the time comes. The mayor and city government have virtually no decision-making authority on this issue, but our input is sought regularly. The city recognizes the importance of this issue and shares the governor’s concern for the safety and well-being of our residents and will continue to advocate for the needs of the community.”
The target date at the moment to begin relaxing restrictions is May 1. According to data gathered by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, both Arizona and Utah should wait. Data suggests June 8 or later is “the earliest date after which relaxing social distancing may be possible with containment strategies that include testing, contact tracing, isolation, and limiting gathering size.”
Recommendations are based on current data. The more data accumulated, the clearer the picture to help federal, state and local leaders make better decisions. This may change advised dates in either direction. Although there are indications much of the country is on the downward slope of the curve, there is also evidence a second wave of COVID-19 could develop.
Affordable, reliable, and readily available antibody testing offers the science-driven path to protect public health and help civic leaders and businesses make informed, responsible decisions. Tests reduce uncertainty.
Tappan encourages everyone to watch this week’s city council meeting for updates and discussions. The meetings are broadcasted live via YouTube. A link to “Council Meetings Live Stream” is on the city’s official site at cityofpage.org