The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona crossed the 66,000 threshold as of Friday, June 26, after the state reported 3,428 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County had seen 6,836 of the state's 66,458 confirmed cases.
Cases in Arizona have more than tripled since June 1, when the state had 20,123 confirmed cases.
A total of 1,535 people have died after contracting the virus, including 266 in Pima County.
Maricopa County has more than half the state's cases, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hitting 39,626.
Arizona hospitals saw a drop of several hundred patients with COVID-19 symptoms yesterday , as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, 2,110 Arizonans were hospitalized, more than double the 1,009 hospitalized on June 1 but 343 fewer than Wednesday, June 24.
A record number of 1,249 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 25. Previous to June, the number of people seeking help in emergency rooms never topped 667.
A total of 581 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds yesterday, a drop of 30 from the previous day.
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.
In his weekly press conference yesterday, Ducey acknowledged that hospitals could soon have to activate their surge plans in order to accommodate the growing number of COVID-19 patients. He noted the greatest growth was among people ages 20 to 44, who generally do not face the worst symptoms of the disease but are capable to transmitting it to parents, grandparents and other elders who do.
“COVID-19 is widespread in Arizona,” Ducey said. “It’s in all 15 of our counties. It’s growing, and it’s growing fast across all age groups and demographics. Anyone can get this virus, and anyone can spread this virus.”
Ducey, who allowed bars and nightclubs to open alongside restaurants in mid-May as long as they had some kind of food services (which could be as minor as a bag of chips behind the bar), said that authorities would begin cracking down on establishments that did not enforce physical distancing recommendations.
Ducey said he’s changing the “green light” he gave to the state’s reopening in May has now changed to a cautious, “yellow light.”
“This virus is everywhere,” Ducey said. “It’s likely in this room right now and the actions that you take as a citizen will make a difference in how we care for our most vulnerable and how we handle remaining hospital capacity.”
In other COVID-19 news this week:
• 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 postponed 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.”
• Major League Baseball announced it would start playing a 60-game season on July 23, with players reporting for training next week. Among the changes: Both leagues will adopt the designated hitter and in extra-innings game, teams will be granted a runner on second base at the start of each half-inning. Players will be tested for COVID-19 every other day and some players will sit in the stands or another area. Players will also be required to wear masks in the dugout. Also: No fist bumps or high fives.
• The tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, announced this week that visitors from Arizona and eight other states with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Earlier this year, Arizona required people from those northwestern states to do a similar quarantine here while they had high numbers of coronavirus patients.
—additional reporting from Tucson Weekly staff