Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Aug. 19: Total Cases Top 195K; Pima County Cases Top 20K; Pima County Says Virus Remains Too Widespread for Schools to Reopen; Pop-Up COVID Testing Today at Tucson Rodeo Grounds

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2020 at 9:11 AM

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The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 195,000 as of Wednesday, Aug 19, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 20,047 of the state’s 195,557 confirmed cases.

With 105 new deaths reported today, a total of 4,634 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Aug. 19 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 18, 1,160 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the lowest that number has been since June 6, when 1,079 people were hospitalized. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 1,000 people visited ERs on Aug. 18 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 414 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Aug. 18, the lowest that number has been since June 9, when 413 people were in ICU. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

Pima County: Schools remain unsafe to open for in-person instruction

The Pima County Health Department is cautioning local school districts against bringing students back to campus.

According to the county's nine metrics based on local public health data, the current COVID-19 situation is too dangerous for schools to reopen for in-person classroom instruction.

Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said that when progress is made in all nine metrics, schools should be allowed to operate in a hybrid fashion with some in-person instruction combined with online learning, according to his Aug. 17 memo to the Board of Supervisors.

“The key concern for students, parents, teachers, administrators and all support personnel is when it is safe for schools to begin to transition and ultimately return to face-to-face classroom instruction,” Huckelberry wrote. “The scientifically based criteria offered by the State of Arizona and Pima County have been aligned to avoid any possible contradiction or confusion.”

The metrics include a variety of data concerning disease spread, healthcare capacity and public health capacity. As of Aug. 10, some had reached the “progress” state, but none have been fully met.

See the details on metrics and progress here.

The committee will determine the appropriate timing for face-to-face classroom instruction based on ADHS guidance, the current Pima County COVID-19 Progress Report and the latest scientific information available, according to Huckelberry's memo.

The county health department also recommended the committee develop a “written, worksite-specific COVID-19 prevention plan for every school district or facility.” This plan will include a “comprehensive risk assessment” of all work areas in all districts. The department is already working to develop a guidance document that will assist schools with their individual prevention plans.

City of Tucson offering rental assistance, grants for those affected by pandemic

The City of Tucson has allocated $4.5 million of federal CARES Act funding for an emergency rent and utility assistance program available to city residents.

To be eligible for the financial assistance, participating renters must have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the household income cannot exceed $68,400.

One application will be accepted per household, and each household can receive up to $2,500 to cover up to three months of late or upcoming rent or utility payments that were incurred after March 1, 2020.

All applicants will need to provide copies of their identification, bills, proof of income and other household information. The city’s Housing and Community Development department is partnering with several nonprofit organizations to administer these funds, including Primavera, Interfaith Community Services, Catholic Community Services and the International Rescue Committee.

Representatives from one of these agencies will contact applicants within five days for a phone interview and may ask for additional information. The funds will be sent directly to each applicants’ landlord and/or utility company.

“Keeping Tucsonans safe and healthy in their homes is the most important thing as many of our residents have been greatly impacted financially by this pandemic,” said Housing and Community Development Director Liz Morales in a press release.

The application process opened yesterday and renters are encouraged to apply as soon as possible. Visit www.tucsonaz.gov/hcd/rent-help to complete an application. If you need assistance or are unable to complete the application online, call (520) 837-5364 or email covidemergencyassistance@tucsonaz.gov.

The city is also setting aside $3 million of CARES Act funding to be distributed to local workers and families that have been negatively impacted by the crisis.

The grant program, named the “We Are One | Somos Unos Resiliency Fund” will focus on individuals and households that have not received any state or federal COVID-19 relief money and whose income does not reach Pima County’s self-sufficiency standard.

The self-sufficiency standard measures how much money an individual or family needs to earn to be able to meet their basic needs with no public or private financial assistance. In 2018, the self-sufficiency standard for a single adult in Pima County was $9.66 per hour or $1,700 per month. For a household with two adults and two young children, the standard was $13.22 per hour for both adults, or $4,711 per month.

The city is partnering with the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, who will administer the grants and begin accepting applications at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 19 until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.

County delays hike in restaurant permit fees

With local restaurants hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pima County Board of Supervisors voted this week to delay a previously scheduled restaurant permit rate increase and provide credits to businesses that have already paid the higher fee.

The fee increase was originally adopted in 2016 as a way to recover costs incurred by the Pima County Health Department Consumer Health and Food Safety department, according to a county press release. The department performs regular restaurant safety inspections and has recently been tasked with enforcing increased health and safety standards in restaurants related to the current public health crisis.

The fee was planned to increase gradually over five years, and the supervisors’ decision yesterday will delay the final increase of 25 percent. The county says these extra costs were partially offset by their Restaurant Incentive Program, which allows restaurants to save up to 25 percent on their permitting fees if they adopt certain practices such as having a certified food handler on staff, eliminating trans-fats in their food and posting nutritional information on their menus.

Restaurants can still apply for these savings through the program, as it is not affected by this recent change in fees. It is currently unclear when the fee might be reinstated.

“The pandemic was a big blow to many local restaurants. We’ve strived to support our restaurants as they adapt, while keeping the broader community safe,” said Director Loni Anderson of the Consumer Health and Food Safety Division. “We know that the vast majority of restaurants have a passion for what they do, and want to do right by their customers. The Restaurant Incentive Program, and today’s delay, are designed to benefit restaurant owners, and the whole of Pima County.”

Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers, including pop-up sites this week

The Pima County Health Department has rolled out new pop-up COVID-19 testing sites that are available in areas of the county that have had limited testing availability.

Through their partnership with the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, Pima County is wrapping up its free minimal contact testing operation today from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. Sixth Ave. Pre-registration is strongly encouraged and can be completed at www.pima.gov/covid19testing.

Participants can access their test results by logging into www.doineedacovid19test.com within a few days.

Pima County has three other testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—and you get results in less than 72 hours.

Centers offering a nasal swab are at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

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.

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

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