Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

Schools Moving To Online Start

Local school districts will begin their fall classes online as early as this week, with plans to possibly offer some kind of “learning centers” within their districts where at-risk students who need a place to go during the day can attend by Aug. 17.

The move to virtual classrooms came after County Administrator Huckelberry said last week that the virus remained too widespread to allow schools to reopen for in-person instruction on Aug. 17.

In a July 28 letter to all Pima County public school superintendents, Huckleberry cited overall high case numbers in July, a space crunch in local hospitals and other factors as reasons to hold off on reopening schools for in-person instruction.

Huckelberry, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia, and Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen believe the earliest start date for in-person instruction is after Labor Day, Sept. 7, or possibly early October.

Huckelberry said this recommendation should not prevent schools from opening facilities for “at-risk youth” as intended in Gov. Doug Ducey July executive order regarding schools. Huckelberry suggests all safety precautions be taken such as wearing face masks, doing wellness checks, observing physical distancing guidelines, and sanitizing surfaces.

Due to the nature of contact sports, county health professionals are suggesting schools shift fall semester sports to the spring 2021 semester. Any extracurricular activities that can safely take place with precautions are allowed.

“It is very important that community trust be built regarding the safety of our public schools,” Huckelberry wrote. “As the County public health agency, we are fully prepared to support our public schools as you navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Meanwhile, the Ducey administration is set to unveil contagion metrics to guide school reopenings by Friday, but Gov. Doug Ducey has canceled his usual Thursday press conference as he is traveling to DC today and tomorrow to meet with President Trump and the White House COVID-19 Task Force and attend other events. (More on that below.)

Gridlock in DC

The U.S. Senate returned to work this week to continue work on a new federal aid package. GOP leaders rolled out a $1 trillion aid package last week but it stalled after squabbles broke out within the GOP caucus and with the White House. Negotiations are primarily between the White House and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

The Senate has not taken up the $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives earlier this year.

Last week, the extra $600 a week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation that out-of-work Arizonans have been receiving expired.

Gov. Ducey, who said last week there’s no reason to increase Arizona’s current maximum unemployment payment of $240 a week, has asked Arizona's congressional delegation to consider a number of provisions to help Arizona in the latest coronavirus package, including an extension of extra money for people who are out of work as a result of the pandemic.

Ducey announced yesterday that he’d be traveling to DC later this week to meet with Trump and the White House COVID-19 Task Force in the Oval Office, as well as attend a meeting with the Council of Governors.

—By Jim Nintzel with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, and Tara Foulkrod

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