Pima County officials were scheduled to meet with Arizona Department of Health Services and FEMA to discuss contract terms of Pima County's federal POD today, according to an April 16 memo from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry.
“What the contract does is basically delegate all authority to Pima County, so Pima County would be responsible for the operations, the set up, the tear down of that and give them the authority to work directly with FEMA,” said ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ in a briefing Friday.
In the April 13 memo, Huckelberry said they are in the process of reviewing the requirements for the community vaccination center (CVC), but that “some terms and conditions appear to be particularly draconian.”
Under the agreement released by the county on April 13, the state makes clear “neither the State nor any agency thereof, shall have any responsibilities, obligations, or liability pertaining to any CVC to be developed, organized, and operated in Pima County.” The state also requires the county to provide FEMA with a plan for a registration system (which the county will be solely responsible for creating) before opening the federal POD for vaccine registrations and “that system shall not utilize any similar system created or utilized by the State.”
Christ said the state does not have the resources as they open two new sites in Arizona—the Westworld location in Scottsdale and the Northern Arizona University site—to allow the county to utilize their vaccination system.
“The onboarding and the deployment of that for a State POD site is a significant workload on the department,” said Christ. She also noted the onboarding and maintenance concerns were listed in their March 26 letter to FEMA, where the state announced they would allow the federal POD in Pima County, if their requirements were met.
The contract, like the March 26 letter, placed sole responsibility on Pima County for staffing, resources, and funding and indicated the county could not ask the State for help.
WASHINGTON – A federal appeals court Monday backed the asylum claim of an undocumented immigrant in Phoenix who said her feminist political beliefs would put her in danger if she was returned to Mexico.
A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the abuse that woman suffered at the hands of her mother, her ex-husband and her former partner was not solely the result of dysfunctional relationships. It also stemmed from her “feminist political opinion.”
“Indeed, some of the worst acts of violence came ‘immediately after’ Petitioner asserted her rights as a woman,” said the opinion by Circuit Judge Susan Graber.
“Petitioner does not claim that she was persecuted for being a feminist merely because she, a woman, was mistreated by men,” Graber wrote. “Rather, she claims that she was persecuted when those men mistreated her because she expressly asserted to them her political opinion that she was their equal.”
The ruling reverses a Board of Immigration Appeals decision that said “dysfunctional relationships” were not sufficient cause to grant asylum. The circuit court sent the case back to the board with directions to grant asylum to the woman or to defer her deportation.
Assistance League of Tucson, a volunteer organization whose mission is “Volunteers working in the Tucson community to help those in need,” faced some grim moments at the outset of the pandemic last year.
The nonprofit saw a dramatic drop in the number of volunteers who are vital to the organization’s operations.
But the organization reacted quickly to the changing conditions brought about by the pandemic.
“We're coming up on our 61st anniversary of helping people, those in need here in Tucson,” said Kim Sterling, Assistance League of Tucson president. “You look ahead and you go, did we do well during the pandemic? Are we going to survive another 60 years and still be here to help out?”
At the start of the pandemic, Sterling said they closed down their thrift shop, which provides about 60 percent of their revenue, with donations and grants providing the rest.
As soon as they closed they began to look at their expenses. In 1959, their founders built up a reserve fund totaling one year’s operating expenses, which they didn’t want to dip into since they could not see the end of the pandemic and worried about the possibility of another disaster, Sterling said.
“We did three things, but we had one goal in mind, keep serving those most in need in the Tucson community,” said Sterling. “So we pivoted our program, we cut costs, and we created new revenue streams.”
Sterling said all five of their programs continued with $190,000 in cuts with the proviso that if revenue increased, funding would return to the programs. They looked to maintain the number of people they served, but reduce the amount provided. Their Starting Over Supplies program required a shift in the way the program operated.
Through the program, the organization works with social workers to provide basic housekeeping supplies and other provisions tailored to individuals who may be experiencing homelessness for the first time or coming out of foster care, said Sterling. So when social service agencies shut down and they could not deliver a kit because they were no longer meeting in person, Sterling said they panicked.
Aug. 14 is now National Navajo Code Talkers Day in Arizona after Gov. Doug Ducey signed legislation on Monday creating the holiday. The holiday honors the courage and critical role Native American Code Talkers played during WWII.
“The Navajo Code Talkers are American heroes,” Ducey said. “They assisted on every major operation involving the U.S. Marines in the Pacific theatre, using their native language to come up with an unbreakable code. More than 400 Code Talkers answered the call to serve our nation, and Arizona is grateful for their dedication to protecting our nation.”
Under Senate Bill 1802, if National Navajo Code Talkers Day falls on a day other than Sunday, the Sunday after Aug. 14 is to be observed as the holiday.
The Navajo code is famously known as the only oral military code that has never been broken. Throughout WWII, the US government recruited and enlisted more than 400 Navajo men to serve in standard communications units. The Navajo Code Talkers were particularly critical in the war's Pacific Theater with one Marine Major stating: "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima."
WASHINGTON – Arizona continues to be one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to funding higher education, still reeling from deep budget cuts that were made during the recession, according to a new national report.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities studied state funds from the time of the Great Recession in 2008 until 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
When adjusted for inflation, Arizona spending per student in the state decreased by 54.3%, the largest drop in all 50 states. Louisiana was in second place, with an inflation-adjusted drop of 37.7% in state support.
Arizona also had the second-highest percentage increase in tuition during the period, with its 78% hike trailing only Louisiana’s 96.8%. But Arizona’s increase was the largest in terms of actual dollars, rising $5,224 over 11 years to an average of $11,921 for in-state Arizona students across all public four-year colleges and universities.
David Lujan, director of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, called the state’s budget priorities skewed.
“Arizona actually provides more funding each year to our state Department of Corrections to incarcerate people than we provide to all three of our state universities combined,” Lujan said in a conference call to release the report.
WASHINGTON – Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S. but two recent reports say Arizona needs to do more to help people break free from using tobacco products.
“We certainly need a lot more resources here in Arizona to help people quit smoking,” said JoAnna Strother, senior director of advocacy for the American Lung Association, one of two organizations, along with Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, to grade the state’s actions.
The American Lung Association’s annual “State of Tobacco Control” report for 2021 gave Arizona a failing grade in three of five policies it looks at – the state’s tobacco taxes, its limits on flavored tobacco products and its funding for tobacco prevention and cessation programs.
The state got a D for access to tobacco cessation programs and an A for its restrictions on smoking in public spaces.
Arizona was not alone in its troubling grades. A third or more of states got an F for their tobacco taxes, access to prevention programs and limits on flavored tobacco products, while Arizona was one of 23 states with an A for public-smoking restrictions.
The state did relatively well in the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids report, which ranked Arizona 15th overall for the amount of money it is spending from the 1998 tobacco settlement on anti-tobacco programs.
Tucson City Councilman Paul Durham, who was first elected in 2017, is resigning from the job.
Durham's last day in office will be March 1.
Durham had previously taken a leave of absence from the council job in September to focus on caring for his husband, Philippe, who has been suffering from cancer, but he had returned to the job.
Mayor Regina Romero thanked Durham for his service on the council.
"Paul has been a dedicated advocate for the residents of Ward 3 and has truly exemplified what it means to be a public servant," Romero said in a prepared statement. "I am grateful for his leadership on issues ranging from climate action to affordable housing and will miss his voice on the council. I know this must have been an incredibly difficult decision to make, and I ask our community to join me in thanking him for his service to Tucsonans and respecting his privacy at this time."
The City Council will appoint someone to fill Durham's seat through the remainder of the year.
A primary election for the Ward 3 seat was already set for August 2021, with the general election to follow in November.
Despite last week's announcement that COVID-19 cases had decreased and that some elective surgeries would resume, Arizona’s largest hospital system is still treating a record number of coronavirus patients.
Banner Health’s Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Marjorie Bessel estimated that 45% to 50% of the COVID-19 patients in the state—369,281 as of Wednesday—are being treated by Banner.
“We are currently caring for more COVID-19 patients in our Arizona hospitals and ICUs than we were during the peak of the summer surge,” Bessel said. “Patient care in our hospitals has not yet returned to a state that I would define as usual and customary, and I would caution you against celebrating too early as we slowly work our way out of this difficult surge.”
A grim outlook
Reported COVID-19 deaths continue to rise, and Banner is using thousands of out-of-state healthcare workers while upskilling others to help in its ICUs, Bessel said.
The hospital’s forecasting predicts it will take two to three more months for Arizona to fully recover from the winter surge in cases with many more weeks of high numbers of hospitalizations.
Bessel said Banner hospitals frequently monitor the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation tool to grasp likely consequences of COVID-19 in the future.
Estimates predict Arizona will reach 18,500 deaths by May if it continues its current mitigation policies against the virus. If the state eases current mitigations, the death total could reach 22,200 by May, Bessel shared.
Bessel said while vaccines are a long-term strategy to combat coronavirus, “Mitigation and enforcement will be much more effective in reducing COVID-19 deaths in the upcoming weeks and months.”
Banner’s surpasses 100,000 COVID vaccinations
On Tuesday, Banner reached the milestone of 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines at its PODs across the state.
With 5,918 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 738,000 as of Wednesday, Jan 27, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Pima County, which reported 709 new cases today, has seen 98,743 of the state’s 738,561 confirmed cases.
A total of 12,643 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,680 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 26 report.
The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks after peaking at 5,082 on Jan. 11 but remains above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 26, 4,250 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. The summer peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients was set on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27.
A total of 1,992 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 26 with COVID symptoms, down 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; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.
A total of 1,024 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 26, 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. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.
Cases in slight decline but still at higher levels than summer wave
While the spread of COVID-19 is still considered substantial across the state, it appears numbers have slightly decreased within the last few weeks.
According to the latest report by Dr. Joe Gerald, a University of Arizona professor who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on Arizona Department of Health Services data, the week ending Jan. 17 shows a 21% decrease in coronavirus cases from the week prior.
Both hospitalizations and ICU bed occupancy decreased 8% across the state.
In Pima County, the COVID-19 case count for the same week dropped 19% from the week before, the report says.
However, the welcome changes must be looked at relative to the concerning status the state continues to hold in terms of record-setting COVID-19 statistics.
“This week saw a large, unexpected decline in COVID-19 cases. This decline is unlikely to be an artifact of testing as test positivity continues to decline along with hospital and ICU occupancy,” Gerald wrote in the report. “While this reprieve is a welcomed change, the [coronavirus] continues to rampage through Arizona and remains at an appallingly high level.”