Saturday, February 27, 2021

Posted By on Sat, Feb 27, 2021 at 9:21 AM

click to enlarge Justice of the Peace Adam Watters told police he fired a "warning shot" at a man he believed had been harassing him by dumping trash in his front yard. - PIMA COUNTY JUSTICE COURT
Pima County Justice Court
Justice of the Peace Adam Watters told police he fired a "warning shot" at a man he believed had been harassing him by dumping trash in his front yard.

In a quaint, affluent neighborhood near the Catalina Foothills, weeks of harassment against a Pima County judge culminated in the justice of the peace firing his handgun as a warning shot to the perpetrator, who was once a plaintiff in his courtroom.

Judge Adam Watters, the justice of the peace for Precinct 1, fired a bullet at the ground to scare off a landlord, Fei Qin, 38, who was part of an eviction case he presided over in January.

The judge claims for weeks, the man dumped trash on Watters’ property and slashed his truck tires on two separate occasions.

In an incident report from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Watters, 59, told officers he went to leave for work on the morning of Feb. 5 to find the tires of Ford F-150 sliced open and deflated.

Watters’ wife, Jill Watters, told police she heard her dogs barking the night before and went to investigate, but found nothing. The next morning, she learned all four of her husband’s tires had been slashed while a bag of trash was left sitting on the roadway near the truck.

“She advised in her neighborhood, there was not so much as a grocery bag blowing around, so it looked to be out of place,” the police report said.

Judge Watters, who did not respond to multiple requests for an interview for this story, hoped the tire vandalism would be a one-time incident—perhaps someone he put in jail or an individual who was unhappy with a judgment and sought retribution.

But as the days went by, the Watters family continued to find trash littering their property.

The morning of Feb. 11, Watters told police his wife came inside the house visibly upset and said: “They’ve done it again.”

All four of Watters’ truck tires had been slashed a second time. He said another bag of trash was left in place of the one left behind in the first vandalism.

The report said in one of the trash dumps on Feb. 13, police found a letter addressed to Shayna Serrato, a tenant of Qin’s he attempted to evict in a case Watters presided over.

Watters arranged a periodic check-in with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Police would drive by to check on the residence due to the ongoing littering and vandalism reports. The judge told police he’d seen deputies driving by in the early morning hours, as the stress of the situation kept him from sleeping.

Neighbors had documented a grey Subaru station wagon driving past the house. Esther Underwood, head of the neighborhood watch, told police she once saw a man exit the vehicle and slowly walk up to the residence and return to his car again.

While Underwood was able to take photos of the car and its license plate, the driver’s face had yet to be captured.

According to the incident report, on Feb. 14, Watters’ set out on a mission to capture a photo of the litterer’s face. The man would usually make his drive-bys around noon.

The morning of Valentine’s Day, Watters went out to breakfast with his wife and bought her flowers. He then set up a green lawn chair in the desert surrounding his residence and armed himself with a handgun.

His daughters, Caitlin and Cassandra, also set up chairs by the family’s guest house and waited for the man to arrive. The women were armed with a shotgun.

Watters told police Caitlin brought the shotgun to the house for her mother, who was often home alone. At the time, Caitlin Watters worked at the Pima County Attorney’s Office, although she has since resigned.

The judge said, at first, they didn’t expect to observe another trash dumping drive-by in their makeshift stake out—the man usually did them on weekdays. Then, Watters recounts hearing one of his daughters make the chilling statement: “He’s here.”

Friday, February 26, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 1:30 PM

click to enlarge Tanayia White drives two and a half hours to Tucson once per month so that her daughter, Tashoney Kniffin (center), can practice soccer with a competitive team of her age and skill level. - CHRISTIAN QUEZADA/SPECIAL FOR CRONKITE NEWS
Christian Quezada/Special for Cronkite News
Tanayia White drives two and a half hours to Tucson once per month so that her daughter, Tashoney Kniffin (center), can practice soccer with a competitive team of her age and skill level.

PHOENIX – Krystle Mann, a stay-at-home mother to three sons, makes and sells cornbread and jam to pay for new baseball gear and help cover club fees – approximately $1,500 per year.

Her older son, Sam, 12, plays for the AZ Diamond Dawgs in Queen Creek, while her middle son, Tommy, 11, plays for both the Paladin Knights and AZ Storm in San Tan Valley. Both boys have played baseball for about seven years, making the transition from Little League to club baseball recently.

Club sports are run by private associations that, unlike school-sponsored sports programs, charge high fees to participants who are hoping to enhance their individual or team skills.

“I think this has been the best thing for the boys mentally, physically and emotionally,” Mann said.

Some families say club sports are worth the high costs for the confidence, friendships and athletic skills their children gain, but not all can afford the fees.

A study by the Open Access Journal of Sport Medicine reports that 75% of U.S. families with school-aged children have at least one playing an organized sport, or about 45 million kids.

But there is a clear economic divide between higher- and lower-income families in youth sports.



Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge The Community Cares program matches seniors and volunteers for weekly check-ins and social interactions. Southern Arizona Senior Pride offers services and programs to the LGBTQ community in Tucson. - KAY SMITH/SOAZ SENIOR PRIDE
Kay Smith/SoAZ Senior Pride
The Community Cares program matches seniors and volunteers for weekly check-ins and social interactions. Southern Arizona Senior Pride offers services and programs to the LGBTQ community in Tucson.

PHOENIX – Reminders to stay connected and reach out to loved ones have been constant during the pandemic. However, as shutdowns and quarantines continued, the safety precautions worsened a long-term issue for LGBTQ seniors – loneliness.

It’s a feeling Lavina Tomer, executive director of Southern Arizona Senior Pride in Tucson, knows all too well.

“In terms of isolation and loneliness – that’s something that we’ve all lived with, with varying degrees at certain times,” she said.

Tomer was just 23 in the 1970s when she came out as a lesbian to her Lebanese-American family of six on the East Coast. The reaction from her religious family was mixed. Although a few were supportive, others were upset and chose to ignore her sexuality.

At church, coming out was traumatic and difficult for Tomer.

“It caused such a big issue that people began to treat me differently,” she recalled. “The minister was not willing to support me. So I chose to leave the church because I felt people were not ready to welcome me in my authenticity.”



Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 8:32 AM

With 1,621 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases reached 814,528 as of Friday, Feb. 26, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 185 new cases today, has 109,137 of the state’s cases.

With 83 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,897 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,212 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 26 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,354 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 25. That’s less than a third of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,190 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 25 with COVID symptoms, a big drop from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had peaked during the summer wave at 2,008 on July 7, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 419 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 25, down from a peak of 1,183 set on Jan. 11. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

How to get a vaccine

While supplies are limited, Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site opening at the University of Arizona began appointments last week. The new site follows the state’s current vaccine eligibility, which includes those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers.

The POD is expanding its hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m seven days a week.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations will go through ADHS’s website. Online registration will be available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Eight CVS pharmacies throughout Arizona are set to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines starting today, but CVS is not yet announcing which locations. Company officials say this is to avoid “stores from being overwhelmed by those who may seek a vaccination without making an appointment," but they have confirmed vaccinations will be offered in Pima, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal and Yuma counties. Rather than selecting a specific store, patients choose their city.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided. Per the state of Arizona, eligible individuals for the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are people age 65 and over, health care workers, protective services, teachers and childcare providers.

As more supply becomes available, the company will expand vaccine access through an increasing number of store locations and in more Arizona counties.

Click here to register in advance for a vaccine at a CVS location.

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

After the state agreed to provide additional funding to keep testing centers open through at least March 2, Pima County is continuing to offer 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 these or other pop-up sites 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

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge MEGAN JANETSKY
Megan Janetsky

WASHINGTON – The House voted Thursday to expand civil rights protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity and pregnancy, a move supporters said will grant those groups “the full equality under the law they deserve.”

But critics of the Equality Act blasted it as a measure that will trample on religious freedom and individual rights, and ultimately backfire on the people it aims to protect.

The 224-206 vote fell mostly on party lines, with just three Republicans joining all Democrats to support the bill. Many Republicans were like Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Gilbert, who derided the bill as the “inequality act.”

“While it attacks religious freedom, freedom of expression, and freedom of association, all-important rights recognized in the first amendment, it doesn’t stop there,” Biggs said during a Freedom Caucus news conference before the vote. “It also denies the biological facts that men and women are the two genders.”

But Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Phoenix, said the bill is needed because in too many places in the U.S. “discrimination is still permitted under the law.”

“Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law, no matter who they are, who they love, or how they express themselves,” Stanton said during debate on the House floor.



Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 2:33 PM

click to enlarge BYTEMARKS, CREATIVE COMMONS
Bytemarks, Creative Commons

This past year the pandemic has subjected our economy to massive, unprecedented challenges in nearly every sector. We’ve heard from countless constituents who struggled after losing their jobs due to the pandemic and the associated government restrictions on businesses. Hundreds of thousands of hard-working Arizonans have been affected, and nearly one-half million people have applied for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Unemployment assistance benefits exist for this singular reason: to provide a temporary safety net to bridge the gap and meet the needs of Arizona’s working families who find themselves without a source of income. We fully believe it is the duty of state legislators to help hard-working Arizonans across the state as they manage the impacts of this crisis.

Arizona’s unemployment insurance benefit is currently limited to $240 – the second-lowest in the nation – providing little help for a family when expenses average $1,120 per week for basic needs like housing, food, and health care. unfortunately, Current unemployment law also punishes people for accepting part-time work by reducing their benefit after earning just $30.

That’s why we introduced bipartisan legislation, HB 2805, to provide much-needed, additional unemployment assistance to Arizonans who have been put in this terrible situation. This legislation raises the weekly unemployment benefit cap to $300, giving the people of Arizona the equivalent of one more assistance payment per month. It also allows people to earn up to $160 per week from part-time hours while looking for a new job without a reduction in their weekly benefit.



Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY REGINA ROMERO
Courtesy Regina Romero
The Weekly is hearing persistent rumors that the Biden administration considering Tucson Mayor Regina Romero for a position as a deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Nathaniel Sigal, a senior policy advisor to Romero, neither denied nor confirmed the rumor when asked about it.

"It would be an honor to even be considered for such an important position," Sigal said in an email. "However, Mayor Romero is focused on the job she was elected by Tucsonans to perform, and is concentrating all of her efforts on navigating Tucson through the pandemic."

Take all the talk with a healthy scoop of salt. Other sources have suggested that Romero's potential appointment is being pushed by local Democratic power brokers who would be happy to see Romero exit her spot atop city government.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 8:44 AM

With 939 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 813,000 as of Thursday, Feb. 25, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 180 new cases today, has seen 108,952 of the state’s 812,907 confirmed cases.

With 121 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,814 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,202 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 25 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,385 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 24. That’s less than a third of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,210 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 24 with COVID symptoms, a big drop from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had peaked during the summer wave at 2,008 on July 7, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 415 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 24, down from a peak of 1,183 set on Jan. 11. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

How to get a vaccine

While supplies are limited, Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site opening at the University of Arizona began appointments last week. The new site follows the state’s current vaccine eligibility, which includes those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers.

The POD is expanding its hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m seven days a week.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations will go through ADHS’s website. Online registration will be available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

Eight CVS pharmacies throughout Arizona are set to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines starting today, but CVS is not yet announcing which locations. Company officials say this is to avoid “stores from being overwhelmed by those who may seek a vaccination without making an appointment," but they have confirmed vaccinations will be offered in Pima, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal and Yuma counties. Rather than selecting a specific store, patients choose their city.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided. Per the state of Arizona, eligible individuals for the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are people age 65 and over, health care workers, protective services, teachers and childcare providers.

As more supply becomes available, the company will expand vaccine access through an increasing number of store locations and in more Arizona counties.

Click here to register in advance for a vaccine at a CVS location.

Local school districts moving toward more on-campus instruction

TUSD remains on track to reopen its schools on Wednesday, March 24, for the first time since it went to remote learning after the March 2020 spring break.

But TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said teachers remained concerned about vaccination appointments and class sizes, among other issues.

“I don't think it's any secret that our teachers are not happy,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “They're very concerned right now about coming back.”

Trujillo said the district would be surveying employees and hoped that many of their concerns would be worked out before students return to campus.

Trujillo also said that the district would extend a Feb. 28 deadline for parents to choose their learning option to March 7 because more than four out of 10 parents have yet to make a choice about whether they want to return to school or remain remote.

So far, 30% of TUSD parents have said they will continue with remote learning, 29% have said they will return to in-school instruction and 41% have yet to make a choice.

“If this trend holds up for the remaining 41%, it looks like we're going to be an even 50/50 split, in terms of a district that has half of its student body studying remotely and half of it studying in some sort of in-person learning opportunity,” Trujillo said.

For elementary schools grades K-5 and three K-8 schools (Drachman, C.E. Rose and McCorkle), there are two options available: either attend full-time on-campus Monday through Friday or remain 100% remote. High schools and middle schools, grades 6-12, also have two options. A parent can choose to have their child stay 100% remote or four half-days of in-person learning, meaning students will be on-campus in the morning and remote learning in the afternoon, with Wednesday as 100% remote learning.

Trujillo said the district also came to an agreement with the Tucson Education Association and the Educational Leadership Institute to allow teachers to simultaneously teach both in-person and remote learning students at elementary schools.

“[This] would eliminate the need for any schedule changing that has been a big concern from parents, from teachers and from principals,” said Trujillo. “This new option is going to require a supermajority of each campus's teaching community, 80%, to be able to have a particular school declared campus-wide simultaneous teaching sites.”

However, high schools and middle schools do not have this option as they are required by the state to show 720 hours of instruction through their bell schedules.

Other school districts are also working toward resuming more on-campus activity as COVID cases in Pima County continue to decline from the winter surge.

Marana Unified School District is planning to move to full five days of in-person instruction as of March 22, while keeping remote learning as an option for families. However, the district is still coordinating with schools and aims to confirm the March 22 return date next week, said Alli Benjamin, Director of Public Relations and Community Engagement for Marana.

The district outlined three approaches to return to a full five days of in-person learning: a phased approach, where pre-K through 6th-grade students would return to instruction first; another phased approach in which pre-K through 8th-grade students would return first to in-person learning; or a third approach with a “full implementation, returning students in pre-K through 12th grade at once.”

The nearby Amphi School District, which now has a hybrid program with students attending two days a week and working remotely three days a week, is still considering when to have students back on campus five days a week.

“A lot of people, of course, given the actions of other school districts across our community, are asking the $64,000 question,” said Superintendent Todd Jaeger at the Amphitheater School District’s board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23. “‘Can that be, for example after spring break, on March 22?’ The truth is, as I sit here right now. I still don't know.”

Jaeger said the Amphi staff is looking into phased-in approaches or a full reopening and will be sending out another survey to families as well as looking for input from staff, including not only teachers, but “our custodians and our groundsman and carpenters and whoever supports the operations of our schools.”

Jaeger noted that returning to full in-person learning depends on the vaccination progress as well and said their district is ahead in the percent of vaccinations.

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

After the state agreed to provide additional funding to keep testing centers open through at least March 2, Pima County is continuing to offer 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 these or other pop-up sites 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, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge MC2 JOSEPH MOON
MC2 Joseph Moon

PHOENIX – Cancer screenings in the U.S. have plunged since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago, prompting health advocates to increase calls for the public to stop postponing these potentially life-saving procedures.

More than one-third of adults have failed to receive recommended cancer screenings during the pandemic, according to “Cancer Won’t Wait and Neither Should You,” a bulletin published by the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Fear of getting COVID-19 at screening centers and job losses that have affected insurance coverage are among the factors driving this dangerous trend.

“The pandemic has really given cancer the advantage, and the balance of risk has shifted significantly,” Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society’s south region, said in an interview with Cronkite News.

“Patients are continuing to wait on those preventative screenings, or even to have symptoms evaluated, because of fear of going to the doctor or the clinic.”

The statistics around these missed tests are stunning.