Thursday, August 20, 2020

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Thursday, Aug. 20: Total Cases Top 196K; Grants available for Tucsonans affected by COVID-19; UA rolls out ‘COVID Watch’ App; County Test Sites Open

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2020 at 9:17 AM


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The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 196,000 as of Thursday, Aug 20, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 20,139 of the state’s 196,280 confirmed cases.

With 50 new deaths reported today, a total of 4,684 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 534 in Pima County, according to the Aug. 20 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 19, 1,070 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the lowest that number has been since June 1, when 1,009 people were hospitalized. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 1,035 people visited ERs on Aug. 19 with COVID symptoms. That number, which peaked at 2,008 on July 7, has plateaued at between 1,100 and 900 since Aug. 8.

A total of 388 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Aug. 19, the lowest that number has been since June 4, when 372 people were in ICU. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

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.

UA rolls out COVID Watch app

The University of Arizona has announced it is employing a new app where students, faculty, and staff who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 can anonymously notify others who may have been exposed. The COVID Watch app is available on Google and Apple devices, and is "able to calculate a person's level of exposure risk by assessing duration of exposure to an infected person, distance from an infected person and the point in the infection arc at which a user was exposed."

The COVID Watch app is being developed by UA in partnership with the nonprofit organization of the same name, co-founded by a UA alum Tina White.

According to UA, once installed, the app generates random codes while logging anonymous codes from other nearby COVID Watch apps. These anonymized codes are exchanged via Bluetooth signals. To prevent false alarms, users who test positive for COVID-19 must input a verification code from a lab, doctor, or medical center. At UA, this code will come from Campus Health. The app will then send an exposure notification alert to other COVID Watch users whose phones were registered as being near the infected patient's phone.

However, this means the app can only track possible infections through the population if users have their phones on them.

"The app is a vital part of our plan to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 as we return to campus over the coming weeks with our on-ramp approach,” said UA President Robbins Robbins in an announcement for the app.

Joyce Schroeder, head of UA Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, is leading the app's development for the campus.

While the app isn't mandatory for UA students and faculty, Schroeder encourages all members of the UA community to "do their part" to maintain a low level of viral transmission.

While other infection tracking apps use GPS to track location, Schroeder says Bluetooth is preferable because it allows users to be "completely private."

Fire districts seek assistance

The COVID-19 virus outbreak has incurred costs on fire districts ranging from overtime pay for firefighters who cover for their sick co-workers to replacement costs for equipment that was contaminated by COVID-19, according to Pima County officials.

Assistant County Administrator John Voorhees wrote in a memo that local fire districts are in the process of applying for grants under the Stafford Act, which dictates how the federal government distributes emergency funding to state and local governments.

According to the memo, Avra Valley Fire District, Drexel Heights Fire District, Green Valley Fire District, Northwest Fire District, Rincon Valley Fire District and Three Points Fire District have submitted applications for funding so far.

In addition, Voorhees recommended Pima County ask the Board of Supervisors to set aside around $1.1 million their CARES Act funding in order to “meet the immediate needs of the agencies.”
More details here.

Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers

Pima County has three free 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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