Monday, March 7, 2022

Posted By and on Mon, Mar 7, 2022 at 3:00 PM

click to enlarge Ricardo Aguirre stands in the same field just a single season after it had been treated with animals. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Ricardo Aguirre stands in the same field just a single season after it had been treated with animals.


RED ROCK – All around Picacho Peak, the Sonoran Desert is brown and dry and rough. The soles of your feet could not tell the desert hardpan from an asphalt road.

About 2,500 feet above the ground, water vapor streaming northeast into Arizona from the Gulf of California condenses into larger and larger droplets until they’re too heavy to remain suspended. When thousands become one, that drop falls toward earth. For two to seven minutes, the drop freefalls, reaching speeds up to 20 mph before it strikes the surface.

The impact is quiet. But for the compacted soil, the rain does not provide necessary moisture, it tears the land apart. The crust on top of the soil keeps the water from penetrating. As the water seeks its level, it rips across the surface in muddy flash floods, further eroding topsoil.

On an 8-acre plot off South Aguirre Lane in unincorporated Red Rock, Ricardo Aguirre is using his family’s old ranch to prove there is a way to stop the flooding and erosion. He can’t make the rain fall, but his mission is to prepare the land to utilize the rain when it comes, “making sure every raindrop is effective the moment it falls on the ground,” said Aguirre, a drainage engineer.

“Which means get it in the ground and make sure that it doesn’t run laterally across.”

Aguirre directs land management and water security for the civil engineering firm WEST Consultants Inc., which specializes in water resource management and has offices in Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington and Texas. The land where his family once farmed cotton and ran cattle is where he now demonstrates methods to restore grasslands, improve soil health and ultimately reverse desertification.

Deserts cover more than 41% of Earth’s landmass, according to the United Nations. But because of human activity, deserts are growing by about 33,000 square miles – the size of Ireland – every year.

Deforestation, destructive agricultural practices and climate change have contributed to the degradation of topsoil and expanding deserts. Yet healthy topsoil is essential to growing food, and according to one U.N. study, if land degradation continues, topsoil could be gone within 60 years.

The symptom of desertification that Aguirre is addressing is excess flooding. He’s looking at alternative land management practices to return water cycles to nature’s designs.

click to enlarge Grant Tims points out an area heavily affected by desertification. The sparse areas of tall grass are caused by rapid evaporation of rainwater after it rolls off unhealthy soil. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Grant Tims points out an area heavily affected by desertification. The sparse areas of tall grass are caused by rapid evaporation of rainwater after it rolls off unhealthy soil.

Going against the grain

Aguirre spent more than a decade of his civil engineering career utilizing modern methods of stormwater management. His textbooks and his degree from University of Illinois taught him to manage water with a pipe, a channel and a hole in the ground. He described his career as “intrinsically connected to the land,” and that connection, along with his agrarian roots, led to much deliberation in the back of his mind. He felt a responsibility to leave the land he worked with better than he found it.

In August 2010, he became a father, and those deliberations moved to the front of his mind.

Aguirre imagined a conversation 15 years in the future in which his son asks whether he took advantage of being in a position to do something about the degrading environment.

“Looking at the designs that I had, that are now constructed, and the impact that they have on the environment,” Aguirre said, “I didn’t like the answers that I was giving … for that conversation with my son.”

Aguirre relegated his textbook knowledge and looked to a different teacher: Mother Nature. He studied how nature configured the water cycle, and how humans used to exist in and be part of the mineral cycles, eating and drinking off the land and returning the nutrients as wild animals do today, before the industrial revolution began in the 1700s.

“So through that discovery, I realized that we are going 180 degrees against the grain,” Aguirre said. “And the harder that we fight nature’s principles, the more degradation that we’re creating.”

In his research, Aguirre discovered holistic land management, which uses controlled grazing techniques to work cooperatively with ecosystem processes. It was pioneered by Allan Savory, founder of the Savory Institute, who grew up in South Africa loving the environment and despising livestock because he believed grazing damaged the land.

As a young biologist in Africa, he worked to set aside land to become national parks. In the 1950s, the protected land he studied in Zimbabwe continued to deteriorate, and he concluded there were too many elephants for the land to sustain. His superiors confirmed his research.

A photo of a field before it was treated for desertification. - PHOTO COURTESY OF | GRANT TIMS
Photo courtesy of | Grant Tims
A photo of a field before it was treated for desertification.

“Over the following years, we shot and killed 40,000 elephants to try to stop the damage,” Savory said in a 2013 TED Talk. “And it got worse, not better.”

He described it as “the saddest, and biggest blunder” of his life.

Savory was determined to find solutions. He traveled to the western U.S., where cattle had been removed from land to demonstrate how that would stop desertification. But he said he found the opposite.

Savory came to understand that the vegetation being lost in these expanding deserts was developed over thousands of years and adapted to large herds of grazing animals migrating across the landscape.

Aguirre is trying to address these same issues in the Southwest, explaining that land degradation has been caused by the lack of migratory animals brought on by urban expansion that reduces and limits animal populations.

When a fence goes up, said Grant Tims, Aguirre’s ranch manager, the land is left idle.

“So in arid climates, it’s the rest that is the problem,” Aguirre said, as Savory witnessed in Africa. “Where most people think it’s overgrazing.”

Aguirre relates “the health of the land to the health of the human body,” comparing land degradation to muscle atrophy in people: A sedentary lifestyle will cause the body to deteriorate.

“You’re not stressing the land with hoof action, you’re not stressing the land with animal impact,” he said. “That stress will actually cause a positive response.”

Aguirre reached out to the Savory Institute after the 2013 TED talk with a new concept of connecting civil engineering and holistic land management. In 2014, he went to Zimbabwe to see Savory’s work for himself.

Aguirre visited a small stream with big implications. The stream in recent decades had been ephemeral, meaning it only runs after rains, but villagers in the area had transformed the stream through holistic land management.

“For me, as a drainage engineer,” Aguirre said, “that just blew my mind that seven out of nine villagers that subscribed to this program were able to restore the watershed function to the degree that the streams were running again, on a perennial level, and reversed 40 years of an ephemeral stream.”

Shortly after, Aguirre became the director of his own Savory Hub in Arizona, which now is called the Drylands Alliance for Addressing Water Needs, where he teaches holistic land management practices. His goal is to transform his desertifying homeland, halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.

“That’s … my personal BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) as a drainage engineer is to get that level of watershed function back into the watersheds of Arizona and the Southwest and beyond,” he said.

Aguirre took the idea of using land management instead of concrete and steel to address water resources to WEST Consultants, which welcomed the idea.

click to enlarge Ricardo Aguirre stands in a wash next to Interstate 10, which desertification and monsoon rains expanded in 2021. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Ricardo Aguirre stands in a wash next to Interstate 10, which desertification and monsoon rains expanded in 2021.

How a watershed works

A watershed is an area of land that “channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, rivers and lakes” according to the National Ocean Service.

“If you look at a leaf,” Aguirre said, “a leaf pattern shows that. Because that’s how nature has figured out how to get nutrients.” Or like the human body, he added, with a system of veins leading to the heart.

Ideally, most rain will seep into the soil, recharging the aquifers and moving through the soil toward a common body of water.

When raindrops fall onto land where watershed function is deteriorating because of desertification, it runs off.

“It begins to make one, two, three, four one-off tributary streams,” Aguirre said. Those ephemeral streams lead to extensive erosion, which destroys roads and bridges as well as topsoil.

“A functioning watershed should really only have one, maybe two tributaries,” he said.

The remedy, Aguirre believes, is to restore vegetation and root systems to the barren soil.

Erinanne Saffell, Arizona’s state climatologist, described the important role of plants in the hydrologic cycle.

click to enlarge Grant Tims holds a handful of healthy soil taken from the project’s small production area. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Grant Tims holds a handful of healthy soil taken from the project’s small production area.

“We want to have what’s called interception,” she said, “which is where the precipitation will hit trees, vegetation of some kind … that allows the water to infiltrate more readily and recharge our aquifers.”

Vegetation acts as “storage locations and transfer mechanisms of water,” Saffel said. “If (raindrops) come down and hit bare soil, that’s actually very disruptive to having water go into the ground and recharge our aquifers.”

Water security concerns continue to loom in Arizona, where heavy monsoon rains in 2021 did little to alleviate long-term drought conditions, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources. Arizona is still experiencing severe drought or worse this year.

Aguirre is preparing the land on his demonstration site to better receive rain to revitalize the grasslands, which are now bare, but under the soil lie seeds hungry for water.

“What we can expect is that there is a seed bank, roughly about 2,000 seeds waiting to be germinated in every square yard,” Aguirre said. “It’s just a matter of assembling the right conditions for that germination.”

click to enlarge Ricardo Aguirre, director of land management for WEST Consultants Inc., digs into desertified soil to demonstrate how hard it is for plant roots to establish themselves. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Ricardo Aguirre, director of land management for WEST Consultants Inc., digs into desertified soil to demonstrate how hard it is for plant roots to establish themselves.

Soil intervention

Like a human body that has spent years resting, failing to get proper nutrition and not drinking enough water, the desert needs help, Aguirre said.

The health services Aguirre and Tims provide are moving sheep, goats and chickens across the demonstration site; their hooves break up the hard soil and their dung and urine fertilize it for weeks at a time.

To accelerate the regeneration process, Aguirre and Tims also use what they call biological soil amendments, made up of bacteria, fungi and other microbes. The increase in this carbon-based matter helps provide nutrients to plants and boost the soil’s ability to absorb and hold water.

When Aguirre returned to the property he grew up on in the summer of 2019, “we started with basically bare soil,” he said. Now, especially after heavy monsoon storms in 2021, there is growing evidence that the land is responding positively to the animals, in some places the evidence is as tall as him.

“The grasses where the animals have been have been beyond waist high, compared to where the animals have not been, are barely coming up to a person’s knees,” Aguirre said.

On a tour last fall of the site, Tims lifted a blue tarp off a compost pile used to brew the biological soil amendments. Unlike the surrounding landscape, the little world under the blue tarp is teeming with life that flies, jumps or scurries away as the tarp is removed.

Aguirre and Tims steep the compost like a tea bag, extracting the abundance of microbial life.

“We take that water and put it in a brewer, and that’s what we’re actually putting into the soil,” Tims said. Using a low impact plow with circular blades, the brew soaks into soil, priming the pump for seed germination.

click to enlarge A goat and chicken graze within a designated section of desertified land. The animals break up the hard dirt with their feet, which allows for new and healthy plants to grow after the animals are moved. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
A goat and chicken graze within a designated section of desertified land. The animals break up the hard dirt with their feet, which allows for new and healthy plants to grow after the animals are moved.

The lungs of the land

Revitalizing grasslands in desertified regions does more than improve watershed function, it allows the soil to breathe in and trap carbon – making it a natural countermeasure to the rising carbon dioxide levels contributing to climate change, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Healthy vegetation sequesters carbon through photosynthesis, pumping it down through its roots and into the soil. The healthier the soil, the deeper the carbon may go.

Pawlock Dass, with the department of land, air and water resources at the University of California, Davis, co-authored a 2018 study that shows grasslands are an even more reliable carbon sink than trees, particularly because of the increasing threat of wildfire.

Dass said healthy forests store more carbon than grasslands, but there’s a catch in California, Arizona and other arid places.

“Forests store a large percentage of their carbon above ground, that is the bulk of the tree biomass, that is a trunk of a tree,” Dass said, and in a wildfire, all that carbon is released into the atmosphere.

Grasslands, however, store most of their carbon below ground as root biomass, he said, where it’s protected from fires and promotes healthy soil that allows grasslands to grow back.

Dass’ study looked specifically at companies investing in planting forests to offset carbon emissions.

“If that carbon gets emitted back into the atmosphere (in a fire), it doesn’t really make much sense,” Dass said. “All the investment is basically lost.”

click to enlarge Soil samples in various stages of study sit next to a microscope in the small in-home laboratory. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Soil samples in various stages of study sit next to a microscope in the small in-home laboratory.

Restoring the cycle

When a raindrop strikes areas of revitalized grass off South Aguirre Lane, it doesn’t tear the land apart. It gets captured by the vegetation and transferred into the soil. The root systems and growing microbial populations absorb and hold the water – promoting more grass growth and more water capture. Eventually, it seeps down to recharge the aquifers.

“We can’t make it rain, but what we can do is we can make the rainfall more effective,” Aguirre said. “We’re offering land management as an alternative to engineering.”

The process starts in the lab, where Aguirre and Tims inspect the bacterial and fungal population of the compost through a microscope. The microbiology helps germinate the seeds in the soil, the grass then is grazed by chickens, sheep and cows that further break up the soil. More water is absorbed, which means more grass, more animals, more life.

The objective is to counteract desertification and its symptoms.

“All of (the problems) come back to this,” Tims said. “Compaction and biology.”

It turns deserted land into a valuable, fertile asset. It restores watershed function, helping with water security concerns, according to Aguirre and Tims.

Don Steuter, with the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter, which has been critical of Allan Savory’s cattle grazing claims in the past, expressed cautious optimism about Aguirre’s undertaking.

click to enlarge Ants scurry about a section of desertified land on WEST Consultants Inc.’s demonstration plot in Red Rock. Ant colonies help break up the compact dirt and aid the regrowth of vegetation by tunneling through the soil. - PHOTO BY | BROCK BLASDELL/CRONKITE NEWS
Photo by | Brock Blasdell/Cronkite News
Ants scurry about a section of desertified land on WEST Consultants Inc.’s demonstration plot in Red Rock. Ant colonies help break up the compact dirt and aid the regrowth of vegetation by tunneling through the soil.

“We’re always interested in projects like this,” Steuter said, although he believes the success of cattle-grazed land is more likely to be a site-specific fix rather than a universal one.

“We’d be tickled to death if cattle could make the land better,” Steuter said. “It would solve a lot of our problems, but we don’t think it’s very likely.”

Still, Steuter said, he’s intrigued with Aguirre’s mission to heal watershed function and is looking forward to seeing the results.

Aguirre and WEST consultants are working on land restoration projects in Cochise County and are seeking state and federal contracts as well.

Aguirre said he’s the only civil engineer he knows of who’s bridging holistic land management with his profession. He hopes not for long.

“The overarching objective that I believe my calling is, is to reinvent my profession of civil engineering,” Aguirre said.

In three years, when his son turns 15, Aguirre can realize that imaginary conversation. If his son asks him if he used his position to improve the degrading environment, Aguirre no longer has to give the answer he never wanted to:

“I didn’t do anything about it.”

This story was originally published in Cronkite News. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Dec 10, 2021 at 11:12 AM

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Yavapai County Community Health Services confirmed Arizona’s first known case of the COVID-19 Omicron variant on Dec. 8.

Although some initial data from the South African Medical Research Council indicates the Omicron variant may have less severe symptoms than previous mutations, health officials advise the public to receive vaccinations or booster shots if they have already gotten vaccinated.

Pfizer-BioNTech released preliminary results from a non-peer-reviewed study showing the Pfizer COVID-19 two-dose vaccination series will somewhat neutralize the omicron variant, but three doses is most effective.

“I think that this finding from Pfizer should be reassuring and should reaffirm to people how important it is for them to get a booster and if they are not vaccinated to please seek vaccination as soon as possible, especially with the holidays coming up,” Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said during a Dec. 8 press conference.

As scientists race to understand Omicron, vaccines are the best option to avoid national shutdowns. Cullen said that people who are vaccinated protect themselves, their families and their communities. 

“While it is not the only way out of this pandemic, it is an essential component for us to be able to move forward and to start recovering,” Cullen said.



Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Posted on Wed, Dec 1, 2021 at 9:27 AM

The Pima County Health Department, in partnership with the City of Tucson, is offering free COVID-19 vaccines at the Tucson Convention Center.

The vaccine clinic is in the TCC east lobby, 260 S. Church Ave. adjacent to the DoubleTree Hotel, and will operate Mondays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free parking is available in the Lot A Garage, which can be accessed from Church Avenue.

All three vaccines are available to adults at all stages - first, second, third doses and boosters. Pfizer shots will also be available for kids age 5 through 18. Vaccinations will be provided on a walk-in basis. 

COVID-19 vaccinations are widely available throughout Pima County. A complete list can be found at pima.gov/covid19vaccine. Vaccinations are also available at pharmacies and health care providers throughout the county. Contact your local provider for more information.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2021 at 6:45 AM

click to enlarge TRAVIS ROBERTSON, CRONKITE NEWS
Travis Robertson, Cronkite News

PHOENIX – As hospitalizations rise and the holidays approach, health officials concerned about a new wave of infections are urging Arizonans to take preventative measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and seasonal influenza.

Maricopa County last week experienced the biggest spike in daily cases since August, peaking at 4,708 on Nov. 8. COVID 19 hospitalizations and ICU cases also are up at the state’s largest hospital systems, placing strain on a workforce already struggling with staff shortages.

“We still have some capacity, but we’re stretched thin,” Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer at Valleywise Health, told a news conference Wednesday. “It’s not just available space to take care of folks, it’s the qualified health care professionals and the team we need to be able to care for patients at the ICU level of care.”

White said there were 40 COVID-positive patients hospitalized on Wednesday, twice the number of three weeks ago.

Banner Health, Arizona’s largest health care system, which treats 44% of all COVID 19 cases in the state, reports a significant increase in COVID 19 admissions in the last week. Banner on Tuesday reported the highest ICU census in the past eight months.

The largest spike in the pandemic so far in Arizona occurred in early January, just after last year’s holiday season.

In the face of this growing concern, White stressed the importance of getting vaccinated, and he advised against relying on recently developed antiviral pills, such as Molnupiravir.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Nov 18, 2021 at 11:06 AM

Pima County is expanding COVID booster eligibility rules to allow anyone over 18 to get the booster.

As Pima County hospitals fill up because of an increase in COVID cases, county officials are expanding eligibility ahead of the CDC’s recommendation.

Banner Health officials announced earlier this week that they have seen a significant increase in COVID ICU admissions and that COVID patients now account for more than a third of all ICU patients in Banner’s Arizona hospitals.

Dr. Joe Gerald, an epidemiologist with the UA Zuckerman School of Public Health who has been tracking COVID cases since the virus first arrived in Arizona, reported that as of Nov 10, 24% of Arizona’s general ward beds were used by COVID-19 patients—a 16% increase from a week before.

COVID hospitalizations align with the increasing trend of rising COVID-19 cases all over Arizona. As of Nov 7, Arizona’s COVID cases increased by 30% from the week prior, according to Gerald’s COVID report. From Nov 1 to Nov 9, Pima County cases increased by 38%, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

Pima County Health Department Director Dr. Theresa Cullen said at a Nov. 17 press conference that 25% of cases reported in October were of vaccinated people. The breakthrough infection rate has risen from 1% to 1.2%, indicating to health officials that vaccines have lower effectiveness over time.

“Vaccination is not sufficient to prevent transmission and clearly vaccination does not last forever, it doesn’t work that way for the flu either,” Pima County Chief Medical Officer and Deputy County Administrator Dr. Francisco Garcia said during the Pima County Board of Supervisors Nov. 16 meeting.

Health officials found that breakthrough cases tend to happen at about six months after full vaccination. As a result, Pima County health officials are urging all Pima County residents to get a booster shot if it’s been six months since their second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two months since their single shot of Johnson & Johnson. 

Monday, November 8, 2021

Posted on Mon, Nov 8, 2021 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge PHOTO BY PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE | VIRGINIA MERCURY/STATES NEWSROOM VIA ARIZONA MIRROR
Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce | Virginia Mercury/States Newsroom via Arizona Mirror

The Pima County Health Department began offering Pfizer COVID-19 pediatric vaccine shots to children ages 5 through 11 at its East, North and Theresa Lee clinics in Tucson on Nov. 5.

Vaccinations are free. No identification is required, but children receiving the vaccine must have the consent of a parent or legal guardian. Masks must be worn inside the clinics.

Appointments are strongly recommended, but vaccinations can be provided on a walk-in basis. Call the clinics to make appointments.

East Clinic, 6920 E. Broadway, 520-724-9650

  • Monday, Thursday: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 8 a.m. to noon
  • Friday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

North Clinic: 3550 N. First Ave., 520-724-2880

  • Monday: 8 a.m.-noon
  • Wednesday, Friday: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.
  • Thursday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Theresa Lee Health Center, 1493 W. Commerce Court, 520-724-7900
Monday, Tuesday: 8 a.m.-7 p.m.

  • Wednesday: 1-5 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

PCHD expects to offer vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds at additional locations, including the Abrams Public Health Center and numerous school sites, starting Monday, Nov. 8. Information on COVID-19 vaccinations for all age groups can be found at pima.gov/covid19vaccine.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Posted on Fri, Nov 5, 2021 at 2:08 PM

The Pima County Health Department is expanding its free distribution of take-home, self-tests for COVID.

After a successful launch that distributed about 1,300 BinaxNOW tests on Oct. 30, the department added three additional Saturday dates to distribute kits from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Abrams Public Health Center, 3950 S. Country Club Road.

The additional dates will be:

  • Nov. 6
  • Nov. 13
  • Nov. 20

Distribution will be limited to one test kit per person; each kit contains two tests. Tests can be given to individuals of any age. Everyone who receives a test kit will be required to fill out a demographic information form.

These tests are not sufficient for international travel or other organizations that require PCR/NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) results.

To find free COVID-19 testing centers from Pima County, go to pima.gov/covid19testing.

For more information on the BinaxNOW self-tests, including how to report results and to watch instructional videos in English and Spanish, visit pima.gov/covid19hometest.

Monday, November 1, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Nov 1, 2021 at 10:40 AM

click to enlarge KITZD66/PIXABAY
KitzD66/Pixabay


COVID Testing Sites 


Pima County is still offering free COVID tests at multiple locations throughout Tucson for anyone with or without symptoms and people of all ages (2 years or older for a PCR test). Tests are not free for people who need to take them for work or if you had a test administered at a Pima County site within the last 14 days:


TEP building, 88 E. Broadway Blvd

Nasal Swab (rapid antigen test), walk-up, or registration


Ellie Towne Center: 1660 W. Ruthrauff Rd

Saliva test (PCR test), appointment required


Liberty Plaza - 315 W. Irvington Road

Nasal Swab (rapid antigen test), walk-up, or appointment


Paradigm 6009 Grant - 6009 E. Grant Rd

Nasal Swab (rapid antigen test), walk-up, or appointment


Tucson International Airport - 7250 S. Tucson Blvd. Nasal Swab (rapid antigen test), appointment only.


Thursday, October 28, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Oct 28, 2021 at 1:16 PM

In Arizona, the climate crisis has become a real and growing threat to our lives and livelihoods. Prolonged drought is creating a ripple effect of uncertainty, massive wildfires are devastating local economies, and heat-related illnesses and deaths are on the rise as triple-digit temperatures skyrocket. This week, U.S. Senator Kyrsten Sinema has a historic chance to change the course of this crisis. The constituents in my Latino-majority district are counting on her support of the Build Back Better Act.

The choice is crystal clear. While Governor Doug Ducey and his Republican-led legislature refuse to acknowledge reality and science, it’s up to Congress and Senator Sinema to adopt a once-in-a-lifetime plan that will create jobs and invest in a clean energy economy that protects Arizona’s air, land, and water for generations to come. Refusing to act harms us all, but it especially hurts Latinos who are disproportionately affected by climate change.

The lack of equitable access to affordable cooling has increased emergency room visits among Latinos, many of whom work outdoors—and we’ve lost hundreds of lives over the last decade due to Arizona’s extreme heat. Dirty air created by fossil-fuel polluters in our state has led to record asthma cases among Latino children. And the Colorado River Basin, responsible for 36% of Arizona’s water supply and now faced with historic water cuts due to drought, encompasses a whopping one-third of the Nation’s entire Latino population.

We can no longer sit idle. Inaction will jeopardize lives and economies, and it will hurt our black, indigenous, and people of color most. If we are truly committed to moving Arizona forward, we cannot keep going down the same path of climate and social justice apathy. It’s why Senator Sinema’s support of the Build Back Better Act is crucial.

When approved, the legislation will dramatically improve lives and economies in Arizona, tackling the extreme weather that endangers our loved ones on a daily basis. It will create 100,000 jobs annually in the state for the next decade and boost household income $3,300 a year.

This matters to our Latino families and businesses because we were hardest hit by COVID-19. With an estimated 25 percent of Latino-owned businesses permanently closed over the course of 2020, our economic recovery as Latinos has been comparatively slow. The continuous impacts of climate change only make matters worse.

Latinos in Arizona are resourceful and resilient. Experience has taught us to persevere, even when faced with systemic injustice and economic inequalities; however, we are simply tired of waiting. We want clean air, safe water, and protection of our precious indigenous lands. We are ready to write a new chapter for our community and our state. Senator Sinema: it’s time to support the Build Back Better act.

Andres Cano, 29, represents Legislative District 3 in the Arizona House of Representatives. He is the top Democrat on the House Committee on Natural Resources, Energy, and Water. He is the Chair of the Arizona Legislative Latino Caucus.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Posted on Wed, Oct 27, 2021 at 3:58 PM

click to enlarge COPYRIGHT: ANYAIVANOVA
Copyright: anyaivanova

The Pima County Health Department will be giving out free, take-home COVID tests.

The kits will be handed out on Saturday, Oct. 30, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Abrams Public Health Center, 3950 S. Country Club Road in the lobby of the Abrams building.

Each box contains two antigen self-tests that deliver results in 15 minutes.

These rapid antigen tests look for COVID-19 antigens, or small pieces of protein, in your respiratory tract. These tests are not sufficient for international travel or other organizations that require PCR/NAAT (nucleic acid amplification test) results.

To find free COVID-19 testing centers from Pima County, go to www.pima.gov/covid19testing.

For more information on the BinaxNOW self-tests, including how to report results and to watch instructional videos in English and Spanish, visit pima.gov/covid19hometest.

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