Thursday, June 25, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup: Cases Top 63K; 3K New Confirmed Cases Today; Hospitals Remain Under Stress; Ducey Reveals Details of School Funding Plan

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 9:04 AM

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona crossed the 63,000 threshold as of Thursday, June 25, after the state reported 3,056 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 6,546 of the state's 63,033 confirmed cases.

Cases in Arizona have more than tripled since June 1, when the state had 20,123 confirmed cases.

A total of 1,490 people have died after contracting the virus, including 255 in Pima County.

Maricopa County has more than half the state's cases, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hitting 37,135.

Arizona hospitals continue to see a steady rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, a record 2,453  Arizonans were hospitalized, more than double the 1,009 hospitalized on June 1.

A daily total of 1,161 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 24. Previous to June, the number of people seeking help in emergency rooms never topped 667.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds rose to 611 yesterday.

If you're out in public in Pima County, you're now expected to wear masks or face coverings if you're older than 5. The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 along party lines to require face masks on Friday, June 19. Likewise, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a proclamation last week that requires face masks and includes a $50 penalty for those who don't mask up, although she said authorities would first try to educate those who don't wear masks and would resort to fines only for report offenders. There are exceptions for those who can't wear a mask for medical reasons.

• Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman yesterday announced new funding for Arizona schools to support the reopening of schools in August. Ducey resolved a major challenge that schools were facing: Funding is based on how many students physically attend schools and with some families turning to online learning to avoid infection in the classroom, those numbers are likely to fall. Ducey, rather than call a special session of lawmakers to change the law, instead issued an executive order providing $200 million to Arizona schools to prevent the funding cuts and support remote learning.

The package also includes $40 million to improve broadband lines in rural Arizona, where internet connections can be spotty; $20 million for high-need schools; $6 million for the Arizona Teacher Academy to help with a teacher shortage; $1 million in micro-grants for innovative learning programs; $1 million to purchase vehicles for the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind; $700 for leadership development; and $500,000 for tutoring programs.

The Arizona Department of Education is providing an additional $25 million from the federal CARES Act for additional assistance to schools.

• As the number of cases spread, some local restaurants, such DOWNTOWN Kitchen and Cocktails, BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs, Fire N' Smoke and Little Anthony's Diner, are closing their dining rooms and returning to takeout service.

“I love my customers and I love my staff, and I’m concerned,” Little Anthony's owner Tony Terry said. “It was an easy decision until things calm down and we get a handle on it. I really think every responsible business owner in Tucson should do the same thing."

• The City of Tucson has decided to postpone this year's Independence Day fireworks display on "A" Mountain. City officials cite growing concerns over large gatherings during the pandemic as well as the potential for wildfires as reasons for the postponement. Local firefighters have been battling the Bighorn Fire in the Catalina Mountains since early June after lightning ignited dry brush on the mountain's backside.

"With the recent large spike in COVID-19 case and the current administrative order to postpone reopening our City facilities to August 3, postponing the event at this time is the right decision to ensure that we stay on track slowing the spread and for our planned reopening," City Manager Mike Ortega said. "It is our intent to hold the event sometime in the future, when we can all safely come together, to celebrate coming out of this time of crisis and our return to a new normal for our society."

• The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted this week to allocate more than $380,000 to tourism-related agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts. Nine nonprofit organizations will receive funds from the county to promote events and programs that could provide local economic development and improve tourism, according to a press release: Ajo District Chamber of Commerce, Arts Foundation for Tucson & Southern Arizona, International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Portable Practical Educational Preparation, Southwest Folklife Alliance, Children’s Museum of Tucson, Perimeter Bicycling, Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Tucson Presidio for Historic Preservation.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attractions are open with limited capacity and events altered to accommodate physical distancing,” said Diane Frisch, the county’s Attractions and Tourism Director. “These nonprofits need our assistance now more than ever as we navigate these unprecedented times.”

—additional reporting from Tucson Weekly staff

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