/ Modified dec 11, 2020 4:46 p.m.

News roundup: Catching up with Arizona unions, health care during the pandemic

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Dec. 11.

Cases 394,512 | Deaths 7,245

On Friday, Dec. 11, the state reported 6,983 new cases of COVID-19 and 91 additional deaths. That makes Friday’s case count the third highest in Arizona since the pandemic began, the Associated Press reported.


Exploring unions in Arizona

The Buzz

Union membership in the U.S. has been on the decline since the mid-1980s. But they remain a critical way for workers to bargain collectively for benefits, protections and pay from their employers. And a growing number of white-collar workers are forming unions in industries like higher education and journalism.

This week, The Buzz explores the role of unions, especially during the pandemic, and talks with two newly-formed Arizona unions about their priorities.

Listen to the full episode here.


Health care during COVID, restaurants and real estate, US Sen Mark Kelly

Arizona 360

Arizona’s newest U.S. Senator, Democrat Mark Kelly, speaks to Lorraine Rivera about his first week in office and his priorities.

El Rio Health CEO Nancy Johnson discusses how COVID-19 has impacted services at its health centers, which serve mostly low-income residents receiving Medicaid.

Tony Paniagua reports on how the pandemic has challenged restaurants’ ability to remain open and how they continue to cope. Eric Gibbs with the Arizona Association of Realtors discusses the ongoing demand for homes across the state and current real estate trends.

With a mandatory curfew in place in the city of Tucson, former mayor and University of Arizona professor Tom Volgy explains what authority the city has to issue such proclamations, despite the lack of a similar mandate at the state level.

Watch the full episode here.


Arizona reports 3rd highest rise in daily COVID-19 cases

AP

PHOENIX — Arizona has reported nearly 7,000 additional known COVID-19 cases. The newly confirmed cases Friday represent the third highest number of cases in one day since the pandemic began. Virus-related hospitalizations have continued to climb during the current surge.

The state reported 6,983 additional known cases and 91 known deaths. That boosts the state’s totals to 394,512 cases and 7,245 deaths. COVID-19-related hospitalizations as of Thursday were at 3,492. That's just short of the hospitalization peak during the state's COVID-19 surge last summer.

Hospital officials and public health experts have warned that the continuing surge of COVID-19 cases will exceed the state's health system’s capacity this month.

Learn more here.


Eviction protections for renters set to expire at the end of the year

Two dozen Southern Arizona affordable housing and homelessness service organizations are calling on Gov. Doug Ducey to protect renters after a Centers for Disease Control eviction moratorium expires Dec. 31.

Protections for renters are slated to disappear as a resurgent pandemic hobbles the country’s economic recovery, says the letter sent to Ducey by organizations such as Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona and the Primavera Foundation. "Without intervention, mass evictions will disrupt the lives of tens of thousands of Arizona’s renters," it says.

Ducey extended his eviction moratorium once in July, bucking other conservative states by keeping protections in place through October, when the CDC began its own eviction ban.

Learn more here.


Utilities can't shut off power without offering a payment plan, regulator says

AZPM

Tucson Electric Power customers who are behind on their electricity bills will get a break in the new year under a measure adopted earlier this week by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

The commission's nine-month power shutoff moratorium expires Dec. 31. After that, thousands of Arizonans behind on bills due to the COVID-19 pandemic are at risk of being disconnected. But the Corporation Commission voted Tuesday to require utilities to put those customers on an eight-month payment plan starting Jan. 1 instead of shutting off the power.

The measure also authorizes a one-time "COVID discount" of $250 for low-income customers. Tucson Electric Power will fund 50%, or $700,000, of the discounts, with the rest covered by the Corporation Commission.

Learn more here.


State works to clean up chemical pollutants in Tucson water supply

AZPM

Close to 20 backup groundwater wells for the city of Tucson have been contaminated by a group of man-made chemicals known as PFAS, which stands for perfluorinated alkyl substances. Now, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is working to clean up and limit the spread of the problem.

PFAS can cause reproductive, developmental and immunological effects, according to the EPA. They're found in many products and are sometimes called "forever chemicals" because they don't break down, which means they can accumulate in the body over time.

A significant source of Tucson's PFAS contamination problem stems from firefighting foam used at the airport and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base.

Learn more here.


Navajo Nation prepares for vaccine deliveries

AZPM

The Navajo Nation is expecting 3,900 Pfizer vaccine doses to arrive Monday and Tuesday, and 7,800 Moderna vaccines are also expected within the next two weeks.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, Chief Medical Officer in the Navajo Nation, said in an online town hall those first in line are health care workers, Emergency Medical Services staff, traditional practitioners, and people living or working in long-term care facilities.

President Jonathan Nez said residents in all but one of the eight service areas across the reservation will be getting their vaccines through Indian Health Services. The service area in Utah will be provided by the state of Utah.

Learn more here.


UA receives gift to promote medical knowledge of other cultures

AZPM

A donor with a love for mushrooms has funded a new University of Arizona medical scholarship to promote the integration of different medical traditions in modern medicine.

Paul Stamets, who is an advocate for the medical benefits of mushrooms, donated $50,000 to the UA Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. The center pairs a mainstream medical system that seemingly depends on pills and surgeries with alternative forms of healing, like prayer, herbs or acupuncture.

Ann Marie Chiasson is a part of the center and the doctor directing the fellowship receiving the gift. She said the fellowship introduces clinicians to evidence-backed practices that help with specific diseases, especially those with chronic pain.

Learn more here.


Fontes to help with Pima County recorder transition

AP

Defeated Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes will help Pima County’s newly elected recorder when she takes office next year.

Pima County’s Gabriella Cázares-Kelly announced Thursday that she’ll appoint Fontes as interim chief deputy recorder in Tucson. Fontes and Cázares-Kelly are both Democrats. Cázares-Kelly is replacing longtime Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, who is retiring along with her chief deputy, Christopher Roads.

Fontes lost his reelection bid to Republican Steven Richer after overseeing elections in Arizona’s largest county for four years. He’ll start his new job Jan. 1 and stay for at least three months while he leads the search for a permanent elections director,

Learn more here.


Navajo Nation reports 347 new COVID-19 cases, 6 more deaths

AP

WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 347 new COVID-19 cases and six more deaths. In all, the tribe has now reported 18,943 cases and 699 known deaths since the pandemic began.

Navajo Department of Health officials say nearly 179,000 people on the vast reservation that includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 and more than 10,000 have recovered. But officials have identified 77 Navajo Nation communities with uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus since late last month.

The tribe has extended its stay-at-home order though Dec. 28 in an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.

Learn more here.


Ward takes bid to undo Biden win in Arizona to Supreme Court

PHOENIX — Arizona GOP chief Kelli Ward has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in her bid to overturn Democratic President-elect Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Ward is challenging the so-called safe harbor deadline for completing election litigation six days before the upcoming Electoral College vote and asking for more ballots to be inspected.

Ward petitioned the nation’s highest court after the Arizona Supreme Court rejected her appeal and concluded Ward did not present any evidence of misconduct in her challenge of ballots in Maricopa County, which has 61 percent of Arizona's voters. Seven lawsuits challenging the results of the presidential vote in Arizona have been dismissed.


Arizona tribe proposes law to lease its water rights

AP

LAKE HAVASU CITY — The Colorado River Indian Tribes is proposing a federal law that would allow it to lease its water rights in Arizona.

The tribe says the effort could help in the state's response to drought. It also argues that leasing a portion of its Colorado River water rights will bring in money that could benefit its tribal members, including for health care, education, elder programs and law enforcement.

The tribe currently isn't allowed to lease the water under a longstanding federal statue. The Arizona Department of Water Resources and the tribe are gathering public comment on the proposal until Jan. 8.

Learn more here.

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