Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2020 at 7:17 AM

Allie Barton/Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Thanksgiving travel is expected to be down sharply this year because of COVID-19, but as many as 50 million Americans are still expected to travel this week despite pleas from health experts to stay home.

And those people who do travel could run into a bewildering array of restrictions when they reach their destinations, experts say.

“It is important to know the risks involved and ways to keep yourself and others safe,” the AAA said in its annual Thanksgiving travel outlook. “In addition to CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidance, travelers should also be aware of local and state travel restrictions, including testing requirements and quarantine orders.”

The AAA forecast predicts an overall decline of at least 10% in holiday travelers, from 55 million last year to just over 50 million this year.

But that’s still a lot of people and officials are making changes to accommodate safe travel in a time of COVID-19.

“We have encouraged our business partners to establish touchless applications where possible and we encourage travelers to use mobile boarding passes wherever possible,” said Greg Roybal, a spokesman for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

Sky Harbor announced a partnership Monday with XpresSpa Group Inc., a health and wellness company, that has set up a COVID-19 testing facility in a former urgent care clinic in Terminal 4. The six testing rooms should be able to handle more than 400 travelers per day.

Thursday, October 8, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Oct 8, 2020 at 2:00 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY PHOTO
Courtesy photo

As of Monday, Oct. 8, tech company Waymo is publicly offering a self-driving car service in the Phoenix area. Waymo—formerly the Google self-driving car project—is opening up their fully driverless car service on their app, which allows Waymo One users to take friends and family along on their rides.

Waymo has already been facilitating driverless rides throughout 2020 to a select group under an NDA, but are now public with their plans to expand. At this time, only those who are already Waymo One users can hail rides, but in the coming weeks, they plan to add more people into the service through their app (available on Google Play and the App Store).

“It’s really remarkable to have the world’s first fully driverless ride hailing service, Waymo One, in Mesa and the East Valley,” said Mesa mayor John Giles. “As Mesa grows and evolves, this innovative technology is in alignment with our City’s future, and I’m excited that our residents will be among the first to take advantage of this one-of-a-kind service.”

After Waymo finishes adding in-vehicle barriers between the front row and the rear passenger cabin later this year, they'll also be re-introducing rides with a trained vehicle operator, which will add capacity and serve a larger geographical area.

For more information, visit waymo.com

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2020 at 1:00 PM

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Click here to read their biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

When it comes to COVID-19, what happens in Vegas doesn’t stay in Vegas.

Las Vegas casinos reopened June 4, and they have become a likely hotbed for the spread of the novel coronavirus, public health experts said. But if tourists return home and then test positive for COVID-19, the limitations of contact tracing in the midst of a pandemic make it unlikely such an outbreak would be identified.

Contact tracing, one of the pillars of stopping the pandemic, is a labor-intensive process where a health official tracks down anyone who’s been in contact with an infected person and takes steps to prevent the disease’s spread. But there is no national system in place for contact tracing, said Joshua Michaud, an epidemiologist and associate director of global health policy for the Kaiser Family Foundation. It’s decentralized and performed by local health agencies that may not communicate with one another, especially given their caseloads. So, if a casino had a “cluster outbreak” or “superspreading event” among visitors, it’s unlikely contact tracing would catch it, Michaud said.

“The way it’s set up right now, contact tracers are not looking for clusters that might identify outbreaks tied to traveling to a casino or other specific locations,” Michaud said. “You’re not actively looking for it, so you might miss that event. Contact tracing is not set up to answer those questions, so you’ll still be in the dark.”

Monday, August 17, 2020

Posted By on Mon, Aug 17, 2020 at 4:30 PM

ProPublica is a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power. Click here to read their biggest stories as soon as they’re published.

The Trump administration is predicting years of dramatically reduced international demand for U.S. visas, and planning for drastic budget cuts to visa services worldwide as a result, according to an internal memo seen by ProPublica.

The projections made by the U.S. State Department in a memo signed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday contrast with the rosier outlook expressed repeatedly by President Donald Trump. As recently as Aug. 5, Trump predicted that the coronavirus “will go away” and that a vaccine will be available before the end of the year. But internally, the memo shows, the government is planning for the pandemic to drastically reduce international travel to the U.S. through at least 2022.

The memo projects steep reductions, in particular, to non-immigrant visas. Trump has issued restrictions on some categories of non-immigrant visas, citing the economic impacts of the pandemic, but the majority of non-immigrant visas processed by the State Department are temporary visas for business travel and tourism.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Posted By on Wed, Jul 1, 2020 at 3:00 PM

Image courtesy of Shutterstock
PHOENIX – Dust storms in Arizona can blow up suddenly, and the patch of desert between Eloy and Picacho Peak is especially prone to wind-driven dust. Dust drastically reduces visibility for drivers, which is why the Arizona Department of Transportation, ahead of monsoon season, has implemented a new dust detection system to protect drivers on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Tucson.

The roughly $6.5 million technology – the first of its kind in Arizona – uses 13 visibility detectors, a weather radar system, speed sensors and a small weather station, all of which are run through ADOT’s Traffic Operations Center in Phoenix.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jun 25, 2020 at 5:00 PM

TEMPE – Arizonans will face a 14-day quarantine if they travel to New York, New Jersey or Connecticut, whose governors announced the restriction Wednesday to keep people from COVID-19 “hot spots” from bringing the infection with them.

The quarantine, which took effect at midnight Wednesday, applied to nine states with positive virus test rates above 10% or 10 cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period. Arizona has been well beyond that threshold for the past three weeks, as the state has regularly set new records for daily infections.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont jointly announced the quarantine Wednesday on travelers from Arizona, Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas.

Cuomo said the three Northeast states, which were hit hard by COVID-19 early in the pandemic, “worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down” and they want to keep it that way.

“We don’t want to see it go up because a lot of people come into this region and they could literally bring the infection with them,” Cuomo said. “It wouldn’t be malicious or malevolent, but it would still be real.”

Murphy said imposing the quarantine is just “a smart thing to do” to protect their states.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Posted By on Wed, May 27, 2020 at 1:00 PM

click to enlarge London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, AZ - BIGSTOCK
London Bridge, Lake Havasu City, AZ
Memorial Day weekend crowds that one official said were “off the charts” at Arizona vacation spots have health experts worried that tourist behavior could lead to an increase of COVID-19 of cases.

With the state’s stay-at-home orders largely lifted this month, tourists flocked to sites like Lake Havasu, Scottsdale and Lake Pleasant, according to news reports. At Lake Havasu, one official said, “The lake was full, the river was full. Every activity we had, there were people involved in.”

While it was legal, it may not have been wise, according to one health official, who said the “behavior over the holiday weekend will increase transmission of the virus.”

“Whether that translates into a big increase of cases, we don’t know yet,” said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. “But it was definitely the kind of the behavior that increases the spread of the virus.”

Those concerns were echoed by Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane, who said images of crowds in Old Town Scottsdale were “disturbing, and frankly show a real lack of common sense and civic responsibility.”

“It is imperative that all businesses comply with the governor’s executive orders – to ignore them is to risk faster spread of this disease and further damage to our physical and economic wellbeing,” Lane said in a statement Tuesday.

After stay-at-home orders shut down much of the state’s travel and tourism – and other industries – this spring, Gov. Doug Ducey began lifting the restrictions earlier this month.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Posted By on Fri, Apr 3, 2020 at 10:26 AM

Most of us are sheltered in place and social distancing the way we should be. That's great - keep it up. It doesn't help the wanderlust, though, does it?

Especially with how beautiful it's been outside lately, the urge to go and experience it is strong. This is the perfect season to travel and experience the new, which is why Spring Break comes at a perfect time of year - usually.

Unfortunately, with the exception of the occasional outdoor walk in our yards or to an essential place, we're pretty much hunkered down in our homes, binging Tiger King and TikTok. Not going out and traveling only causes us to be bummed for a little while; for businesses and small communities, it can be devastating. The economic impact of tourism on communities and states can be huge.

Total direct travel spending in Arizona during 2016 was $21.2 billion according to a report done by the Arizona Office of Tourism. "Of that $21.2 billion, travel spending in the Tucson and Southern Arizona area accounted for $3.3 billion."

In this chart from the UArizona Eller College of Management, you can see where the recession in 2008 really had an effect on employment in the Accommodation sector, closely tied with tourism in the state. And now, just as tourism was beginning to bounce back, COVID-19 busts in like the Kool-Aid man to tell us to stay home.

We had a chat with Dan Janes, CEO of Madden Media - a Destination Marketing company located here in Tucson - to find out why the tourism market is suffering so badly, what it means for our town, and what it means for you.

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Thursday, February 13, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Feb 13, 2020 at 12:06 PM

The University of Arizona's Passports Office will hold a special passport day event on Feb. 22 to help Tucson residents apply for newly required, federally valid IDs.

Starting Oct. 1, U.S. citizens traveling domestically will be required to present a "real ID" in order to board a flight. State driver's licenses without a gold star, which will designate an ID is "REAL ID-compliant" will no longer be accepted.

Passports do fulfill the federal requirements and may be used to fly. There is also a passport card available that can be used to travel by ground or water into Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean and Bermuda, and can be used as a valid form of ID for domestic flights. These are the most cost-effective option.

The event takes place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the University of Arizona's Global Center, located at 615 N. Park Ave.

Attendees should bring the following with them to the event:

- The original copy of, or a certified copy of their proof of citizenship.
- A government-issued photo ID.
- A recent 2x2 inch passport photo. Those who don't have one can use the photo services on site for $10.
- Two separate payments. Applicants need a check or money order payable to the U.S. Department of State for the passport application and optional expedite fees. A second check or money order payable to UA Passports, or a debit/credit payment, is also required for the execution ($35) and photo fees if needed. Cash will not be accepted.

Passport books for adults cost $110 and $80 for people 15 and younger. The passport cards cost $30 for adults and $15 for children 15 and younger.

Free parking for this event will be available on the west side of Tyndall Avenue and in the Tyndall Avenue parking garage.

Passport forms and photo services are available on site. For complete information about required documentation and fees, visit global.arizona.edu/passports or email uapassports@email.arizona.edu.

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Thursday, January 30, 2020

Posted By on Thu, Jan 30, 2020 at 3:20 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY RENDERING
Courtesy rendering
Less than a year after work was completed at the Ina Road Interchange, construction is underway at Ruthrauff Road and Interstate 10.

The $79 million project, when completed, will allow drivers to pass over the interstate and Union Pacific railroad track, similar to the Ina interchange. Sundt Construction is handling the project.

The project includes widening I-10 to four lanes in each direction and reconstruction of the traffic interchange. Other improvements include widening Ruthrauff Road and El Camino del Cerro to two lanes in each direction near I-10, reconstructing the I-10 frontage roads to connect to the new interchange and other miscellaneous work including constructing concrete barriers, storm drain, guardrail, granite mulch, landform graphics, signing and pavement marking.

Construction is expected to finish by the end of next year, with the Ruthrauff Road overpass opening to traffic by fall 2021 and interchange ramps opening later in the year.

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