WASHINGTON – Fully vaccinated non-essential travelers will be allowed to cross the U.S. border from Mexico starting in November, ending nearly 20 months of pandemic restrictions that were choking businesses in border communities.
No specific date was given for when the restrictions will be lifted, but the long-awaited announcement was welcomed by area officials, who have been repeatedly disappointed in their hopes that nonessential travel would be allowed to resume.
“It’s a great start and we’re really elated to be able to have friends, be able to return back to visit us here in business, and throughout the state of Arizona,” Douglas Mayor Donald C. Huish said Wednesday.
He was particularly pleased that the new rule would take effect in time for people to cross the border for holiday shopping and visiting.
The new rule, announced Tuesday by the Department of Homeland Security, will allow nonessential travelers to cross at land borders from Mexico and Canada if they have proof of vaccination, reversing a ban on nonessential travel from those countries that began in March 2020.
Essential travelers, like commercial truckers, health care workers and others, have been allowed to cross the border during the pandemic. But they will also need to produce proof of vaccination beginning in January if they wish to continue crossing, under the new policy.
WASHINGTON – Arizona projects got $110 million last year and will get another $159 million in the fiscal year that started this month, or more than 9% of all funding nationally under the Great American Outdoors Act for those two years.
The money, dedicated largely to national parks but also to federal lands and tribal schools, has been welcomed by tourism and environmental groups, who said it is long overdue.
“The National Park Service has been underfunded over the years,” said Kevin Dahl, senior program manager for Arizona in the National Parks Conservation Association’s Southwest region.
“These are our jewels, and with visitation and with normal wear and tear, there’s a lot of buildings, a lot of roads, trails, etc. and those all need regular maintenance,” he said. “When you don’t maintain them over time, the backlog of maintenance becomes pretty high.”
For national parks, the backlog of deferred maintenance totaled $11.9 billion in 2018, according to data from the National Park Service. More than $507.4 million of that was for projects in Arizona, with $313.8 million needed in the Grand Canyon National Park alone.
Joe Galli, senior adviser in public policy at the Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce, said the funding is critical to not just the park, but the region.
“It’s very good for improving facilities and maintenance, and enhancing the visitors’ experience, those things are critical to the lifeblood of visitation in Arizona which is a critical component of our economy,” he said.
TEMPE – It all started over a bowl of “medicinal menudo,” a term political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz coined as part of a running joke.
Several years ago, during a convention at Harvard University, social scientist Gilberto Lopez took Alcaraz to a spot that served the Mexican beef tripe soup. Thankful for the meal – and the dish’s reputed abilities to alleviate hangovers – Alcaraz told Lopez, “I owe you my life.”
The menudo forged a bond between Lopez and Alcaraz, who has consulted on popular TV shows and films and was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 and 2021. During the pandemic, Lopez invited Alcaraz to collaborate on a Hispanic-focused education campaign about COVID-19 prevention and vaccinations.
Lopez, an assistant professor at Arizona State University’s School of Transborder Studies, launched the COVID Latino project with the goal of using art and social media to disseminate information – and counter misinformation – about COVID-19 throughout the Southwest.
The effort brings together experts from Arizona and California’s Central Valley, home to many Hispanic farmworkers, and provides culturally relevant campaigns by way of the internet and social media.
The project so far has included animated public service announcements in Spanish and neighborhood murals to better connect with the hard-hit Latino population.
Lopez said the project stemmed from his frustration over the type of information being circulated in rural, Hispanic communities – “very technical, very jargony information.” Through the collaboration with artists, Lopez said, the resulting pieces are easier to share online and will help make the topic more digestible.
“Humans are storytellers,” Lopez said, “and we’re telling stories in a way people understand.”