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Arizona sheriff who flouted stay-at-home order tests positive for coronavirus

“Three hundred deaths is not a significant enough number to continue to ruin the economy," the sheriff told a newspaper last month.
Image: Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb
Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb.Pinal County Sheriff's Office / YouTube

An Arizona sheriff who refused to enforce the governor’s stay-at-home order because he believed it was unconstitutional tested positive for coronavirus earlier this week, the sheriff said Wednesday.

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb said in a statement that he was tested before a planned visit to the White House, where President Donald Trump met with law enforcement officials during a signing ceremony on Wednesday.

“To make it explicitly clear, I did not attend the event or meet with the President as a result of the positive test following White House screening procedures,” he said in a Facebook post. “I will be self-quarantining for the next 14 days minimum.”

Lamb, who said he was asymptomatic when he tested positive, believes he was infected during a campaign event on Saturday.

“Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home,” he said. “This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job.”

On May 1, after Gov. Doug Ducey extended a statewide stay-at-home order, Lamb told local news outlets that he wouldn’t cite or arrest business owners who flouted the extension.

“Obviously, the governor’s issued an order, and, potentially, if I don’t follow through with that order I could face a misdemeanor charge,” Lamb told NBC affiliate KPNX. “But on the other hand, you have the supreme law of the land, which is the Constitution.”

He added: “It is not the right thing to cite them or arrest them for this. We don’t want to create criminals out of innocent people.”

Lamb said his "heart goes out to anyone who has lost a loved one" from the virus, but in a separate interview with a local newspaper, the Arizona Republic, he said that the stay-at-home order had lasted too long.

“The numbers don’t justify the actions anymore,” he said, according to the newspaper. “Three hundred deaths is not a significant enough number to continue to ruin the economy.”

The stay-at-home order was lifted on May 15 and Arizona has since seen record-setting spike in coronavirus cases.

Amid a nationwide surge in cases, Arizona is one of three states that set records this week for new daily case counts. According to an NBC News tally, the state has recorded more than 43,000 cases since the pandemic began, but the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center shows that number began rising sharply earlier this month.

In Lamb's Pinal County, between Phoenix and Tucson, the number of cases — nearly 1,800 — rose dramatically last week and earlier this week, according to the university. Data shows the county has a fatality rate of just under three percent. Forty-seven people have died.

As of Thursday, more than 1,200 people have died from coronavirus in Arizona.

Lamb’s condition isn’t clear. A spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.