/ Modified apr 19, 2021 3:56 p.m.

News roundup: Biden administration responds to refugee backlash, Ducey bans vaccine passports

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, April 19.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 854,453 | Deaths 17,153

On Monday, April 19, Arizona reported 692 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.

Biden administration walks back plan to keep Trump's refugee admissions cap amid backlash


The Biden administration is walking back a plan to keep a historically-low refugee admissions cap for the fiscal year 2021 after receiving major blowback on Friday.

The admissions cap is determined each year by the U.S. President. Under the Trump administration, it dropped from 85,000 to a record low 15,000, and restrictive measures like the travel ban slowed the process down further.

Biden pledged to overhaul the system and upend Trump's changes on the campaign trail. Then, to Congress in February, he proposed raising the admissions ceiling to 62,500 for the fiscal year of 2021, and to 125,000 in 2022. Instead, his declaration Friday morning removed restrictions for some countries to speed up admissions that had languished under Trump, but kept the low cap.

Learn more here.

Arizona governor orders 'vaccine passport' ban for the state


PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has used his executive powers to prohibit all of the state's local and regional governments from requiring vaccine passports, calling them an encroachment on the private medical information of Arizona residents.

The Republican governor signed an executive order Monday that also bans state agencies and companies that contract with the state from making COVID-19 vaccine documentation a requirement for such things as entering businesses and receiving services.

Businesses on their own along with health care providers, child care facilities, schools and universities are exempted from the ban.

Meanwhile, Arizona officials on Monday reported 692 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and no new deaths.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports no COVID-19 related deaths for 8th day


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation is finding no new COVID-19 related deaths for an eighth consecutive day. The tribe on Sunday afternoon reported seven new virus cases but no additional deaths on the vast reservation.

The latest numbers bring the Navajo Nation’s pandemic case total to 30,366 with the death toll remaining at 1,262. Tribal officials said 16,477 people have recovered from COVID-19 thus far.

The tribe slowed its reopening process somewhat after coronavirus variants were confirmed on the reservation, which stretches into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

Tribal officials have urged residents to stay vigilant. They say a recent cluster was due to a family gathering with no masks.

Learn more here.

More migrants dying since push into remote, hostile regions


PHOENIX — Migrants trekking across the Arizona borderlands have died at higher rates in the two decades since stepped up enforcement began funneling them into remote, hostile desert and mountain regions.

A sweeping new analysis released Monday by the University of Arizona Binational Migration Institute provides a multidiscipline look at migrant border death investigations in Arizona over 30 years.

It draws on the expertise of anthropologists, geographers, other specialists and Pima County Chief Medical Examiner Greg Hess, whose office tracks the recoveries statewide.

Daniel Martinez, an institute co-director, said migrants are perishing in some of the most treacherous and rugged terrain within southern Arizona.

Learn more here.

Southern Arizona's spring wildflower bloom absent this year


Southern Arizona’s treasured spring wildflower bloom is pretty much a no-show this year.

The relative lack of fall and winter showers needed to produce the bounty of colors means that the traditional wildflower hotspots across the Sonoran Desert are brown landscapes.

In fact, the Arizona Daily Star reports it’s the worst bloom in years.

Slopes at Picacho Peak State Park about 40 miles north of Tucson were blanketed in orange, yellow and purple blossoms a year ago. But those same slopes now have only a few isolated annuals. Park manager Carolin Miller called conditions “pretty much a wipeout."

Learn more here.

New migrant facilities crop up to ease crowding, again


U.S. officials are scrambling to handle a dramatic spike in children crossing the U.S.-Mexico border alone. It's led to a massive expansion in emergency facilities to house them as more kids arrive than can be released to close relatives in the United States.

Advocates and former U.S. officials say the government failed to prepare for a big increase in children traveling alone as President Joe Biden ended some of his predecessor’s hardline immigration policies and decided that unaccompanied kids wouldn’t be expelled from the country like the Trump administration did for eight months.

So many children are coming that there’s little room in long-term care facilities, where capacity shrank during the coronavirus pandemic.

Learn more here.

US West prepares for possible 1st water shortage declaration


CARSON CITY, Nev. — U.S. water officials are projecting the man-made lakes that store water used throughout the American West will fall to historically low levels and trigger an official shortage declaration for the first time.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation released projections this week forecasting that less Colorado River water will fill Lake Powell and Lake Mead, which would force cuts to Arizona and Nevada.

By November 2022, the agency projects Lake Mead could drop to levels that could threaten the ability to generate electricity at Hoover Dam.

The April projections don't have a binding impact because federal officials use the forecast released each August to make decisions about how to allocate river water.

Learn more here.

Mass Vaccination Of Mexican Teachers To Start Soon

Fronteras Desk

Mexico is set to start vaccinating several million education workers.

Starting April 20 and stretching through the end of May, the country hopes to inoculate more than 3 million education employees across Mexico, according to Hugo López-Gatell, a top coronavirus response official.

Teacher vaccinations in Sonora won’t start until the third round, which is expected to last a week starting May 5.

Vaccinations in general have been speeding up in recent days in Mexico, with now several days in a row of more than 500,000 doses administered. Well over 13 million doses have now been given, though the rate remains substantially slower than in the neighboring United States.

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