Arizona’s inconsistent response to the COVID-19 pandemic under President Trump and Republican governor Doug Ducey has led to more than 200,000 coronavirus cases and more than 5,000 deaths in the state. However, these five Arizona women have refused to accept this status quo and stepped up to help their communities. Whether they’re navigating elderly care, education, or the economy, they’ve led by example and advocated for the health and safety of all.
Kate Gallego, Mayor of Phoenix, AZ
Though Gov. Ducey failed to issue a statewide mask mandate, the mayor of Phoenix implemented a citywide mask mandate as soon as legally possible on June 19. Doing so “has slowed the spread, maybe by 35 percent, so that is a success story,” Kate Gallego said in an interview in August.
The 38-year-old Wharton MBA graduate, who has lived in Phoenix since 2004, is the youngest and only female mayor of the U.S.’ top 10 biggest cities. Prior to the pandemic, she championed public transportation, police reform, and equal pay initiatives.
In addition to implementing a mask mandate, Gallego has been outspoken about where she stands on the coronavirus. She spoke out about the health risks of Arizonans attending a “Students for Trump” rally, at which the President spoke at a Phoenix mega-church on June 23 — an event that was not sanctioned or permitted by the city. Gallego has also argued for continued funding for the U.S. Postal Service and the importance of mail-in voting – both historically and during this pandemic – for Arizona voters in the presidential election.
Lauren Leander, ICU nurse
On April 20, Lauren Leander, an ICU nurse at Phoenix’s Banner University Medical Center, joined a silent counter-protest with fellow healthcare workers against aggressive anti-lockdown protesters. The 27-year-old stood outside the Arizona Capitol Building while “Patriot’s Day Rally” attendees, which included conservative activists and conspiracy theorists, called her and her colleagues “fake nurses” and “a virus.”
“I just hope people see that nurses are not the enemy and we’ll take care of them one way or the other,” Leander told CNN.
The Arizona State University alumna’s protest is only an extension of her work at bedside and in her local community. In May, she co-founded the Navajo and Hopi Community Relief Fund, which has raised close to $300,000 in support of these vulnerable communities.
Monica Harvey, Founder of Defend Our Community
The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, with just under 10,000 cases as of early September. In May, 37-year-old Monica Harvey found out her Navajo community in Leupp, Arizona was being denied government assistance such as food, water, and supplies since it was not seen as a hotspot. So she launched Defend Our Community to ensure that at-risk elders get what they need.
“What makes me the most proud is how we came together as a small team,” Harvey told Supermajority News in an email. “I think about the long hours of gathering, sanitizing, sorting, and delivering cleaning supplies, non-perishable food, and water to our elders aged 70 and over.”
Defend Our Community also educates people on how to slow the spread of COVID-19 and partners with other organizations like Water Warriors United and Protect Native Elders.
“Amazing things happen when you take a chance to make a difference,” Harvey said. “Don’t allow fear or doubt to hold you back.”
Marisol Garcia, Eighth-Grade Teacher
Garcia, a Phoenix-based eighth-grade social studies teacher who serves as the vice-president of the Arizona Education Association, announced Arizona’s roll call vote for Joe Biden during the Democratic National Convention (DNC). In her speech at the DNC, Garcia called for “scientists, parents, and educators” to decide when children go back to school.
She told Supermajority News that she hopes Arizona Proposition 208 (also known as the “Invest in Education Act”) will lead to needed change. The initiative, if approved by voters in November, would finance smaller class sizes, more counselors, and fair wages for teachers and classified employees — all of which are important now more than ever in the COVID-19 era.
“Our current governor isn’t really interested in making any statewide plans for how to open schools or ensure kids are safe,” Garcia said. “He’s just passing the buck down to the county level and school board level. And in Arizona, we have over 200 local school districts. Some are separated by just a block. So parents living in the same community end up dealing with different expectations.”
As a Chicana activist and union leader, Garcia is building visibility for women of Mexican heritage. She admires labor icon Dolores Huerta: “When I first heard her speak when I was younger, I thought: ‘Wow, this woman is in charge! She’s calling the shots. She’s unafraid to be herself.’”
Kristin Urquiza, Environmental Activist
Kristin Urquiza also spoke at the DNC, but her remarks focused on how her 65-year-old father, a Trump supporter, paid a heavy price for contracting COVID-19. After Arizona’s stay-at-home order was lifted in May, he visited a crowded Phoenix karaoke bar for a friend’s birthday party. He died in June.
Urquiza, a Berkeley-educated environmental activist, founded Marked by COVID, a website that highlights the stories of people who have experienced similar tragedies and which aims to hold elected officials accountable by calling them out ahead of November.
“We are in a crisis,” Urquiza said in an email to Supermajority News. “Leadership in times of crisis matters, and the abdication of leadership, such as what President Trump has done in the face of the pandemic, results in preventable death. Arizona is at a crossroads, and far too often, the voices of everyday people are drowned out by those who were anointed with a microphone. The more we raise our voices and step into our power, the more we will see the changes we desire to take place.”
“I hope by sharing my tragic loss that I inspire others to share theirs and to demand change,” she added. “Together, we are unstoppable and can change the world.”