/ Modified sep 8, 2020 4:31 p.m.

News roundup: Pima County taking over Old Tucson, judge halts plan to speed census count

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Sept. 8.

Cases 206,045 | Deaths 5,221 | PCR tests 1,264,793

On Tuesday, Sept. 8, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 81 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths. Despite steadily declining case rates, health officials warn that safety guidelines are still necessary, the Associated Press reports.

Pima County assumes control of Old Tucson


The 81-year-old film set that hosted Western icons from John Wayne to Ronald Reagan will close indefinitely, making it the latest casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pima County announced Tuesday they will take over Old Tucson, which is located in the county-owned Tucson Mountain Park.

Diane Frisch is the county director of attractions and tourism. She says the county will convene a committee to determine the park's future.

“We certainly want to take a look at what we think the future could be,” Frisch said. “It's an important property to us and it's got a lot of historical, local and cultural background.”

Before the pandemic, film booking had virtually ceased and the attraction had been drawing fewer and fewer visitors.

The park first closed in March. Two weeks ago, it announced the cancellation of its annual Nightfall event, which drew 34,000 attendees last year and covers a significant share of the park’s operating costs.

Learn more here.

In Arizona Tribes' Lawsuit, Judge Halts Plans To Speed Up 2020 Census Count

Fronteras Desk

A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order in a lawsuit over the U.S. government’s timeline to complete the 2020 census count. For now, the government will have to continue with plans to keep the count going through October. Two Arizona Native American tribes are among the plaintiffs in the case.

The deadline for Census counting had been Oct. 31, but last month, the Trump administration announced plans to cut that short and stop counting at the end of September. The Navajo and Gila River tribes joined civil rights groups in a lawsuit saying the expedited plan would harm hard-to-count communities.

A federal judge in California Saturday allowed the temporary restraining order. A preliminary injunction hearing in the case is scheduled for Sept. 17.

"The federal government has undermined the time, planning, and resources that the Navajo Nation had dedicated to the Census count by shortening the time period by an entire month and now we are seeking a resolution through the courts," Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez said in a press release. The Navajo Nation so far has just an 18.2% census response rate.

Some call for end to COVID-19 rules as Arizona cases decline


PHOENIX — Arizona health officials are reporting just over 80 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and two deaths. The Department of Health Services reported Tuesday an 81 additional cases statewide. So far, 5,221 people in the state have died of the disease caused by the coronavirus. There have been 206,045 confirmed cases.

The state, once a national hot spot for infections, continues to see a downward trend in infections and hospitalizations. Despite the declines, officials warned the public to keep up preventive measures over the Labor Day weekend.

That didn’t stop a rally at the state Capitol calling for an end to all COVID-19 restrictions.

Learn more here.

QAnon conspiracy emerges in some state legislative races


PHOENIX — Candidates engaging with the QAnon conspiracy theory are running for seats in state legislatures this year. The candidates are breathing more oxygen into a once-obscure conspiracy movement that has grown in prominence since adherents won Republican congressional primaries this year.

The conspiracy theory is centered on the baseless belief that President Donald Trump is waging a secret campaign against enemies in the “deep state” and a child sex trafficking ring.

Some of the legislative candidates have repeatedly shared QAnon memes and interacted extensively with social media accounts promoting the conspiracy. Others have acted in ways that leave it unclear whether they believe in the conspiracy theory or may be merely flirting with the ideas to garner attention.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation Calls For Investigation After Navajo Soldier Carlton Chee Dies At Fort Hood

Fronteras Desk

The Navajo Nation is calling for the U.S. Army to launch an investigation after a Navajo soldier died at Fort Hood earlier this week.

Private Carlton Chee, 25, a resident of the Navajo Nation, collapsed and died after physical fitness training on Wednesday.

In a statement, the Navajo Nation Council recognized Chee alongside other Navajo soldiers, who are five times more likely to enlist in the armed forces than the general public.

Navajo Council Speaker Seth Damon called on Army officials to conduct a full investigation into Chee’s death.

Learn more here.

Arizona Supreme Court denies West's bid to appear on ballot AP

PHOENIX — The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected Kanye West’s bid to appear on the state’s Nov. 3 ballot as an independent presidential candidate.

The ruling Tuesday came just hours before eight of the state’s 15 counties faced a deadline for printing ballots. The decision marked the end of the rapper’s attempt to run in Arizona. The Supreme Court concluded West’s electors — who would have cast Electoral College votes for him if he had won the most votes of any candidate in Arizona — failed to file a key election document that stated their names and political parties.

West has qualified to appear on the ballot in several states.

Learn more here.

Virus relief helps bring electricity to Navajo Nation homes


WINDOW ROCK — Federal coronavirus relief funding has helped more than 100 homes on the Navajo Nation get connected to the electric grid. The Navajo Nation said Sunday that electric line crews are working to connect more homes to the grid ahead of a December 2020 deadline to use the funds. The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority plans to extend electricity to 510 families.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that access to the electric grid can help minimize the impacts of COVID-19 for families. The utility was awarded $13.8 million in coronavirus relief funds for power projects and $24.7 million to increase the electrical grid capacity.

Learn more here.

NAU President Rita Cheng won't seek contract extension


FLAGSTAFF — The president of Northern Arizona University says she won't seek an extension of her contract that expires in 2022. Rita Cheng made the announcement Tuesday.

She touted growth in research funding, enrollment, and student retention and diversity since she took over the the Flagstaff-based university in 2014. She says she has confidence in the school's leadership team, faculty and staff to continue the work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Arizona Board of Regents says it will start a nationwide search this fall to replace Cheng. Her contract expires in June 2022. She earns an annual base salary of more than $490,000.

Learn more here.

Arizona set to return to sports after false positives


The University of Arizona could return to athletic activities next week after retests of COVID-19 for 13 student-athletes have shown 11 false positives. There also were four false positives among 12 non-athletes tested at the campus health center. The lab conducting the tests attributed the incorrect results to an instrumentation error and will perform a full audit of the testing process.

The school plans to retest student-athletes on Tuesday and all sports programs, including women’s soccer, will resume activities on Wednesday if the test results are reconfirmed.

Learn more here.

Sheriff: Inmate, 27, found dead inside cell at Tucson jail


An inmate was found dead Sunday in his cell at a Tucson jail.The Pima County Sheriff’s Office said 27-year-old Hector Medrano was found unresponsive early Sunday morning by correctional officers.

Deputy James Allerton said officers, medical staff and the Tucson Fire Department attempted lifesaving measures but Medrano was declared dead.

Allerton said an investigation was in early stages and more information would be released when available. He says jail records show Medrano was booked on Sept. 2 on outstanding warrants from the sheriff’s department and the city of South Tucson.

Learn more here.

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