Friday, August 21, 2020

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, Aug. 21: Total Cases Close in on 197K; Ducey Says Arizonans Should ‘Stay the Course’ as Cases Decline; Grants available for Tucsonans affected by COVID-19; County Test Sites Open

Posted By on Fri, Aug 21, 2020 at 9:34 AM

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The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 197,000 as of Friday, Aug 21, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 20,173 of the state’s 196,899 confirmed cases.

With four new deaths reported today, a total of 4,688 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, according to the Aug. 21 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 20, 1,068 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 982 people visited ERs on Aug. 20 with COVID symptoms. That number, which peaked at 2,008 on July 7, has been on a plateau for most of this month, bouncing between 1,100 and 900 since Aug. 8.

A total of 365 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Aug. 20, the lowest that number has been since May 25, when 337 people were in ICU. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

Ducey: "Stay the Course"

In a brief press conference yesterday that did not include Ducey’s usual PowerPoint presentation regarding statistics, Gov. Doug Ducey thanks the Trump administration, local authorities and the National Guard for their work during the pandemic.

Ducey said the state was making progress in the fight against the virus and Arizonans should continue taking precautions such as avoiding large gatherings, staying home when possible, washing hands and wearing a mask.

“We’re going to continue to be guided by the data and the doctors,” Ducey said. “Returning our kids to the classroom, reuniting with our loved ones, all of these depend on continued responsible behavior you have demonstrated so well for so long. So I urge everyone to stay the course, stay physical distanced, stay smart and healthy and continue to mask up.”

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.

Rent assistance for biz closed by Ducey's Executive Order

Gov. Doug Ducey's administration and the Local First Arizona Foundation will accept applications for a new grant program that aims to provide $10 million in financial assistance to small businesses across the state.

The Arizona Small Business Rent and Mortgage Relief Grant program will focus on helping local businesses that had to close their operations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The governor’s office is partnering with the foundation in order to facilitate the disbursements.

“The partnership leverages the grantmaking experience and small business expertise of Local First Arizona Foundation, which has already distributed over $2 million in grant funds to small businesses across the state of Arizona, to continue their work of putting small businesses on a path for recovery,” said Local First Communications Manager Maria Lopez in a press release.

The grants will provide up to two months of rent or mortgage payments for small businesses headquartered in Arizona that were directly impacted by the governor’s Executive Order 2020-43, which shuttered gyms, fitness centers, bars, nightclubs, indoor movie theatres, water parks and tubing operators in response to the spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

Qualifying businesses can receive up to $25,000, and the money will be prioritized for businesses that are struggling the most to meet their financial obligations and do not have access to other financial support, the release states.

In order to be eligible for this grant program, businesses must have been operating in Arizona prior to Jan. 1, 2020; must be directly impacted by the executive order; must be renting or leasing a physical location outside the owner’s personal residence and must be employing fewer than 50 workers.

Each business owner can only apply for one grant. In order to apply, owners are encouraged to provide rent or mortgage statements for June through October, income source information, attestation of cash on hand and/or attestation of good standing with the Arizona Department of Revenue.

The grant program will give preference to businesses that are the primary or sole source of income for its owners.

Interested individuals can fill out an application at localfirstaz.com/azsmallbizrent.

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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