/ Modified jul 7, 2020 3:09 p.m.

Daily News Roundup: AZ COVID-19 cases top 100K, primary registration due, cross-border infections

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, July 6

Arizona COVID-19 cases tops 100 thousand


Arizona health officials say the total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state has now surpassed 100,000, and younger people, not the elderly, make up more than half of them.

The Arizona Department of Health Services says that more than 62,000 of the 101,441 reported cases on Monday are people younger than 44. DHS Director Dr. Cara Christ says it’s people between 20 and 44 who can drive community spread of COVID-19.

She urged the public to take simple precautions like wearing a face covering and avoiding large gatherings. Last week, Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars, gyms and movie theaters to close for 30 days.

Questions arise about detained migrant children in Arizona


Citing the coronavirus, last week a California judge ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release migrant children held in the nation’s three family detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas by mid-July. But some Arizona centers that also house children are not included in the ruling.

Judge Dolly Gee’s ruling said ICE must release children held longer than 20 days. Arizona doesn’t have ICE family detention centers like the ones in Pennsylvania and Texas, but it does have facilities that house children who were unaccompanied at the border or separated from their parents.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement oversees around 100 of those facilities nationwide, including more than a dozen in Arizona. They’re not included in the new court order. But Laura Belous with the legal aid group Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project said they should be.

“Unaccompanied kids who are at shelters without a parent or guardian are in an even more precarious situation than kids at family detention centers,” she said. “So in our mind the same logic still applies.”

Lawyers have argued they are unable to get detained clients released and reunited with U.S. sponsors during the pandemic.

Local gym looks to make the best of latest closing order


As Arizona's coronavirus outbreak becomes one of the worst in the nation, businesses are again closing their doors — some for good.

For businesses still trying to recover from the spring shutdown, a new set of business restrictions swept the rug out from underneath them. That's what it felt like for Nicole Rivera, who owns Apex Mixed Martial Arts in Tucson. Last Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey gave gyms five hours' notice before they'd have to close for a month.

"I really can't believe that. He just kind of blanketed it and said 30 days,” he says. “I mean, didn't even start at two weeks to see if we could get it under control. I mean, even asking us to close for one week is a huge loss to ask for anyone.”

She says her studio has been stringent about sanitization and masks — and she feels like the governor arbitrarily closed all gyms, despite holding out on mask requirements himself for weeks. Unlike local gym chain Mountain Fitness, which is suing the governor over the order, Rivera is coming up with her own legal solution. The executive order says indoor gyms have to close.

"So we are meeting with our students outdoors to train, which, you know, that's just what we have to do until, you know, I mean, unless he's gonna pay my bills. I mean, we don't know what else to do,” she says.

It might not be ideal in the summer heat, but Rivera says, it beats the alternative.

Last day to register for primary elections


Today is the last day to register to vote in the August primary and the state is getting ready to run the election amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Face masks, hand sanitizer and disposable pens will be in abundance at polling places on election day. The governor and secretary of state announced that $9 million is available to help put the safe-elections plan in place. That money includes $5 million for local elections offices to hire more temporary staff, set up more ballot drop boxes and expand curbside voting. Another $1.5 million will go to help rural and tribal communities with early voting.

The remaining money will cover the cost of pandemic public health measures, including face masks for poll workers and voters as well as gallons of hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray. The safe elections funds are part of the state’s portion of federal coronavirus relief bill.

International students face potential deportation


New federal guidelines say international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall. The guidelines provide additional pressure for campuses to reopen even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults.

President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and universities return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. The rules say international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programs that are entirely online.

Pandemic causes cancellation of All Souls Procession


Tucson's annual All Souls Procession, planned for Nov. 8, is canceled. Organizers say they decided to forgo all physical, public aspects of the event this year out of concern for the health and safety of the community.

The procession, which got its start in 1990, gives people a chance to gather and march to honor the loved ones they have lost. Recent marches have reached an estimated 50,000 people. The finale includes a nonmotorized parade through downtown, performances on an outdoor stage, and the lighting of a large urn containing written prayers by the people taking part.

The organizers, an artist’s collective called Many Mouths, One Stomach, says it will take all its events online this year, culminating with a live stream of the finale.

Sonoyta worries about cross-border infections


Residents of the Mexican town of Sonoyta briefly blocked the main road leading south from Lukeville and the U.S. border over fears of coronavirus outbreaks.

There were worries about intensified contagion during the July 4 weekend. The mayor of Sonoyta issued a statement "inviting U.S. tourists not to visit Mexico." Local residents organized to block the road with their cars on the Mexican side. The road is the quickest route to the seaside resort of Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point.

Yuma County infections continue to spike


Yuma County continues to be a hotspot for the coronavirus, with a per capita rate of infection twice as high as the Arizona average. The region's only hospital is not yet at capacity, but management says it soon will be, and finding staff to support more patients is already a challenge.

Yuma Regional Medical Center President and CEO Dr. Robert Trenschel says the hospital has transitioned its entire ICU unit to a COVID ICU. The 400-bed hospital is caring for about 130 COVID-19 patients on average in recent days. Trenschel says YRMC has enough physical space but not enough staff.

“That’s our biggest issue,” Trenschel said. “We’ve got nurses that are managing levels of patients, numbers of patients, that, they’re not standard that they would manage that level of patients. Normally we have one nurse to two vents in ICU – one to one. And now we are operating at one to three.”

He says YRMC has contacted numerous staffing agencies and found what he calls a "ridiculous" increase in rates. But he says the hospital will pay what it must to care for more patients.

Sonora’s top health official tests positive for COVID-19

Fronteras Desk

Sonora's top health official has tested positive for COVID-19. Secretary Enrique Clausen, who has served as the face of his state’s response to the pandemic, made the announcement Thursday evening.

Even though he says he’s feeling well, he’s following protocols and isolating himself. From isolation, he’ll continue to coordinate the state’s response to the outbreak. In a tweet, Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich said that she would also be isolating and getting tested because she had been in recent contact with Clausen.

The secretary’s diagnosis comes amid sharp rises in cases and deaths in Sonora. Thursday evening, an additional 41 deaths were confirmed, bringing the total to 950. Total confirmed cases are fast approaching 10,000.

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