/ Modified oct 21, 2020 5:18 p.m.

News roundup: Expert says Arizona seeing COVID-19 surge, wildfire effects on water outlast blaze

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Oct. 21.

Cases: 233,912 | Deaths: 5,854

Arizona added 975 confirmed cases and 17 reported deaths on Wednesday, with reports suggesting the state's numbers are trending upward, months after coming down from some of the highest rates in the world. Pima County added a dashboard earlier this month so people can track local trends in the spread of the novel coronavirus.

ASU expert: Arizona seeing surge in coronavirus cases


PHOENIX — An Arizona State University researcher says Arizona is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases that resembles the early stages of the summer spike that made the state one of the world's worst hot spots.

Dr. Joshua LaBaer of the ASU Biodesign Institute said Wednesday the latest spike can be attributed to fatigue with masks and social distancing. He says holding strong on mitigation efforts can limit the spread of the disease.

Arizona on Wednesday reported 975 new confirmed coronavirus cases and another 17 deaths. Hospitals reported 832 beds used by COVID-19 patients, the highest number since late August but well below the peak of about 3,500 in July.

More here.

For the West’s drinking water, wildfire concerns linger long after smoke clears


For many communities in the West, the water that flows out of kitchen faucets and bathroom showerheads starts high up in the mountains, as snowpack tucked under canopies of spruce and pine trees.

This summer’s record-breaking wildfires have reduced some of those headwater forests to burnt trees and heaps of ash. In high alpine ecosystems, climate change has tipped the scales toward drier forests, lessened snowpack, hotter summers and extended fire seasons.

Wildfires don’t just cause problems while they’re burning. For municipal drinking water systems, fires are felt for years after they’re snuffed out.

More here.

Pima County dashboard allows you to track COVID-19 spread in your own area


Arizona has seen an uptick in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks. Now, Pima County residents have another tool to track the spread of coronavirus locally.

Earlier this month, the county released a dashboard and map. Pima County epidemiologist Matt Christenberry says they wanted to help the public see cases in their own area.

"And this tool allows them to be able to answer those questions for their communities but also allows just anybody in the community to go in and look and see what’s happening."

The map lets you choose between jurisdictions, zip codes, census tracts and school districts, and then examine different time periods and breakdowns of cases for those areas, like age, race or ethnicity.

It does suppress data in some areas, which Christenberry says is for privacy concerns.

Christenberry says the dashboard received 10,000 views in the first few days after its launch. See the dashboard here

OSIRIS-REx touches an asteroid


The OSIRIS-REx mission successfully touched the asteroid Bennu, 200 million miles from Earth, on Tuesday afternoon.

The University of Arizona-led mission made contact with the asteroid just after 3 p.m.

The mission was broadcast on NASA’s web site. Dante Lauretta, the principal investigator from the UA, said he felt "transcendental, I can't believe we actually pulled this off” on the broadcast.

More here.

Mexico fishermen scoff at governor's suggestion to switch to taxi driving

Fronteras Desk

In an effort to protect the nearly extinct vaquita marina porpoise, Mexico has implemented increasingly restrictive fishing bans in the uppermost part of the Sea of Cortez, called the Upper Gulf of California. In September, new restrictions would make even the possession of prohibited nets illegal starting in late November. At the same time, payments meant to ease the burden on fishermen stopped two years ago when President Andrés Manuel López Obrador took office.

Now, Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonillas has said he’ll help fishermen become taxi drivers as a work alternative, adding that fishermen would only have to pass a drug test and pay about $650 in fees to access the needed permits.

But Lorenzo Garcia says there’s no market for hundreds of new taxi drivers in a small town like San Felipe, where he heads a local fishermen's federation.

"They're going to give us 600 taxis in San Felipe," he said with a laugh. "I don't see that as a real option."

More here.

Pandemic relief faces uncertainty in postelection session


WASHINGTON — Negotiations on a COVID-19 relief bill are inching forward, but it’s clear that the window for action before the Nov. 3 election is closing and the issue will be tossed to a postelection lame-duck session of Congress.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke again Wednesday but her office signaled no real progress, and she acknowledged for the first time publicly that the measure won’t pass before the election. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff says Pelosi is slow-walking the talks and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is warning against against a costly deal. No one knows whether Election Day will bring much more clarity.

More here.

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