Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY CVS
Courtesy CVS

Eight CVS pharmacies throughout Arizona are set to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines starting Thursday, however, CVS is not yet announcing which locations. Company officials say this is to avoid “stores from being overwhelmed by those who may seek a vaccination without making an appointment," but they have confirmed vaccinations will be offered in Pima, Maricopa, Mohave, Pinal and Yuma counties. Rather than selecting a specific store, patients choose their city.

Patients must register in advance at CVS.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app. People without online access can contact CVS Customer Service: (800) 746-7287. Walk-in vaccinations without an appointment will not be provided. Per the state of Arizona, eligible individuals for the Federal Retail Pharmacy Program are people age 65 and over, health care workers, protective services, teachers and childcare providers.

As more supply becomes available, the company will expand vaccine access through an increasing number of store locations and in more Arizona counties.

Click here register in advance for a vaccine at a CVS location.

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 7:05 AM

click to enlarge Hikers on the Mesquite trail at Piestewa Peak on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. The park has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. - JAMES PAIDOUSSIS/ CRONKITE NEWS
James Paidoussis/ Cronkite News
Hikers on the Mesquite trail at Piestewa Peak on Wednesday, February 3, 2021. The park has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

PHOENIX – Nearly a year of isolation and widespread closures has harmed the mental and physical health of many Americans. But Arizona state parks saw record visitation over parts of 2020 – a positive sign to experts urging people to get moving and get outside as COVID-19 continues to spread.

Doctors have long touted the benefits of physical activity for overall well-being, but studies have determined that simply being outdoors also can have benefits.

Research shows that spending time outdoors can reduce stress and help alleviate anxiety and depression. One 2019 report found the stress hormone cortisol dropped significantly by spending just 21 to 30 minutes in nature, even in urban areas. A 2015 study found a 90-minute walk in nature could decrease activity in the part of the brain associated with depression.

Sandy Slater, an associate professor at Concordia University in Wisconsin, has long researched the connection between parks and green spaces and public health.

Last year, Slater co-authored a report exploring the health effects of shelter-in-place orders and closures of schools, recreational facilities and parks.

“When you have access to parks and green space, it just gives you a place to be able to maintain physical activity,” Slater said. “You also have that added benefit of there being that positive association between improved mental outcomes and being in those spaces.”



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 12:21 PM

After hearing the distressing story of a mother desperate to conceive children only to find out the artificial insemination treatments she received were sourced from the very doctor she entrusted to provide her sperm from an anonymous donor, Arizona Sen. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) decided to use her position of power to help other victims.

When Kristen Finlayson took an Ancestry DNA kit in 2019, her mother, Debra Guilmette, discovered that Dr. James Blute III, who provided her fertility treatments in the ’80s, used his own sperm to inseminate her instead of using sperm from an anonymous Hispanic donor as she requested.

Finlayson went 34 years believing she was of Hispanic descent, only to find out the DNA test results showed she had no Hispanic DNA and was primarily Irish. The Ancestry site shows that Finlayson has 12 half-siblings, including children of the doctor who delivered her.

click to enlarge Kristen Finlayson as a child, with her brother Aaron Salgado. Both discovered as adults that their mother's fertility doctor was also their father. - COURTESY DEBRA GUILMETTE
Courtesy Debra Guilmette
Kristen Finlayson as a child, with her brother Aaron Salgado. Both discovered as adults that their mother's fertility doctor was also their father.

Finlayson’s DNA tests revealed that Blute is her biological father.

Steele saw the story, first reported by Lupita Murillo of KVOA News 4 Tucson, and drafted a bill that would make fertility fraud a criminal offense in Arizona as it is in California, Indiana and Texas.

Steele introduced the bill before the 2021 state legislative session began, but her bill was never assigned to a committee.

“I requested a meeting with [Senate President Karen Fann], I said I'd like to see her because I want to ask her to please reconsider, and please assign this to a committee so it can get a hearing,” Steele said. “I think that she may be thinking that this is a controversial bill, but I think that actually, I put a bill up here that everybody can get behind, and we could have a real bipartisan bill . . . I assumed that in a few days, it would be assigned to a committee because she would look at it, and in her heart of hearts, she would get that this really does make sense.”

On Jan. 20, Steele found out a bill criminalizing fertility fraud did make it to a committee to be voted on, but it was not hers.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, had introduced a similar bill that would make fertility fraud a criminal offense. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 20.

“I was floored. I knew [Barto] would like it, but I didn't know she'd like it that much,” Steele said. “It's not against the rules, and so she has every right to take my bill and put it in and take credit for it. It doesn't matter, as long as the bill gets passed. But it does matter because that kind of highly unethical behavior makes it really difficult to have bipartisanship, and it's really difficult to get good bills to pass.”

Barto said she never knew about Steele’s bill, but that she was contacted by a constituent who had a story of fertility fraud and felt moved to draft legislation to criminalize the act.

Barto’s bill, SB 1237, proposed making “human reproductive material fraud” a class 6 felony while providing victims liquidated damages of $10,000.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 9:08 AM

With 1,884 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 810,000 as of Tuesday, Feb. 23, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 151 new cases today, has seen 108,630 of the state’s 810,658 confirmed cases.

With 148 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,650 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,180 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 23 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,515 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 22. That’s less than a third of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,072 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 22 with COVID symptoms, less than half of 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, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.

A total of 447 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 22, 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, 2020. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22, 2020.

How to get a vaccine

While supplies are limited, Pima County is providing vaccination shots to people 65 and older as well as educators, first responders and healthcare workers. Those who qualify in Pima County’s 1B priority group of eligible vaccine recipients can register for a vaccine at www.pima.gov/covid19vaccineregistration or by calling 520-222-0119.

A state-run vaccination site opening at the University of Arizona began appointments last week. The new site follows the state’s current vaccine eligibility, which includes those 65 and older, educators, childcare workers and protective service workers.

The POD is expanding its hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m seven days a week.

As the state-run POD, or point of distribution, registrations will go through ADHS’s website. Online registration will be available at podvaccine.azdhs.gov, and those who need assistance can call 1-844-542-8201. More details here.

New COVID cases, hospitalizations continue decline

For the fifth straight week, COVID-19 conditions improved across the state.

The week ending Feb. 14 saw a 35% decrease in total COVID-19 cases across the state from the week prior, according to Dr. Joe Gerald, a University of Arizona professor who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on Arizona Department of Health Services data.

In Pima County, cases declined 31% from the week before, Gerald said in the report.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge Lupe and Saul Solis, who were recently inoculated, relax in their Chandler home on Feb. 17. Seniors make up more than half of the people in the state who have received at least the first vaccine dose. - KIERSTEN MOSS/CRONKITE NEWS
Kiersten Moss/Cronkite News
Lupe and Saul Solis, who were recently inoculated, relax in their Chandler home on Feb. 17. Seniors make up more than half of the people in the state who have received at least the first vaccine dose.

Lupe Solis’ prayers were answered when she received her second dose of COVID-19 vaccine recently at the State Farm Stadium mass vaccination site in Glendale. Now the 77-year-old is being cautious and patient, waiting to worship in person again at St. Timothy Catholic Church in Mesa.

“Prayer takes up a big part of our life,” Solis said. “We cannot participate in church activities. I will not feel safe now.”

Some churches have resumed in-person worship in Arizona, but Solis, who lives in Chandler, is still playing it safe after receiving both doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Like so many of the nearly 1.3 million Arizonans 65 or older, Solis has adjusted to the safety precautions that have upended life since the onset of the pandemic. With COVID-19 ravaging Arizona’s senior community, many long to return to normal activities but remain apprehensive.

As of Friday, more than 11,500 Arizonans 65 or older have died from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, with a majority of those deaths in Maricopa County, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Now, in accordance with phase 1B of vaccine rollout, the state has been doing what it can to get vaccinations to the older population as quickly as possible. Seniors make up more than half of the 1,027,816 people in the state who have received at least the first dose.



Monday, February 22, 2021

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 3:00 PM

For the fifth straight week, COVID-19 conditions improved across the state.

The week ending Feb. 14 saw a 35% decrease in total COVID-19 cases across the state from the week prior, according to Dr. Joe Gerald, a University of Arizona professor who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on Arizona Department of Health Services data.

In Pima County, cases declined 31% from the week before, Gerald said in the report.

The past four weeks have seen 5,308 COVID-19 cases the week beginning Jan. 17, 3,782 cases the week of Jan. 24, 2,473 cases the week of Jan. 31 and 1,586 cases from Feb. 7 to Feb. 13, according to the most-recent Pima County data.

Hospitalizations have also decreased in these four weeks, with 283 reported the week of Jan. 17, 242 the week of Jan. 24, 140 the week of Jan. 31 and 99 the week of Feb. 7.

In the same four-week timeframe, the county reported 173, 101, 64 and 23 coronavirus deaths respectively.

click to enlarge The last four weeks in Pima County have seen 5,308 COVID-19 cases Jan. 17-23, 3,782 cases Jan. 24-30, 2,473 cases Jan. 31-Feb. 6 and 1,586 cases Feb. 7- 13. - PIMA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
Pima County Health Department
The last four weeks in Pima County have seen 5,308 COVID-19 cases Jan. 17-23, 3,782 cases Jan. 24-30, 2,473 cases Jan. 31-Feb. 6 and 1,586 cases Feb. 7- 13.

Gerald’s report says the week ending Jan. 17 remains Arizona’s deadliest at 1,011 coronavirus deaths across the state.

COVID-19 cases continue to remain above the threshold of 100 new weekly cases per 100,000 residents, which signifies elevated risk. Gerald said the week of Feb. 14 saw 158 new cases per 100,000 of the population.

As of Monday, Arizona holds the 17th highest rate for transmission in the country, according to CDC data. Gerald says the state is the sixth hardest hit in terms of identified cases.

Arizona saw a 28% decrease in general ward hospital bed usage among COVID-19 patients during the week of Feb. 19, while the number of coronavirus patients occupying ICU beds dropped 26% from the previous week, according to Gerald’s data.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 2:21 PM

click to enlarge “I ask everyone to be patient. The state system for registration is working well, the POD is working well. Everybody's pulling together, but we simply don't have enough supply right now. We will in the coming days to weeks,” University President Robert C. Robbins said at a Feb. 22 press conference. “But until then, and even after then, even into the fall, as we try to get through this semester, remember: Keep your face covered, clean your hands frequently, stay away from as many people as possible.” - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
University of Arizona
“I ask everyone to be patient. The state system for registration is working well, the POD is working well. Everybody's pulling together, but we simply don't have enough supply right now. We will in the coming days to weeks,” University President Robert C. Robbins said at a Feb. 22 press conference. “But until then, and even after then, even into the fall, as we try to get through this semester, remember: Keep your face covered, clean your hands frequently, stay away from as many people as possible.”

The University of Arizona moved to phase two of its reentry plan Monday with its nearly 8,000 students now able to attend in-person classes of 50 or fewer.

From Feb. 12-21, UA administered 15,047 COVID-19 tests and found 20 positive cases for a positivity rating of 0.1%, down from last week’s percent positivity of 0.3%.

The university’s goal is to keep this number below 5%, which they’ve maintained for several weeks.

“National and state and even Pima County data continues to look better. We are reassured that all of the programs that we have put in place to continue to operate our university have been working well because of the data that we have seen,” said Dr. Richard Carmona, UA's reentry task force director and former U.S. surgeon general. “But with that in mind, we still cannot be complacent. We must still work hard, tirelessly to maintain the privilege to keep our university open, to educate our students and be part of a bigger community.”

Dorm residents or students who attend classes in person are required to take one COVID-19 test a week. To enforce the testing requirement, university students won’t be able to access the school’s Wi-Fi network until they’ve verified they received a COVID-19 test.

The university is loosening some restrictions in dorms and will allow guests in common areas to use recreational amenities such as pianos and game tables, Carmona said.

UA expands hours of operation as a state-run POD

The university began operations as Pima County’s first state-run POD, or point of distribution, on Feb. 18.

Carmona announced on Monday the POD will expand its hours of operation from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m seven days a week.

“Nationwide, the number of cases in the last couple of weeks is down by 40%. The number of deaths down by 30%. But over the weekend, we as a nation reached a very bad milestone: 500,000 people have died from this disease,” University President Robert C. Robbins said. “This is still a deadly virus. So the fastest way we can get a hold of this pandemic is to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”

Posted By on Mon, Feb 22, 2021 at 9:36 AM

With 1,507 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 809,000 as of Monday, Feb. 22, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 138 new cases today, has seen 108,479 of the state’s 809,474 confirmed cases.

As the national death toll topped a half-million people, a total of 15,502 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,149 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 22 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,590 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 21. That’s less than a third of the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.

A total of 1,117 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 21 with COVID symptoms, less than half of 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, 2020; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28, 2020.



Friday, February 19, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2021 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo

PHOENIX – A House committee has passed a Republican-sponsored bill that would allow Arizona business owners to decide whether to enforce mask mandates for employees and customers, a move supporters say promotes freedom and critics call a threat to health and safety.

“It’s a simple bill – it restores the freedom and the liberties back to the individual, and the individuals that own a business, to make their own decisions,” said newly elected Rep. Joseph Chaplik of Scottsdale, a sponsor of House Bill 2770.

The House Commerce Committee on Tuesday voted 6-4 along party lines in favor of the bill, which runs counter to many city and county government requirements to wear a mask to combat the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Gov. Doug Ducey has not issued a statewide mask requirement but last year allowed local governments to establish such rules.

Chaplik, who spoke while wearing a face shield, referred to emails of support he has received.

Posted By on Fri, Feb 19, 2021 at 8:41 AM

With 1,918 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 804,116 as of Friday, Feb. 19, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 211 new cases today, has seen 107,793 of the state’s 802,198 confirmed cases.

With 145 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,421 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,144 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 19 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,738 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 18. That’s fewer than half the number hospitalized at the peak of the winter surge, which reached 5,082 on Jan. 11. The summer peak was 3,517, which was set on July 13, 2020. The subsequent lowest number of hospitalized COVID patients was 468, set on Sept. 27, 2020.