Monday, December 7, 2020
With more than 1,500 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 366,000 as of Monday, Dec. 7, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 726 new cases today, has seen 45,892 of the state’s 365,843,101 confirmed cases.
A total of 6,950 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 730 deaths in Pima County, according to the Dec. 7 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide continues to soar upward as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly, putting stress on Arizona’s hospitals. ADHS reported that as of Dec. 6, 3,059 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since July 21. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13; it hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.
A total of 1,485 people visited emergency rooms on Dec. 6 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.
A total of 736 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Dec. 6, the highest that number has been since July 29. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13 and hit a subsequent low of 114 on Sept. 22.
Judy Rich, president and CEO of Tucson Medical Center, warned the Tucson City Council last week that local hospitals are near or at capacity.
“I believe stricter measures, like the ones we used earlier this year, are the only path to avert the impending crisis,” Rich told the council. “I recognize that the City might not have the legal authority to mandate such actions, but it should be the position of the City to advocate to state leadership that it is required to prevent unnecessary loss of life and illness.”
Pima County has seen a dramatic rise in cases in recent weeks. For the week ending Nov. 7, 2,119 cases were reported; for the week ending Nov. 14, 2,578 cases were reported; and for the week ending Nov. 21, 3,313 cases were reported, according to an Dec. 4 report from the Pima County Health Department. (Numbers in this report are subject to revision.)
COVID-related deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 but are on the rise. There were six in the week ending Oct. 24; 10 in the week ending Oct. 31 and five in the week ending Nov. 7.
Hospitalization admission peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but those numbers have been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Nov. 7, 90 people were admitted; in the week ending Nov. 14, 127 people were admitted; and in the week ending Nov. 21, 139 people were admitted.
Pima County Board of Supervisors enacts new restrictions
The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved six measures to combat the spread of coronavirus at an emergency special meeting Friday, Dec. 4.
The board approved the following motions:
• A revised mask mandate with a civil penalty for noncompliance; businesses now required to mandate masks for all customers.
• Upon their second violation of noncompliance to safety protocols, businesses will be reprimanded by means of having their license revoked or operations suspended.
• Event organizers planning gatherings of more than 50 persons are required to give the county a minimum $1,000 deposit per each event (with the deposit rising depending on the number of people expected in attendance). The money will be returned if there is sufficient compliance to safety protocol.
• The county’s voluntary curfew will remain in place as it examines Tucson’s curfew enforcement.
• A revised public health advisory with recommendations for the public to avoid contracting COVID-19.
• A motion to review Pima County’s vaccination strategy draft
The decisions come as within the first three days of December, Pima County saw 2,023 COVID-19 infections, surpassing the county’s total infection count for March, April and May combined, according to a memorandum from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
Hospitals are facing record numbers of COVID-19 patients and on Dec. 3, only one ICU bed was available to the public, the memo says.
On all the motions except approving a vaccination strategy, the board voted 3-2 with GOP Supervisors Ally Miller and Steve Christy opposing. Only Miller opposed the vote to review the vaccination strategy.
Mask wearing to be enforced
The board previously adopted a mask mandate in June with no penalties for noncompliance. Now, those who refuse to wear masks in public areas will be subject to a civil penalty of $50 per infraction. These penalties will be enforced by law enforcement agencies, but it has yet to be determined the manner in which they will do so.
Businesses are also now required to mandate masks for all those who enter their premises. Before, the county’s resolution said businesses “may refuse” those not wearing masks, but now, they must.
Stricter enforcement for businesses who defy guidelines
Businesses that are reported as not following the imposed safety guidelines will face a civil infraction that carries a penalty of $500 and may lose their license or operating permits upon their second reported offense.
Before, businesses reported disobeying protocol were publicly posted on the county’s website, which became known as “the wall of shame,” according to Huckelberry. This wall of shame will no longer exist, but rather businesses will be subject to enforceable penalties for noncompliance.
Events with more than 50 attendees will have to pay deposit
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Dec. 2 for local jurisdictions to announce public gatherings of more than 50 people and to post details of the event’s COVID-19 mitigation strategies on the jurisdiction’s website.
In addition to following these guidelines, the county supervisors approved a motion to require a $1,000 deposit (with the deposit increasing depending on the number of people attending) for event coordinators. If the event organizers sufficiently meet coronavirus mitigation requirements, the funds will be refunded to them. If not, the funds are forfeited to the county.
Events of more than 50 attendees will also be subject to onsite investigations to determine their compliance.
The voluntary curfew ensues..for now
The board approved a measure to continue Pima County’s voluntary curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. However, they will look closely at the enforcement techniques Tucson uses in its mandatory curfew that goes into effect tonight to determine if the county’s curfew should be mandated.
With Pima County expected to receive vaccines by the end of December, according to Public Health Director Thersa Cullen, the board approved a motion to review a strategy to distribute vaccines.
According to Huckelberry, the first population eligible for the vaccine includes a group of more than 67,000 healthcare workers. Residents of long-term care facilities and school personnel will also be prioritized.
Curfew in City of Tucson continues
A curfew in the city of Tucson from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. continues through Dec. 23.
On Nov. 23, the Pima County Health Department announced a voluntary overnight curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. every day until Dec. 31—but it’s not enforceable.
As part of the amended curfew agreement among the city’s council members, if Pima County changes their voluntary curfew time, Tucson’s curfew time will follow suit.
The proposed curfew would prohibit everyone from being in public places with the following exceptions:
Emergency response personnel
Traveling to and from work
Attending religious services
Caring for a family member
Seeking medical care
Fleeing dangerous circumstances
Traveling to perform or receive essential functions
City Attorney Mike Rankin specified traveling to essential businesses such as grocery, home goods and hardware stores is allowed. Travel to restaurants for consumption off-premises is also allowed by means of take out, delivery, curbside and drive-thru food orders.
“The curfew does not order the closure of any business at any particular time, instead, what it does is it regulates when people can be in public places, which includes traveling on the public streets,” Rankin said at last week’s council’s meeting. “It does not, as presented, prevent people from traveling to or from any essential activity or essential functions, even during the curfew hours.”
Offenders of the curfew will be subject to a civil infraction that holds a fine of up to $300.
AZ Legislature shuts down for a week following Guiliani’s COVID diagnosis
Following news that Rudy Guiliani had tested positive for coronavirus, leaders in the Arizona Legislature decided to shut down the Capitol for a week.
An unmasked Guiliani, who is representing President Donald Trump, had appeared with several unmasked at an unofficial meeting at a hotel ballroom to discuss various conspiracy theories regarding Arizona’s election.
The Arizona Capitol Times reported:
In a Sunday afternoon email sent to all senators and staff and obtained by the Arizona Capitol Times, Senate Chief of staff Wendy Baldo wrote that the Senate will be closed all week “due to COVID-19 concerns and out of an abundance of caution.” At least three interim committee meetings had already been scheduled this week and were expected to proceed in a hybrid format with Republicans and staff in a hearing room and Democrats attending by video; those meetings must be rescheduled remotely according to Baldo’s email.
A House GOP spokesman said the House would follow suit.
Get tested: Pima County opening new sites alongside existing spots for free COVID testing
Pima County offers a number of testing centers around town.
You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way) the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway).
The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.
In addition, the Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at three Pima Community College locations. At the drive-thru sites, COVID-19 testing will be offered through spit samples instead of nasal canal swabs. Each site will conduct testing from 9 a.m. to noon, and registration is required in advance. Only patients 5 years or older can be tested.
Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.
The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill. To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.
—with additional reporting from Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen