/ Modified jul 21, 2020 4:59 p.m.

Daily news roundup: Coronavirus hospitalizations down, teachers protest school reopenings

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, July 21.

Cases 148,683 | Deaths 2,918 | Diagnostic tests 807,666

On Tuesday, July 21, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,500 new cases of COVID-19 and 134 new deaths. The day before, intensive care unit beds in Arizona were at 85% capacity, the lowest rate since June 22, when ICU beds were at 84% capacity, according to state data.

Arizona virus hospitalizations go down, 134 more deaths


PHOENIX — Authorities say the number of people hospitalized in Arizona for treatment of coronavirus infections is still on a slight downward trend. But deaths remain high as officials review death certificates and attribute more deaths to the virus.

The state Department of Health Services reported 3,500 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and 134 deaths. Arizona since the pandemic began has reported 148,683 confirmed cases of virus infections and 2,913 virus deaths. The department says the number of in-patient hospitalizations, ICU bed occupancy and ventilator use due to COVID-19 were about the same or slightly lower than the previous day.

Learn more here.

Tucson council OKs plan to use convention center as COVID-19 field hospital


The Tucson City Council on Tuesday approved a standby plan to use part of the downtown convention center as a field hospital for up to 250 coronavirus patients if hospitals run out of room.

City Attorney Mike Rankin says an agreement with the state would allow an exhibit hall to be quickly converted into a treatment center for people who don't need intensive care to free up hospital space for those who do.

Council members unanimously approved the plan, which involves no cost to the city. State agencies would coordinate the care, and the Tucson Fire Department would assist in transporting patients to the convention center.

The council also set aside $2million to set up a new COVID-19 testing site in cooperation with Pima County, which is already running a testing program at the Kino Events Center.

Tucson educators protest school reopening during pandemic


Tucson teachers will lead a car rally on Wednesday to highlight their concerns about returning to the classroom in a few weeks as the pandemic continues. The educators organizing the "motor march" say Arizona's coronavirus infection rates are still far too high to safely allow for them to resume in person instruction.

An organizer said that without a comprehensive plan for schools, districts are forced to make their own decisions without standard safety guidelines during the pandemic, further complicated by the state not funding districts at 100% for online learning.

Learn more here.

Poll: Most Arizona voters support legalizing marijuana


A strong majority of likely Arizona voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana in the state. A poll from OH Predictive insights shows 62% of those surveyed support the legalization.

The support is a 9% increase from the same poll in December. The support is in all areas of the state according to the poll.

Sixty-two percent of urban and suburban voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana. According to the poll, 61% of rural voters support the idea.

Republican voters still oppose the idea, with only 44% supporting and 4% unsure.

Pets play special role for people coping with pandemic


Researchers say living with a pet can help people cope with coronavirus-related feelings of isolation and loneliness. A study supported by the Human Animal Bond Research Institute suggested the routine of caring for a pet can provide feelings of security and normalcy for improved mental health. People who have been fostering animals in Pima County have also observed these benefits, according to a Pima Animal Care Center employee.

Learn more here.

Tribal nations to receive COVID-19 funding to meet transportation needs

Fronteras Desk

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded Arizona tribes more than $4 million to support transit operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding is part of the CARES Act and will help tribal governments with local transportation.

The Navajo Nation will receive about $1.5 million for Arizona transit. That includes money for protective equipment and cleaning supplies.

Navajo Nation spokesman Byron Shorty said that the shuttle stopped while the Navajo Nation came to grips with the pandemic, so the community is eager for its services to resume safely.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe will receive about $1.8 million for operations and preventative maintenance. The White Mountain Apache Tribe will also receive funding for its transit operations.

Feds give 65 acres of land for border wall infrastructure


PHOENIX — The federal Bureau of Land Management says it has transferred over 65 acres of public land in Arizona and New Mexico to the Army for border wall infrastructure. The agency says it handed over 53 acres in Yuma County that is needed to install power and other utilities around the border wall there.

Another 12.7 acres in Hidalgo County, New Mexico, were transferred so that the Army could install power and other utilities along with engineering for roads that provide access to the border wall project there.

Critics say construction of the border wall and infrastructure around imperils wildlife and protected land.

Learn more here.

Appeals court rules for Arizona governor in land trust case


GLENDALE — A federal appeals court has sided with Gov. Doug Ducey in a long-running dispute over whether a 2016 ballot measure he pushed increasing withdrawals from the state land trust to fund education violated federal law.

Tuesday’s 9th U.S. District Court of Appeals ruling overturned a 2018 decision by a Phoenix-based federal judge that said Ducey needed congressional approval to boost land trust withdrawals. Congress eventually approved the move. But Wake said last year if it happened again he would issue an injunction preventing additional withdrawals. The appeals court ruled on procedural grounds, and the case may continue in state court.

Learn more here.

State officials take issue as Mexico lowers Sonoran COVID-19 risk level

Fronteras Desk

The Mexican federal government says Sonora, the Mexican state to Arizona’s south, no longer has the most serious rating on a national pandemic scale.

For the coming week, Sonora will be considered orange, a step below red, where it had been for a number of weeks. That announcement was not welcomed by some top Sonoran officials, including Health Secretary Enrique Clausen, who said that the state could not afford to reduce its precautions. He cited as evidence the many hospitals in the state at or near capacity.

Sonora has recently seen rapid coronavirus spread, with a new daily confirmed case record set last week. Confirmed deaths are fast approaching 1,500, according to the most recent state data available.

Candidate for Pima County Sheriff accused of sexual abuse by daughter

Arizona Daily Star

Pima County Sheriff’s candidate Kevin E. Kubitskey was accused of childhood physical, mental and sexual abuse in a Facebook post written by his daughter over the weekend. Makyla Cleary, who is currently estranged from her father, also wrote that based on his behavior, Kubitskey is not fit to be sheriff.

Kubitskey denied the allegations and said that there is a political motivation behind them.

Learn more here.

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