Wednesday, June 3, 2020

Mayor Ed Honea: Riots and financial strain a bigger concern than virus

Posted By on Wed, Jun 3, 2020 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Mayor Ed Honea: Riots and financial strain a bigger concern than virus
Courtesy Photo
Marana Mayor Ed Honea
During Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, Marana Mayor Ed Honea said he recently spoke on the phone with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who asked how the town was doing.

Honea said he told Ducey that Marana used to have a problem “with that virus thing,” but now Marana is dealing with other issues: Potential protests and people losing their jobs due to financial strain during the stay-home order.

“The bigger crisis now is riots,” Honea said during the June 2 council meeting. “Not protesting. People have that right and I support that 100 percent, but rioting and tearing up equipment. … We’re really trying to stay on top of that. We don’t want anybody hurt, and we don’t want to disrespect people that want to protest. They have that right. But the governor's order says crowds cannot gather on streets, sidewalks, vacant lots, alleys or parking lots, and it does not apply to business, restaurants, groceries stores or anything else.”

Honea said that visiting your grandma or shopping for groceries does not violate the curfew order, which was essentially a tool for law enforcement to prevent riots.

“The order was more or less to give police an opportunity to disperse crowds if they felt necessary,” Honea said.

A protest against police violence turned violent in downtown Tucson last Friday night when rioters smashed windows, painted graffiti, and started dumpster fires in downtown Tucson. The protest was one of many across the country following the killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died in police custody after a Minneapolis Police Officer kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes as he gasped for air and said he couldn't breathe.

Following the May 29 incident, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus asked the public to not attend a Saturday protest. A few hundred people still turned out on Saturday night for a protest march that went smoothly until protestors attempted to match back downtown and clashed with police.

After similar rioting in the Phoenix area over the weekend, Gov. Doug Ducey declared a nightly curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. The curfew will continue through June 8 unless extended. During the curfew, members of the public are prohibited from "using, standing, sitting, traveling, or being present on any public street or in any public place, including for the purpose of travel.” But people are allowed to travel to and from work, make deliveries, obtain food, care for a family member, friend or animal, patronize a private business, seek medical care or flee a dangerous situation.

While there have been no demonstrations in Marana, Town Manager Jamsheed Mehta said the police department remains prepared.

“The Marana Police Department is in constant communication with several other agencies—intelligence agencies, law enforcement agencies. The officers are well briefed. There’s a revised protocol that’s in place in case there’s ever a need to handle any protest. Staffing strategies have also been revised to ensure better coverage during certain shifts. Marana has not had any civil unrest, but in that unfortunate event, if it were to happen, we could rely on law enforcement agencies, as other agencies can also rely on us.”

Tucson Local Media has requested records pertaining to altered protocols or staffing procedures at the Marana Police Department.

While the focus is on Marana police’s potential involvement with civil unrest and the lost jobs, Honea said the town still takes COVID-19 seriously.

“We’re doing pretty good in the town. I don’t know of anybody that has COVID personally, and I know hundreds of people,” Honea said. “I’ve talked to several ministers...and different ones in the community, and they don’t know of anybody with the disease. That’s not to say we don’t respect it and try to do things correctly, but some of the issues now and talking with the governor, I said the biggest fear in Marana from a lot of working families is there job going to be there when they have the opportunity to go back to work or are they going to lose their business because they’ve shut down too long?”

According to the Arizona Commerce Authority, the state’s April unemployment rate stood at 12.6 percent, a 7.8 percent increase year-over-year. In February, the unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent, and 6.1 percent in March.

There have been relatively few confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Marana area. The Arizona Department of Health Services report shows 21 confirmed cases in the 85653 ZIP code and 19 confirmed cases in the 85658 ZIP code. Parts of Marana extend into the 85742 area, which has 35 reported cases, and the 85743 area, with 54 cases.

Cases are rising across Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported today that tests had confirmed 22,223 cases of COVID-19, a jump of 973 from yesterday and a total of 2,100 new cases in the last two days. The number of Arizonans visiting emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms has also been rising over the last week, with 587 people visiting ERs on Tuesday, June 2.

A total of 981 people have died after contracting the virus, according to ADHS. Pima County reported 2,627 cases and 196 deaths.

Nearly 5,000 Arizonans have recovered from the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine’s Coronavirus Resource Center, which lists Pima County’s COVID-19 fatality rate at 4.43 percent.