2020: The Year From Hell

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

COVID-19 Spreading Through Tucson State Prison

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 11:00 AM

  • BigStock

Nearly half of all incarcerated people housed inside the Whetstone Unit of the Tucson state prison complex have tested positive for COVID-19, the Arizona Department of Corrections announced Tuesday evening.

The department indicated that 517 people out of the total 1,066 population have the virus. They are currently being housed together in a separate living area and are receiving “appropriate medical care.”

“They will not be allowed back into the general population until they have been medically cleared,” the department said in a press release. “In addition to measures that are already in place, all inmates at Whetstone will receive meals and all required medication and medical services in their housing units.”

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Your Southern AZ COVID-19 Roundup for Wednesday, Aug. 5: Total Cases Reach 182K; Death Toll Reaches 3,932; Little Progress Made in DC Talks on New Relief Package, Unemployment Benefits

Posted By on Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 9:28 AM

The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 182,000 as of Wednesday, Aug. 5, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 16,964 of the state’s 182,203 confirmed cases.

A total of 3,932 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Aug. 5 report.

Arizona hospitals remain under pressure although the number of patients has declined from a peak last month. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 4, 1,945 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, down from a peak of 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 1,171 people visited ERs on Aug. 4 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 618 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds on Aug. 4. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

July: Downward trend but a rough month

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry noted on Friday, July 30, there’s evidence that Pima County’s ordinance requiring masks or face coverings is lowering COVID-19’s spread in the region.

Huckleberry pointed to data showing that two key coronavirus trends measured by week began moving in a positive direction after the county passed the ordinance: The number of positive tests peaked at 2,351 the week after the mask ordinance was passed and dropped to 1,393 two weeks later, and the percentage of people visiting hospitals with symptoms of COVID or pneumonia had dropped from nearly 12 percent to less than 4 percent.

Despite those positive trends, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik warned that the virus remains widespread. In his weekly newsletter, Kozachik pointed out that Pima County saw 7,747 confirmed cases of COVID in July. That’s nearly as many cases as the 7,780 cases the county saw in total over the previous four months of March, April, May, and June.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Nobody Accurately Tracks Health Care Workers Lost to COVID-19. So She Stays Up At Night Cataloging the Dead.

Posted By on Mon, Aug 3, 2020 at 12:00 PM

  • Bigstock
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When police discovered the woman, she’d been dead at home for at least 12 hours, alone except for her 4-year-old daughter. The early reports said only that she was 42, a mammogram technician at a hospital southwest of Atlanta and almost certainly a victim of COVID-19. Had her identity been withheld to protect her family’s privacy? Her employer’s reputation? Anesthesiologist Claire Rezba, scrolling through the news on her phone, was dismayed. “I felt like her sacrifice was really great and her child’s sacrifice was really great, and she was just this anonymous woman, you know? It seemed very trivializing.” For days, Rezba would click through Google, searching for a name, until in late March, the news stories finally supplied one: Diedre Wilkes. And almost without realizing it, Rezba began to keep count.

The next name on her list was world-famous, at least in medical circles: James Goodrich, a pediatric neurosurgeon in New York City and a pioneer in the separation of twins conjoined at the head. One of his best-known successes happened in 2016, when he led a team of 40 people in a 27-hour procedure to divide the skulls and detach the brains of 13-month-old brothers. Rezba, who’d participated in two conjoined-twins cases during her residency, had been riveted by that saga. Goodrich’s death on March 30 was a gut-punch; “it just felt personal.” Clearly, the coronavirus was coming for health care professionals, from the legends like Goodrich to the ones like Wilkes who toiled out of the spotlight and, Rezba knew, would die there.

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Friday, July 31, 2020

COVID-19 on pace to become third-leading cause of death in state

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 3:30 PM

  • Bigstock
PHOENIX – Six months after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Arizona, the disease is well on its way to becoming the third-leading cause of death in the state this year, following cancer and heart disease, according to state data.

As of Friday, July 31, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,694 deaths from COVID-19, which was first reported in the state on Jan. 26. That number has grown by 631 in the last week alone.

If COVID-19 deaths continue at the current pace, that would put the disease squarely between cancer, which killed 12,097 Arizonans in 2018, and accidents, which killed 4,211 people that year, the most recent for which state mortality numbers are available.

A health department official cautioned against reading too much into the numbers at this time, however, noting that the cause of death will not be official until analysts can review death certificates, something that is not likely to happen until late 2021.

“Final death certificate information can take weeks or months to collect, depending upon the complexity of each case and whether testing or autopsy is required through the medical examiner,” said Holly Poynter, the department spokesperson, adding that final counts “tend to be lower than the counts produced” by daily reporting.

But other health experts in the state said the disease could “easily” become one of the biggest killers in the state this year.

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Navajo ‘Water Warrior’ drives miles during COVID to deliver to those in need

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 3:00 PM

  • Photo Courtesy Water Warriors United
Editor’s Note: Coronavirus has devastated Native American communities and put a spotlight on some long-standing problems in Indian Country that have made this pandemic that much worse. But at the grassroots level, everyday heroes have stepped up to help.

PHOENIX – When the sun is up, he’s up and ready to hit the road by 8. Flatbed trucks are loaded with brimming barrels of water, and the teams take off – up and down the burnt orange washboard roads that crisscross the Navajo Nation Reservation.

Zoel Zohnnie grew up on a ranch in these vast lands, knowing what it’s like to live without running water, knowing what it means to drive for miles to fill up at a community water station and then haul it back home.

“For some families, it’s a whole day of leaving home, waiting in line, coming back, unloading,” he said. “Just to drink water and have water for living.”

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Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, July 31: 174K Confirmed Cases in AZ; Trump Backs Away from Call To Delay in November Presidential Election; Senate Effort To Pass New Relief Package Stalls as Boosted Unemployment Benefits Expire

Posted By on Fri, Jul 31, 2020 at 9:12 AM

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona climbed past 174,000 as of Friday, July 31, after the state reported 3,212 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 16,167 of the state's 174,010 confirmed cases.

A total of 3,694 people have died after contracting the virus, including 459 in Pima County.

Maricopa County had 117,293 of the state's cases.

Hospitals remain under pressure, although they report a slight decrease in the number of Arizonans hospitalized with COVID-19-related symptoms. The report shows that 2,302 COVID patients were hospitalized yesterday in the state, down from a peak of 3,517 on July 13. That’s the lowest number of hospitalized COViD patients since June 23, when 2,270 people were in hospital beds.

A total of 1,195 people visited ERs yesterday with COVID symptoms, the lowest that number has dipped since July 28, when 1,225 people sought help in ERs for COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 719 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds yesterday, the lowest number since July 3, when XXX COVID patients were in ICU. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.


As he trails Democrat Joe Biden in the polls, President Donald Trump yesterday said he wasn’t really serious about delaying the election, although he expressed concern that allowing people to mail in ballots during a pandemic would lead to massive fraud and lawsuits that could linger in the courts for years.

“Do I want to see a day change?” Trump said during his daily coronavirus briefing. “No. But I don’t want to see a crooked election.”

Trump had started the day with a tweet asking if the election should be delayed.

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Thursday, July 30, 2020

How the Trump Administration Allowed Aviation Companies to Keep Relief Money That Was Supposed to Go to Workers

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 4:00 PM

Gebrish Weldemariam, who was laid off by an airline catering company that later received government aid, with his family outside their Virginia home. (Dee Dwyer for ProPublica)
  • Gebrish Weldemariam, who was laid off by an airline catering company that later received government aid, with his family outside their Virginia home. (Dee Dwyer for ProPublica)
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This spring, as the coronavirus spread and international travel bans grounded flights, Gebrish Weldemariam got a layoff letter from his airline catering job at Dulles International Airport.

He’d been working as a driver making more than $18 per hour for Flying Food Group, ferrying in-flight meals between the company’s kitchen and gated planes waiting on the tarmac. Between overtime at the airport and a part-time job driving buses on the side, Weldemariam felt that times were good. Last fall, with his wife expecting a fourth child, the family bought a house not far from the airport, allowing him to be nearby to help care for his oldest son, who has Down syndrome and needs constant attention.

“I have kids. I have a mortgage. I have two car loans,” Weldemariam said. “That’s why I work hard.”

Flying Food Group told him only that when business picks up, it would call him. Now, even with boosted unemployment benefits, he said he makes $600 less than a typical week when he was working. He’s worried he won’t be able to cover all of his monthly bills.

Flying Food didn’t just lay off Weldemariam. The Chicago-based company, one of the largest airline caterers in the country, has pink slipped more than 2,000 other workers since March. The cuts left the vast majority of its workforce out of a job at facilities in California, Chicago, Virginia and the New York City area, according to the union UNITE HERE, which represents Flying Food workers. Then in June, the Flying Food was approved to receive $85 million from the Trump administration from a pandemic relief program that was intended to preserve those very jobs.

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Mount Lemmon Highway to Reopen Aug. 1

Posted By on Thu, Jul 30, 2020 at 2:47 PM

  • Jeff Gardner

Today, the Pima County Department of Transportation announced that the Mount Lemmon Highway will reopen beginning Saturday, Aug. 1. This announcement comes only two weeks after the Pima County Sheriff's Department said mountain access would be cut off until November. But a coordinated repair effort between the PCSD, the Department of Transportation and the Coronado National Forest Service is making the road safe for public access.

Since the Bighorn Fire dwindled through early and mid July, transportation workers have replaced more than 250 burnt guardrail posts, and aim to double that number.

  • Courtesy Pima County Department of Transportation
  • Guardrails damaged by the Bighorn Fire
According to the DoT, repair work will continue next week, including the repair and replacement of nearly 1,700 feet of guardrail. Speed reductions and lane restrictions will remain in place in areas where repair work continues. A closure order for lands managed by the Coronado National Forest in Mount Lemmon and the Upper Sabino Canyon remains in effect for public safety. The closure is in place because "the hazards to public health and safety are still present. The closure order is subject to change and the Coronado National Forest regularly assesses the conditions on the ground."

The reopening will allow vehicle access on Mount Lemmon Highway to Summerhaven and Ski Valley. Limited parking is available in these areas. Once parking areas become full, PCSD will control access until enough vehicles leave and allow for additional visitors to drive up the mountain.

Information on road closures can be found here.

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