On Wednesday, less than two months after publicly challenging the state’s efforts to slow the spread of a virus that has now spiked in Arizona, Lamb announced he had tested positive for the coronavirus before a scheduled meeting with President Trump.
In a Facebook post, Lamb wrote he was invited on Tuesday to the White House as part of Trump’s meeting with law enforcement officials and the signing of his executive action on policing. As part of a mandatory coronavirus screening for all White House visitors, he learned he had the virus.
The sheriff, who is asymptomatic, said he believes he got infected during a campaign event on Saturday, speculating it was “likely I came into contact with an infected individual.”
A video of a campaign event in San Tan Valley, Ariz., over the weekend showed Lamb, who is running unopposed in November, hugging, shaking hands and taking pictures with supporters. The video shows no one in the large crowd of people appears to be wearing a mask or maintaining social distancing. The same goes for Lamb, who has been selling campaign merchandise and autographed photos of himself during his unopposed bid for reelection, according to PinalCentral.com.
“Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home,” he wrote. “This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job. Today, that risk is the COVID-19 virus.”
Lamb said that he would self-quarantine for a minimum of 14 days.
“I alerted the Pinal County Public Health Dept. immediately after my positive test, and they are working to track all those I came in contact with following the Saturday event,” he wrote.
Lamb was one of several sheriffs in the state who vowed to not enforce April’s emergency order from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). “I think people want to know that we’re going to support their constitutional rights,” he said to the Republic in May.
At a time when coronavirus cases are again increasing nationwide, Arizona has seen the largest percentage spike among states in the past week. Since June 11, there have been nearly 9,700 new cases of the coronavirus in Arizona, an increase of 31 percent, according to an analysis by The Washington Post. In total, the state has had almost 41,000 confirmed cases and at least 1,239 deaths.
News of Lamb’s positive test came on the same day Ducey announced local governments are allowed to set their own mask-wearing regulations.
“There is a trend, and the trend is headed in the wrong direction, and the actions we’re going to take are intended to change that direction and reverse this trend,” Ducey, wearing a black mask, said at a news conference Wednesday.
But critics expressed disappointment in the governor for declining to issue a statewide mandatory mask order in response to the alarming rise in cases. One of those critics is Tucson Mayor Regina Romero (D), who suggested to the Guardian that Ducey has modeled his coronavirus policy on Trump’s views rather than public health data. Trump is expected to visit Arizona next week for one of the first campaign rallies since the start of the pandemic.
“I just hope that it’s not tied to Trump’s visit, the unwillingness to make the call for mandatory face masks in Arizona,” Romero said. “But it seems to all tie together.”
She added, “These are people’s lives.”