Thursday, October 7, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Oct 7, 2021 at 4:06 PM

Chris Zúniga/Creative Commons

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday against mask requirements for K-12 schools in Pima County.

Supervisor Matt Heinz presented the proposal for masks in schools in response to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Pima County.

Pima County recently co-authored a study with the CDC that found K-12 schools without mask requirements in Pima and Maricopa counties were 3.5 times more likely to have a COVID outbreak than schools with mask mandates.

“In light of the information that literally came from this county and Maricopa County in Arizona and the CDC,” Heinz said, “I think it makes a lot of sense for us to take a look at this again.”

Heinz reiterated his view that masks protect students and teachers from COVID and that data supported his opinion.

Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's chief medical officer, was asked to discuss the potential mandate with all 12 school district superintendents in Pima County. He presented their feedback during the board's regular meeting.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Posted By on Sun, Aug 15, 2021 at 11:24 AM

The Arizona Education Association and a coalition of education organizations and supporters filed a lawsuit against the state over the constitutionality of the ban on K-12 mask mandates on Thursday.

The Arizona Education Association, the largest professional association for public school employees in Arizona, argues the provisions included in the K-12 budget bill, prohibiting school districts from requiring masks and the COVID-19 vaccine for students and staff are unconstitutional, as they are unrelated to the budget.

According to the lawsuit filed by AEA, the law violates the single subject and title requirements for legislation and equal protection grounds as set forth in the Arizona Constitution,

“Governor Ducey and the GOP legislative leadership are putting our children in harm’s way and our communities at risk,” says AEA President Joe Thomas. “Their actions are reckless and abusive. By tying the hands of our local school board leaders, lawmakers are preventing them from making decisions to keep our students safe.”

Several school districts across Arizona, including Tucson Unified School District, opted to require masks in schools in opposition to the Governor. As of Tuesday, TUSD Board member Adelita Grijalva said the district had yet to receive a letter from the Governor’s office, but expected it to arrive after the legislation technically comes into effect on Sept. 29, 90 days after the session adjourns.

“We know the majority of parents and our educators support our school leaders doing everything they can to keep our students and staff safe and healthy,” says Thomas. “We’re seeing more and more school districts taking steps to protect their students and communities. But they shouldn’t have to break the law to implement common sense protections for our students. We urge lawmakers to listen to their constituents and make the right decision to ensure our classrooms and campuses are safe so we can keep our students learning in our classrooms.”

Ducey spokesman C.J. Karamargin said, “We're confident the legislation we signed is completely constitutional.”

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Aug 4, 2021 at 1:09 PM

The Tucson Unified School District board voted 4-0 at an emergency meeting Wednesday morning to require everyone to wear a mask on TUSD property.

Before school begins Thursday, the board decided to mandate masks on all TUSD campuses, motivated by the outbreaks in the Vail School District and with the growing number of pediatric cases.

Vail School District began school on July 19 and officials have reported 25 COVID-19 cases from students and staff as of July 25. On Monday, the district reported 57 student cases and 12 staff cases as of Aug. 1. TUSD is almost four times the size of  Vail.

Last week, Dr. Theresa Cullen, director of Pima County's Health Department, said the county received reports of 56 cases since July 19 and eight outbreaks at schools.

For weeks, health experts warned of the expected outbreaks and high transmission in schools, especially with the inability of school districts to implement masking, because state law passed in June prohibits districts from mandating masks.

Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist with the UA Zuckerman School of Public Health, who has been tracking the virus since March of 2020, alerted the public to the impending outbreaks in his weekly forecast.

”Unlike the summer of 2020 when we were headed into school re-opening with generally declining rates, the match has been lit and the kindling is aflame this time,” wrote Gerald in an email. “For good measure, we are going to throw on some wet wood (children) in the coming weeks to ensure a robust bonfire for the Labor Day Marshmallow Roast. In the absence of greater vaccination or mask mandates, it is difficult to be optimistic about what might happen when schools are running at full capacity.”

The warning came along with the exponential rise in COVID-19 cases and the prevalence of the Delta variant, which is highly transmissible. Arizona has a high rate of transmission at 175 cases per 100,000 individuals for the seven day rolling average, while Pima County has about half that rate.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Posted By on Sat, Jul 10, 2021 at 11:01 AM

Congressman Raúl Grijalva called for an investigation into a facility housing migrant children in Fort Bliss, Texas after whistleblowers filed a federal complaint alleging rampant abuse and neglect.

The complaint notes that the Children housed in one of the Biden administration's largest shelters for unaccompanied migrant minors were being watched over by contractors with no Spanish-language skills or experience in child care who usually stood idly at the edge of crowded tents.

It also details lack of medical care, clothing, and regular showers for children in their care and highlights the lack of childcare experience of those working in the facility.

“These allegations are horrific and have no place in our asylum system. Children do not belong in detention, and I’ve long advocated for the closure of these types of facilities,” Grijalva said. “The Biden Administration must pursue community-based alternatives to detention that put the welfare of children first. We need an independent investigation to determine exactly what’s going on and end these inhumane practices one and for all.”

Other immigration advocates have also called for the Biden administration to end the use of emergency intake shelters like Fort Bliss and to use only facilities that operate under state licensing requirements for children, especially as the number of unaccompanied migrant children in the care of Health and Human Services has declined from over 20,000 to fewer than 15,000.

So far, HHS, which has closed some emergency intake facilities, has not announced plans to close Fort Bliss.

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Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Jul 6, 2021 at 1:01 PM

click to enlarge JEFF GARDNER
Jeff Gardner

It’s no surprise to hear last year’s monsoon was wimpy — only 0.03 inches of rain away from being the driest Tucson monsoon ever recorded, according to the National Weather Service. And while rising heat is relatively predictable, climate change seems to have a less linear impact on rainfall, with monsoons ranging from weak to powerful over the past decade. Luckily, this year’s monsoon is off to a much better start than last year.

We’re less than a week into July 2021, and Tucson has already seen more rain than in the entire month of July 2020. The National Weather Service reports that we've already seen half an inch of rain in the first few days of July, beating the 0.46 inches of rain seen throughout all of July 2020, as measured at the Tucson airport.

The contrast is even stronger when comparing Junes. This June saw 0.17 inches of rain, compared to none last year.

Since 2008, the National Weather Service has defined the monsoon as rainfall between June 15 and Sept. 30. Prior to 2008, the monsoon start date was determined when the average daily dewpoint was 54 degrees or greater for three consecutive days.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jul 2, 2021 at 2:08 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY WHITE HOUSE
Courtesy White House
Normal 0 false false false EN-US X-NONE X-NONE

Arizona voters support the Biden administration’s American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan, according to a new survey released this week.

The American Jobs Plan, a proposal to invest $2.2 trillion in various infrastructure programs (including repairing roads and bridges, replacing lead water pipes and improving the electrical grid), had the support of six out of 10 voters, according the survey by polling firm ALG Research. That includes strong support from 44% and opposition from 35%.

Meanwhile, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan, which would provide tax credits to cover the cost of health insurance, pay for child care for kids 3-4 years old and provide two years of free community college courses, had the support of 55% of voters, while 42% oppose the proposal.

Specific elements of the two proposals enjoyed even higher support, such as improvements to roads and bridges (86% support), expanding job training programs so high-school graduates can enter the workforce without needing a college degree (83%), replacing aging lead pipes (81%), improving high-speed internet in rural communities (80%), expanding free childcare (65%) and expanding the use of clean energy (65%).

The survey also suggested Arizonans support raising taxes on Arizona’s higher earners, with 60% supporting raising taxes on Americans earning more than $400,000 to help pay for the programs. In general, 58% of those surveyed said that corporations and wealthy Americans don’t pay enough in taxes—an interesting finding, given that this week, Gov. Doug Ducey signed a state budget dramatically reducing taxes for Arizona’s top earners and shifting the state’s tax burden to the middle class.

Those surveyed balked at proposals to pay for the package with higher gas taxes, with 72% opposing such a hike or indexing the gas tax to inflation. An even higher number, 84%, oppose a new tax on the number of miles driven, while 69% oppose higher fees on toll roads.

Half of those surveyed said they’d rather see Democrats pass the proposal with higher taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans with only Democratic support, while just 24% said they’d rather see Congress pass a bipartisan plan that included higher user fees for low-income and middle-class Americans.

While Biden and Senate leaders say they have reached a compromise on a bipartisan infrastructure proposal, Republican leaders say they won't support other Biden administration proposals that Democratic leaders say they will try to pass via the reconciliation process to prevent a GOP filibuster in the Senate.

The poll surveyed 801 likely 2022 Arizona voters via telephone and text-to-web from June 2-8. The margin of error was +/- 3.5%.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jun 11, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Monday, April 19, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Apr 19, 2021 at 7:48 AM

click to enlarge Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ have a lot of fine print for the county to agree to before FEMA and the county can set up vaccination clinics for low-income and minority residents. - ARIZONA GOVERNOR'S OFFICE FILE PHOTO
Arizona Governor's Office file photo
Gov. Doug Ducey and Arizona Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ have a lot of fine print for the county to agree to before FEMA and the county can set up vaccination clinics for low-income and minority residents.

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.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Apr 8, 2021 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge TIM EVANSTON
Tim Evanston

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.

Friday, April 2, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Apr 2, 2021 at 6:46 AM

click to enlarge BLACK SALMON/BIGSTOCK
Black Salmon/Bigstock

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.