Friday, August 7, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 Roundup for Friday, Aug. 7: Total cases hit 185K; Virtual Schooling Is Here; New Testing Center Opens; Still No Deal in DC on Unemployment Benefits, Other COVID Relief

Posted By on Fri, Aug 7, 2020 at 9:16 AM

The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 185,000 as of Friday, Aug. 7, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had seen 17,497 of the state’s 185,053 confirmed cases.

A total of 4,081 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Aug. 7 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 6, 1,772 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, down from a peak of 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 1,144 people visited ERs on Aug. 6 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.


A total of 565 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds on Aug. 6. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

Pima County and City of Tucson Open New COVID Testing Center

Pima County has teamed up with the City of Tucson to open a third testing center. The new center, which opens today, is at the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. Tests are available Tuesday through Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The new center, which requires a nasal swab, joins a similar facility at Kino Event Center, E. Ajo Way. A third center at the northside Ellie Towne Center, opened in conjunction with ASU, involves a saliva test. The centers offer easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—and you get results in less than 72 hours.

Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.


The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.

If you’re interested in a test to determine if you’ve already had COVID-19, the UA has expanded a free COVID-19 antibody testing program to include 15 new categories of essential workers considered at high risk for exposure. The antibody test, developed by researchers at UA Health Sciences, determines who has been exposed to and developed an immune response against COVID-19.

In addition to healthcare workers and first responders, the test program is now open to educators, childcare workers, agriculture, grocery and foodservice workers, hospitality employees, solid-waste collection workers, transportation services workers and members of the National Guard. More information and registration for the test is available at covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu.

Pima County is also one of several regions in the country where a new COVID-19 vaccine is being tested. The National Institutes of Health is conducting phase 3 trials on a vaccine co-developed by Moderna, Inc. and the National Insitute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. If you’re interested in volunteering, visit www.coronaviruspreventionnetwork.org or ClinicalTrials.gov and search identifier NCT04470427 to find a study center.

State releases new health metrics to guide school reopenings

The Arizona Department of Education and the Arizona Department of Health Services rolled out new metrics to determine if schools should reopen. The metrics are guidelines that school districts should take into consideration but they are not mandates.

There are three basic metrics: Communities should see two consecutive weeks of back-to-back drops in the total number of positive coronavirus tests; two weeks with test positivity below 7 percent; and two weeks with less than 10 percent of overall hospital visits linked to coronavirus.

No areas of Arizona currently meet the benchmarks and local school districts are in the process of starting the school year online.

“The public health benchmarks released today by the Arizona Department of Health Services provide our school communities much-needed clarity on the safe reopening of schools,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “While it is clear that Arizona is not currently ready to resume traditional in-person or hybrid learning, we now have clear goals for knowing when it is safer to return to the classroom amid COVID-19. I urge all school leaders to use these benchmarks to make safe decisions about learning in this school year.”

High school sports set to return

The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s executive board approved the fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar during a special meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 5.

The AIA board voted for a staggered athletics season based on the information received from AIA member schools through a July online survey. Factors like student and personnel safety protocols that can be easily administered by athletic directors and coaches across the state helped board members reach a decision.

"The health and safety of our student participants, coaches, officials and essential personnel, including volunteers, is the primary concern for the return of interscholastic athletics and activities," AIA Executive Director David Hines said. "We are very grateful to those who share our commitment of a return to these highly beneficial educational activities and athletics."

Fall sports will continue to proceed under the out-of-season/summer rules as a part of AIA’s Bylaws and Policies until the first day of practice. The fall 2020 interscholastic athletics calendar will be shorted to accommodate for winter sports at the end of the year. All fall sports will still have an opportunity for a championship tournament.

More details and dates here.

Coronavirus ravaging Tucson prison

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.”

More than 890 people have tested positive for COVID-19 across the state’s 16 prison complexes and 15 people have died. The Tucson prison is clearly dealing with a widespread outbreak and has the most positive cases of all locations.

Gridlock in DC


Negotiations between White House officials and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate went nowhere this week, with Democrats seeking a $3 trillion aid package that includes an extension of the additional $600 a week in unemployment benefits through the end of the year, aid to states and other provisions. The White House and Senate Republicans want to keep the price tag to $1 trillion.

Last week, that 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 met this week with President Donald Trump and the White House COVID-19 Task Force in the Oval Office.

Trump praised Ducey’s response to COVID-19, saying Ducey had demonstrated how to get soaring COVID-19 cases under control without shutting down the economy.

Ducey lifted Arizona’s stay-at-home order in mid-May and allowed bars, gyms, movie theaters, and other spaces where people congregate to reopen. Arizona’s numbers then skyrocketed as the virus became widespread and hospital beds filled. Under pressure, Ducey then allowed local authorities to enact measures requiring the wearing of masks, though he did not issue such an order himself. He also closed down gyms, theaters, water parks, and some bars and limited restaurants to 50 percent capacity. Arizona’s numbers began to plateau in mid-July but the virus remains so widespread in Arizona that schools are unable to reopen for in-class sessions this month and instead will be conducted online.


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

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