Arizona's Republican Party has gone all-in on backing former president Donald Trump and opposing coronavirus prevention measures.
The election of Dr. Kelli Ward as the state's party chairwoman has set off a wave of recriminations and reprisals -- with censures of Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Cindy McCain and Gov. Doug Ducey -- but despite being a physician herself, the new GOP leader refuses to endorse a statewide mask mandate as hospitals fill up with COVID-19 patients, reported The Daily Beast.
"There's a lot of, 'You, you can't take my rights away from me' kind of feel to it," said hospice nurse Kayla Stutler. "'You can't tell me to wear a mask in a store. You're violating my constitutional rights.' There's a lot of that 'Freedom... America' kind of sentiment."
Stutler, who describes the state's attitude toward mitigation as "ridiculous run amok," got her first vaccine dose Dec. 27, two days before she became sick and tested positive herself.
"I was super mad because I'd almost made it through all of 2020," she said.
Stutler's husband also became ill, and the couple quarantined in their bedroom but their children -- ages 8, 7, 5 and 3 -- ended up testing positive on New Year's Day after experiencing symptoms.
The kids and Stutler's husband experienced only mild cases -- but she wasn't so lucky and was eventually hospitalized with breathing difficulties.
"The total bill? $15,389.41 and $4,528.53 (different hospitals)," she tweeted. "Thankful for extremely good health insurance I get through school but imagine if I didn't."
A longtime friend recently caught the virus and developed long-term blood-clotting problems at 32, which will likely require lifelong medication, and the friend's father died from COVID-19 in that family's outbreak -- and Stutler wishes Ward and other Arizona GOP leaders would finally get on board with pandemic mitigation efforts.
"It's like Russian roulette," Stutler said.