A revelatory documentary on dealing with crises.
1hr 2min | Documentary | 2020
I recently had the pleasure of watching Betty Ramirez’s COVID-19-focused documentary, “COVID-19 vs. Arizona,” and I must say—it’s a real eye-opener.
It could actually serve as a set of guidelines on how to properly respond to something as devastating as COVID-19, which is now in the world’s rearview mirror. Her interviews are very insightful and cover many folks from both the public and private sectors.
Her first interviewee is Billy Harfosh, a talk radio show host in Arizona. He talks about how, at the beginning of the outbreak, COVID-19 quickly became a political issue, rather than being treated as something that could severely affect everyone’s health.
We see the devastating financial impact from the initial lockdowns, and how they began to take their toll all across the board. Various corporate news outlets were reporting on matters such as how soon the first rollout of stimulus packages could be “on their way.”
But one news snippet that caught my eye detailed how many banks began raking in huge, unprecedented profits from the payment protection program (PPP) that Congress had passed, which was intended to help small businesses that had been shuttered due to the lockdowns.
More than $305 billion in emergency loans had been approved by Congress for more than 1.4 million small businesses nationwide. But oddly, in a matter of weeks, the Small Business Administration announced it had run out of money, having reached its $349 billion lending limit for the PPP program.
Many Arizona state government officials are interviewed during the documentary’s hourlong runtime. From law enforcement (police chiefs, sheriffs), to mayors, city council members, and so on. They talk about the different challenges they faced within their local communities when the coronavirus first hit Arizona and how they met those challenges. Of primary concern was how to provide essential services to these communities while ensuring their safety as well—which seemed to be an ongoing balancing act.
Meanwhile, health care workers had to deal with issues that revolved around trying to separate accurate data from inaccurate (and sensational) data. A couple of registered nurses mention that health information would be initially announced from the top of organizations, but by the time it sifted down from the leadership to the workers at the bottom of the heap, that information was already obsolete. Therefore, they’d often have to scrap whatever guidelines they had been adhering to and start all over.
And when it came to the private sector, multiple business owners reflected on their experiences, mainly with regard to obtaining the all-important PPP loans that were being dispensed at the time. The consensus was that not much information was given to them about how to obtain these loans.
For example, Doctor Michael Crockett, DDS, who runs a dental practice in Mesa Arizona, applied for a PPP loan to help sustain his failing business. Like many Americans, he went through one of the larger banks in the United States, since he’d been with them for 15 years. The bank gave him very little information beyond acknowledging that they’d received his application. To his shock (and outrage), he didn’t find out his loan had been disqualified until the day the program ran out of money. Soon, he set his sights on the second round of program funding but this time he wisely opted to go through the loan application process with a smaller, local bank. Not only was the flow of information much better that time around, but his loan was approved within an hour of applying and the funds became immediately available.
Throughout the film, the interviews with the citizens of Arizona are interwoven with various corporate newscasts by the usual suspects (CNN, MSNBC, CBS, etc.), and one thing becomes clear. While many of the Arizonans, instead of hitting the panic button, reacted in a more rational, measured way, the legacy news reports kept reinforcing a singular element—and that element was fear (and still is).
One of the more disturbing scenes in this documentary wasn’t seeing a victim of the virus in a hospital bed. It was watching “NBC Nightly News” show host Lester Holt smirk while he glibly reports that millions of Americans were being ordered to “shelter in place,” during the onset of the lockdowns.
We then see various shots of barren streets, from San Francisco to New York City, San Diego to Chicago, and it brings back uncomfortable memories of 2020 that drive home the point of how hard the small business sector took the worst of the lockdowns on the chin.
However, many people seem to forget that while all the usual legacy media outlets were broadcasting to Americans that it was the pandemic that shut everything down, it wasn’t; the draconian lockdowns were the real culprit. And this was accomplished by constantly bombarding the public with fear. “COVID-19 vs. Arizona” asks an important question: “Have we learned any lessons from the so-called pandemic and its lockdowns?” I can only hope that we have.
Director: Betty Ramirez
Starring: Lynette Carrington, Billy Harfosh, Kevin Hartke
Running Time: 1 hour, 2 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Release Date: August 1, 2020
Rated: 4 stars out of 5
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Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.