Two unemployed workers sue city of Flagstaff, state for coronavirus isolation and closure orders

Two unemployed workers sue city of Flagstaff, state for coronavirus isolation and closure orders

From the A collection of the Daily Sun's coronavirus coverage series
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Two Flagstaff residents have sued the city and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey alleging their emergency declarations in response to the coronavirus caused them needless financial harm.

Plaintiffs Joseph McGhee and Gennaro Napolitano are now-unemployed workers who filed their lawsuit on their own in the Coconino County Superior Court before the governor's recent stay at home order. The lawsuit argued COVID-19 does not impact the majority of the population, and doesn’t meet the bar for declaring a state of emergency. The lawsuit cites Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment violations and asks the court to end the state of emergency declaration.

McGhee said he worked in a local restaurant before the closures and has since been let go for the duration of the closures, stressing his finances.

“Jobs before this were already pretty scarce,” McGhee said. “Now we’ve got thousands and thousands of people out of work and the job prospects are very, very slim.”

Currently there are 82 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in Coconino County with four deaths. There are 1,289 confirmed cases in Arizona with 24 deaths, as supplies for testing dwindle and medical care facilities approach critical capacities. In Coconino County, people experiencing homeless are being cared for in hotels, Northern Arizona Healthcare’s critical and intensive care units have reached capacity.

Ducey’s order to stay at home which went in place Tuesday at 5 p.m., excluding people conducting essential business.

The lawsuit cited the mortality rate of 3.4% touted by the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as “untrue.” Recent data from the CDC shows that the mortality rate is somewhere between 1.8% and 3.4%, and the lawsuit cited sources saying the overall mortality rate is closer to 1.6%.

McGhee acknowledges that the elderly and people with pre-existing conditions have a higher death rate than the total population. However, McGhee argued that physical health is similarly as important as financial health.

“If we have a responsibility to ensure the physical health of these other people, then they have an equity demand and responsibility to us to ensure our financial health,” McGhee said.

McGhee’s argument about mortality rate leads into his argument about what can or cannot be declared a state of emergency. He felt the mortality rate did not constitute an action as severe as closing all restaurants, and that even if it did, the methods used wouldn’t work unless everyone was involved.

“Absent of quarantine of every single person and shutting everything down for 12 days,” McGhee said, “you can’t stop it. It’s not going to happen.”

The court will hold a hearing in April with Judge Fanny Steinlage. The City of Flagstaff and Mayor Coral Evans declined to comment on the legal proceeding. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey did not respond for comment.

Updated for correction at 12:40 p.m. on April 1. 

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