As Arizona health officials scramble to speed up rollout of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine, the deadly virus is still spreading rapidly. Nearly 12,000 Arizonans have died, and we are seeing more than 9,000 new infections daily. The outbreak in Arizona is the worst in the nation, with one in every 147 residents being infected as of 1/21/2021. The clock is ticking and the time for action is now.
Even under the best circumstances, it will take a year or more for a vaccine to be fully effective. In the meantime, we can save lives with aggressive public health measures. No arena is more important than Arizona workplaces, a dangerous source of COVID hotspots which then spread to our neighborhoods and communities.
We need enforceable emergency workplace standards and worker safety committees to monitor and implement worksite COVID protection plans. Workplaces can play a significant role in turning the economy around to create a safe environment for everyone. Unfortunately, many workplaces remain unsafe, endangering frontline workers and the public they serve.
Our government offices have been impacted by this disease: A top county health official, unemployment staffers and county employees have contracted COVID-19 in their workplaces. Healthcare workers and their support staff are stretched thin and exhausted, grocery, retail and postal workers are exposed to risk of infection on a daily basis. All of us rely on these workers, who don’t have the option to stay at home, and we all need to be involved in demanding that employers and the government do more to keep them safe.
If we want to flatten the curve of new virus cases, employers must take every step possible to implement safety controls to reduce contact with the public and co-workers. Companies like Amazon, with a deplorable record of putting workers in unsafe environments, must involve workers in safety plans, instead of fighting worker efforts to have a voice in the workplace. Every job can be protected, if management develops a plan with input from workers, who know their own jobs and can come up with solutions to reduce exposure.
Innovative approaches to reducing contact between workers and the public include remote working whenever possible, barriers for cashiers, staggering service hours, and reducing the number of shoppers to allow for social distancing. In-person work requires detailed planning and implementation of COVID protection programs. These controls have been adopted in some workplaces, frequently only because workers took the initiative to protest unsafe conditions.
Gov. Ducey recently chose to protect himself from the risk of infection by delivering his state of the state address from inside his own office, instead of in front of the legislature. But instead of protecting frontline workers who can’t work in isolation, his backwards response has focused on protecting business at the expense of worker and community health. This will not preserve jobs and actually makes it more difficult to rebound to a healthy business climate.
Fourteen states and local communities around the country have enacted new protections to assist both workers and employers in implementing COVID protection programs. The Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health [ADOSH] has the legal authority to enforce compliance if there is a new standard. We can’t wait any longer to take positive steps to make workplaces safe for everyone. Workers have been the engine driving our efforts to control the virus and deserve to be protected. Protecting them helps protect our communities.
Mr. Valencia is chair of Tucson Jobs with Justice. Mr. Dooley, a certified industrial hygienist (CIH), is safety and health senior project coordinator for the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). Shannon Foley is with IATSE Local Union 415
Arizona COSH is a new worker safety advocacy organization to promote safe jobs for all workers in Arizona. Visit nationalcosh.org for more information or contact email@example.com
Tucson's Environmental and General Services Department is bringing back their monthly household hazardous waste collection events for the first time since COVID hit, providing an opportunity for residents to drop off their hazardous waste, electronic waste and paper documents for shredding at no charge.
The first event will be held this Saturday, Jan. 9, at the Eastside Service Center at 7575 E. Speedway Blvd. from 8 a.m. to noon.
The events will continue every second Saturday throughout the year at various locations around town:
Acceptable waste: automotive fluids, engine oil filters, rechargeable batteries, lithium batteries, cleaning products, drain openers, cooking oil, fluorescent lamps and bulbs, wet paint products, solvents, hobby chemicals, pesticides, lawn products, pool chemicals, propane cylinders, computer equipment, printer cartridges, and other items labeled as acid, flammable, caustic, poison, caution, toxic or danger.
The City asks you NOT to bring: business or commercial waste, commercial gas cylinders, explosives, ammunition, infectious or radioactive waste, dried paint, alkaline batteries, televisions, or medical waste such as syringes or old medications.
WASHINGTON – Arizona has 304,180 infants and toddlers who need child care but only 234,270 slots to accommodate them, with poor and rural families most likely to be left out, a recent study said.
Arizona child care advocates said they were not surprised by the numbers in the Bipartisan Policy Center study, which they said has inspired them to push harder for accessible care.
“Some people can afford to put their children in high-quality care and their children will get that and we don’t have to worry about those kids, fortunately,” said Marilee Dal Pra, CEO of First Things First, a Phoenix-based children’s advocacy group.
“Unfortunately, in a state like Arizona that has such a high poverty level, especially for the zero to 5 (year old) population, these families don’t have those resources,” Dal Pra said.
The October report by the Bipartisan Policy Center’s early childhood initiative looked at 25 states – an initial plan to get data from all 50 states was derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic – to analyze gaps in child care across the country.
While Arizona fell short, its nearly 70,000-slot deficit was not the worst in the nation. Arizona fell about in the middle of the 25 states, both in terms of whole numbers and percentage shortfall.
North Carolina had just under 200,000 slots for the more than 459,000 children in need of care there, according to the report, which said California had about 1 million slots to accommodate demand from about 1.7 million children. Only Texas had a supply of child care slots that slightly exceeded its need, according to the report.
The Pima County Department of Environmental Quality hand-delivered an abatement order to a northwest-side apartment complex owner for causing a public health nuisance to the complex’s tenants by shutting off the water supply.
The county ordered GR Partners Casas Adobes to restore potable water service within 24 hours of receiving the notice or PDEQ will do it for them and send the property owner the bill.
Residents of the 204-unit Casas Adobes Apartment Homes, located at 6200 N. Oracle Road, have been without running water and “unable to bathe, flush toilets or maintain hand hygiene since” Saturday, Dec. 26, according to the order.
The FBI’s Phoenix field office is warning buyers of common scams during the holiday shopping season.
In 2019, 7,795 Arizona consumers claimed a total loss of more than $47 million, according to a press release from the FBI.
The three main scams the FBI warns shoppers of include online shopping, gift card and charity scams.
Some online stores offer reduced brand-name merchandise that is compromised or doesn’t exist. Scammers often use phishing tactics in emails and advertisements, which involve fraudulent links or attachments that if clicked on, can reveal personal information.
The same thing can happen when clicking on fake social media posts that appear to be vouchers or gift cards but rather reveal personal information, according to the release.
Shoppers should also be wary of buying gift cards from outside sources requesting their purchase.
“In these scams, the victims receive either a spoofed email, a spoofed phone call, or a spoofed text from a person in authority requesting the victim purchase multiple gift cards for either personal or business reasons,” the FBI release said. “The gift cards are then used to facilitate the purchase of goods and services which may or may not be legitimate.”
They also caution against websites that only take payment through gift cards or wire transfers, which can give scammers access to “receive illicit funds.”
PHOENIX – Even as courses throughout Arizona stayed open, COVID-19 robbed local golfers of some of the smaller delights of a day at the links.
For example, pulling the flagstick is a sign that a player is about to accomplish the challenging feat of completing a hole. However, many courses have placed a circular piece of foam in the cup to discourage this satisfying tradition to help limit exposure to the coronavirus.
The foam barriers placed in golf holes are one of many changes Arizona courses had to make to keep players and staff safe amid the pandemic.
When the virus forced lockdowns in March, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey kept golf courses open by declaring them as essential businesses. As part of his executive order, clubs had to close many indoor areas and facilities, but the courses themselves remained open for business.
For the most part, courses in the state did more than just stay open. Many saw their businesses thrive and even expand in some cases. Several courses have reported an increase in the number of rounds played since the onset of the virus earlier this year.
Golf is big business in the state. According to a 2016 study from the University of Arizona, golf contributes $3.9 billion to the state’s economy every year. And that number has likely increased, said Bob Sykora, the general manager of Mesa Country Club.
“We were already trending to grow in golf,” he said. “We are in a position to grow. We were in a position where we were looking to have accelerated growth in golf. … While the pandemic didn’t hurt us necessarily, we were already on that trajectory.”
According to the UA report, golf tourism, in which people come from out of state to either play or watch golf, is responsible for $1.1 billion of that nearly $3.9 billion output. In a year where people are traveling less and less, courses have had to rely on the business of locals for much of this year.
PHOENIX – Attorney Ehsan Zaffar is leading an initiative to establish a civil rights center at Arizona State University to target inequality in the U.S. To do so, Zaffar envisions a range of products, services and programs – perhaps including Yelp-like reviews of how Arizona companies address social justice issues.
“Inequality is the greatest social, political, economic problem facing this country today,” said Zaffar, a civil rights and civil liberties official with the Department of Homeland Security who will join ASU in January. “I think our country is headed back to a time when institutions were powerless to fix the problems in the country. There’s a lack of trust.”
He hopes the center’s work will help strengthen institutions by encouraging them to be more responsive to the public and to produce more factual information about social justice issues.
Zaffar said his work at the center, which will include fundraising, also could examine how news and social media cover certain communities in ways that affect lawmakers, analyze emergency response times in communities of color and explore the gender pay gap in U.S. companies.
The financial hit is estimated to be at least $2.9 billion nationwide, according to a study from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University.
In addition to providing standard health services, these clinics have been on the front lines of COVID-19 testing efforts in underserved urban and rural communities.
In Arizona, 23 community health centers operate 176 sites throughout the state. Tara McCollum of the Arizona Alliance for Community Health Centers said most centers in Arizona experienced drops of 35% to 80% for in-person patient visits.
“Even the sliding fee scale wasn’t enough to bring people in,” she said, referring to discounts offered to uninsured patients. With the sliding scale, the less money a patient earns, the lower the cost.
Such discounts are made possible with financial assistance from the Community Health Center Fund, a federal program created through the Affordable Care Act of 2010. Congress renewed funding for the program last year at $5.6 billion, but that money is set to expire later this year.
With the ACA now under review by the U.S. Supreme Court, advocates worry the health center fund could be wiped out if the court decides to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Starting Feb. 21, 2021, here is what will be accepted in the blue barrel program: