Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Oct. 21: Nearly 1K New Cases Today; Four COVID Cases in Amphi Schools; Total AZ Cases Close in on 234K; Free Testing Available

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2020 at 9:06 AM

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With 975 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 234,000 as of Wednesday, Oct. 21, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 27,128 of the state’s 233,912 confirmed cases.

With 17 new deaths yesterday, a total of 5,854 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 635 deaths in Pima County, according to the Oct. 21 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases has declined from July peaks but has ticked upward in recent weeks. ADHS reported that as of Oct. 20, 832 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the highest that number has been since Aug. 26, when 895 people were hospitalized. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13.

A total of 853 people visited emergency rooms on Oct. 20 with COVID symptoms, the highest that number has been since Sept. 21, when 867 people visited ERs with signs of the coronavirus. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 171 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Oct. 20. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,453 cases, according to an Oct. 16 report from the Pima County Health Department.

After a bump following the return of UA students, cases on a week-to-week basis are on the decline. For the week ending Sept. 19, 1,225 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 26, 596 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 3, 523 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 10, 466 cases were reported.

Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 to 10 in the week ending Sept. 5, one in the week ending Sept. 12, three in the week ending Sept. 19, four in the week ending Sept. 26 and three in the week ending Oct. 3.

Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 221 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals, but it has been on the rise in recent weeks. In the week ending Sept. 12, 24 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 19, 17 patients were admitted; in the week ending Sept. 26, 13 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 3, 20 patients were admitted; and in the week ending Oct. 10, 24 people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

Amphi reports four coronavirus cases in its schools

In its second week of reopening, the Amphitheater Unified School District has reported four positive coronavirus cases resulting in 31 students and staff members quarantining, Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela said in an email Tuesday.

Amphitheater reopened for in-person classes in a hybrid model on Oct. 12, and its latest positive COVID-19 case was reported today, Oct. 20.

Today, one student at La Cima Middle School reported a positive coronavirus test. Although no close contacts to the person were discovered inside the school, three La Clima students who were with the student over the weekend are quarantining for 14 days.

One student at Canyon del Oro High School reported a positive test Monday, causing 13 students who may have been in contact with the person to self-quarantine.

Last week, 13 students and one staff member at Ironwood Ridge High School had to quarantine after a student reported a positive test on Oct. 16.

At Mesa Verde Elementary, one staff member reported a positive case on Oct. 14, but no other employees or students were identified as close contacts to require quarantining.

The 10,100 Amphitheater students who opted for hybrid classes attend two days a week and spend the other three learning remotely. About 1,400 students chose to continue attending school completely online.

UA increases number of in-person classes as campus-area cases remain low

The University of Arizona will allow more students to return to campus this week as metrics tracking the spread of coronavirus remain low, UA President Robert C. Robbins said in a news conference Monday, Oct. 19.

Continuing phase two of its reopening plan, the university will allow classes of 50 or fewer to return the week of Oct. 26, raising last week’s maximum of 30 students.

From Oct. 8-17, UA found 44 positive coronavirus cases after administering 6,867 tests for a positivity rate of 0.6%, the same rate the university reported last week.

“We have five weeks before the break. I’m very proud of the way the university has risen to the challenge so far, but we cannot become complacent,” Robbins said.

With fall break approaching Nov. 26, UA is taking proactive measures to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19 as students travel outside the area.

On Nov. 6, the university will begin a “testing blitz” by appointment only. Students who plan to travel over break and have not received a positive coronavirus test over the past 90 days are “strongly encouraged” to get tested.

All main campus students are required to take a coronavirus antigen test and complete a survey with their fall break traveling plans. Those who travel outside the Tucson area over break are encouraged to complete the semester remotely, according to Robbins.

However, UA students won’t get a similar week off in the spring. Instead of spring break, the university will have five separate “reading days” with no classes held.

“It’s a traumatic step to say we’re not going to have spring break next year, but it’s a really important step,” UA Provost Liesl Folks said. “The CDC is unambiguous about the fact that travel is one of the core ways that we spread the virus around the country.”

Get tested: Pima County opens new downtown testing center, UA offering antibody testing

The Pima County Health Department opened a new COVID-19 testing site downtown last Friday, Oct. 16, at 88 E. Broadway Blvd., on the southwest corner of Broadway and Sixth Ave. Testing will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Testing is available without an appointment, or by appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

With workday testing available around lunch time, the county health department hopes this new site will serve as a resource for downtown employees. As with other county testing locations, the tests will be conducted by Paradigm Laboratories, and results will be available online in 72 hours or less.

“Quick and accessible testing is a key factor in helping businesses protect their employees and patrons as the pandemic continues,” said PCHD director Dr. Theresa Cullen in a press release. “We want to do all that we can to support businesses as they get back on their feet.”

The county has three other free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 24 to 72 hours.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.

The University of Arizona’s antibody testing has been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get a handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill.

To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

—with additional reporting from Nicole Ludden, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Mike Truelsen


Homeowners who avoid wildfire damage can find themselves in new flood zone

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2020 at 8:08 AM

Firefighters watch a controlled burn within the Grizzly Creek Fire in Colorado. The fire has burned more than 30,000 acres near Glenwood Canyon. The charred hillsides pose a flood risk for nearby areas. - PHOTO BY ALEX HAGER/ASPEN PUBLIC RADIO
  • Photo by Alex Hager/Aspen Public Radio
  • Firefighters watch a controlled burn within the Grizzly Creek Fire in Colorado. The fire has burned more than 30,000 acres near Glenwood Canyon. The charred hillsides pose a flood risk for nearby areas.


Major wildfires have burned through the Western U.S. in 2020, breaking records for their scale and damage. As firefighters tamp down their immediate effects, those who live nearby are coming to grips with the lingering danger of wildfires. Even long after the flames are gone, residents face a serious increase in the threat of flooding.

For Sue Lavin, who lives in No Name, Colorado, that threat is top of mind, more than a month after the Grizzly Creek Fire burned in the upper reaches of the No Name Creek, which runs through her backyard. She lives alone and says the running water normally makes for great company.

“The sounds you hear in the background accompany me all day every day and put me to sleep at night,” she said from her back patio. “Corny as it sounds, I consider the creek my friend.”

Lavin’s home and her couple dozen neighbors are tucked between Interstate 70 and the Colorado River in a narrow section of Glenwood Canyon.

In the waning days of summer, the sound of that creek is just a gentle babble as water slowly meanders into the nearby Colorado River. But Lavin has seen it get much higher during peak runoff. When water is surging down past her house, you can’t escape the noise.

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Claytoonz: No Givesies Backsies

Posted By on Wed, Oct 21, 2020 at 1:00 AM

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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Four Positive COVID Cases in Amphi Schools

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 4:23 PM

BIGSTOCK
  • BigStock

In its second week of reopening, the Amphitheater Unified School District has reported four positive coronavirus cases resulting in 32 students and staff members quarantining, Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela said in an email Tuesday.

Amphitheater reopened for in-person classes in a hybrid model on Oct. 12, and its latest positive COVID-19 case was reported today, Oct. 20.

Today, one student at La Cima Middle School reported a positive coronavirus test. Although no close contacts to the person were discovered inside the school, three La Clima students who were with the student over the weekend are quarantining for 14 days.

One student at Canyon del Oro High School reported a positive test Monday, causing 13 students who may have been in contact with the person to self-quarantine.

Last week, 13 students and one staff member at Ironwood Ridge High School had to quarantine after a student reported a positive test on Oct. 16.

At Mesa Verde Elementary, one staff member reported a positive case on Oct. 14, but no other employees or students were identified as close contacts to require quarantining.

The 10,100 Amphitheater students who opted for hybrid classes attend two days a week and spend the other three learning remotely. About 1,400 students chose to continue attending school completely online.

This post has been updated to reflect a fourth positive case reported today.

Supreme Court to hear Trump plan to use Pentagon funds for border wall

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 3:30 PM


WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider whether the Trump administration can use an emergency declaration to divert $2.5 billion on Defense Department funds to construct the southern border wall.

Two lower courts have rejected the administration’s argument, agreeing with opponents who argue that the emergency declaration was meant to bypass Congress and is unconstitutional, rulings the administration is challenging.

Both sides welcomed Monday’s announcement that the high court would hear the case.

“This gives us a chance to go to the highest court of the land and tell them why transferring this money was unlawful, as the other courts have said, but also to talk about the reasons why a border wall is so harmful for our communities,” said Vicki Gaubeca, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition, one of two groups that sued to block the wall funding

But Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, defended the funding shift, saying in a statement Monday that “protecting the border and our national sovereignty is a core and fundamental purpose of the military.”

“The allocation of Defense money to defend the national borders is 100% constitutional and consistent with congressional intent,” Gosar said. “The American people need and deserve a secure border. They’re getting one from this administration.

No date has been set for a hearing on the case, but the court’s calendar is already full through the end of this year. But it will not be the first time the high court has considered the issue: The Supreme Court previously blocked the lower courts’ orders, allowing wall construction to proceed while the case worked its way through the courts.

The dispute over border wall funding began in late 2018 when Congress refused to give Trump billions for border wall construction and he refused to sign the budget, a standoff that led to a 45-day partial government shutdown.

The shutdown ended in February 2019, when Congress agreed to allocate $1.375 billion for limited border wall projects. But immediately after signing that budget, Trump declared a national emergency at the border that he said authorized the transfer of up to $8.1 billion from other government sources to fund border wall projects.

The Southern Border Communities Coalition and the Sierra Club quickly filed suit, claiming Trump’s use of emergency powers was an unconstitutional attempt to bypass Congress.

A federal district court agreed and in June 2020 a divided panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s ruling that transferring $2.5 billion in Defense Department funds originally budgeted for military pay and pensions was unlawful.

“We all learned in our basic civics education that Congress has the power of the purse, and that is definitely something that the administration has not acknowledged,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club Grand Canyon Chapter.

Even though Congress set a specific limit on wall funding, the administration said, “‘OK, well, we’ll just take this money and do it anyway,'” Bahr said. “That is contrary to the separation of powers outlined in the U.S. Constitution.”

But Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, said the money is being used properly, as the Pentagon funds would be used for border protection.

“It’s not like they’re pulling this out of the Education Department or the Commerce Department’s budget,” Mehlman said. “This is legitimately going to be used for . . . the security of the country, because when you have borders that are open, it’s not just people who are coming here to work illegally, but potentially people who are coming here to do harm to this country.”

While conservation groups have criticized the wall’s environmental impact, saying it will disrupt threatened ecosystems and that construction will harm endangered species, Mehlman argues the opposite. He said that migrants crossing the border have a greater impact on the environment than construction crews do or a wall would.

Bahr calls that argument a “distraction from the real harm that is being done” by the wall: “Harm to the Constitution, the harm to the lands, to our waters, to communities, to people to wildlife to sacred areas, important for cultural values.”

The Supreme Court also said Monday that it will hear the Trump administration’s defense of its Migrant Protection Protocols, a policy that requires asylum-seekers at the southern border to wait in Mexico while their cases are pending. The 9th Circuit had blocked the “remain in Mexico” policy.

Gaubeca said she hopes the two cases start a conversation on what borders should look like.

“There is a need to rethink borders to create a new, more welcoming border,” she said. “We’re hopeful that both of these cases will start speaking to that new border governance model that we have been aspiring to for a while now.”

Sportswear Company Relocating Headquarters to Downtown Tucson

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 2:30 PM

An image from WOW Studios' Buki collection. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • An image from WOW Studios' Buki collection.

A luxury technical sportswear company is moving its operations to downtown Tucson.

WOW Studios is relocating from Seattle to establish its new headquarters at 1 E. Toole Ave., the sportswear business announced in a press release Oct. 19.

The company says their relocation will have an economic impact of $252 million over the next 10 years and create 50 jobs in engineering, marketing, design and sales.

The new WOW Studios location is scheduled to open in January 2021 in Tucson’s former SinfoniaRx building, which will now house offices, design studios and retail space for the apparel company.

Co-founders Joey Rodolfo and Stacy Bennett have years of experience in the fashion industry. Rodolfo has worked with top menswear brands like Bench Co. Ltd, Cutter & Buck and Callaway Apparel Worldwide, and even is credited with elevating the Tommy Bahama brand. Bennett is a digital marketing executive who’s built multi-million dollar programs at places such as Amazon, Nordstrom and Clarisonic, according to the press release.

"My vision is to establish Tucson as the next hub of innovative design not just in fashion, but in health/wellness and wearable tech. Tucson is business-friendly and offers incredible partnership opportunities,” Rodolfo said in the news release. “I want to see how we can build a new industry in Tucson, attract suppliers and create the next generation of health and wellness products that make lives better. The environment is important to us—we believe in slow fashion with ethical production."

The apparel company is most known for their “Buki” collection, an assortment of “luxury technical clothing and wardrobe essentials, crafted for comfort with state-of-the-art Japanese fiber and sustainably-sourced collagen fabric,” according to the press release.

WOW studios said they’ve partnered with Rio Nuevo, the University of Arizona, Arizona Commerce Authority, City of Tucson and Pima County. They’ve also drawn praise from several political figures in the area.

“Arizona continues to attract innovative companies that are advancing new technologies and groundbreaking ideas,” Gov. Doug Ducey said in the release. “Thank you to WOW Studios for choosing to relocate their headquarters to Tucson and creating more new jobs in Southern Arizona.”

According to WOW Studios, Fletcher McCusker, chair of Rio Nuevo’s downtown redevelopment district, said "Downtown Tucson has to continue to evolve and this is a great step,” while Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called the development’s downtown location “the perfect place for developing emerging technologies."

“This is an exciting economic development opportunity at the ground floor,” Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said in the release. "We thank WOW Studios for their confidence and investment in Tucson."



Watch Live: OSIRIS-REx Sample Collection Today

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 2:00 PM

Today, The University of Arizona-led OSIRIS-REx spacecraft will make its first attempt to gather dust and rocks from the surface of the asteroid Bennu. NASA is currently streaming the operation live. While there isn't a live feed from spacecraft itself (which is millions of miles away), the live stream is providing mission details, interviews with scientists and graphics of the spacecraft's maneuvers.

The sample collection timeline is:  
  • 2:50 p.m.: Checkpoint maneuver, in which OSIRIS-REx adjusts its position and speed to begin descending steeply toward the asteroid's surface.
  • 3:01 p.m.: Matchpoint maneuver, in which the spacecraft slows its descent and targets a path to match the asteroid's rotation.

  • 3:12 p.m.: Touch-And-Go maneuver, in which the spacecraft descends to the surface, touches down for about 10 seconds and fires one of its three pressurized nitrogen bottles. The gas agitates and lifts Bennu's surface material, which is then caught in the spacecraft's collector head. The spacecraft will then fire its thrusters to navigate safely away from the asteroid.

  • 3:30 p.m.: Live broadcast ends.
More information and updates can found on OSIRIS-REx's Twitter.

NAU linebacker has spotlight in Biden ad during Monday Night Football

Posted By on Tue, Oct 20, 2020 at 1:30 PM

Northern Arizona linebacker Tristen Vance, 33, is featured in an ad supporting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The Hamilton High School graduate is critical of President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY
  • Photo courtesy of Northern Arizona University
  • Northern Arizona linebacker Tristen Vance, 33, is featured in an ad supporting Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The Hamilton High School graduate is critical of President Donald Trump's handling of the pandemic.


LOS ANGELES – The intersection of sports and politics took center stage again Monday night when a campaign ad featuring a Northern Arizona football player aired during ESPN’s broadcast of the Arizona Cardinals-Dallas Cowboys game.

Tristen Vance, a Hamilton High School graduate and linebacker for the Lumberjacks, expected to play his final season this fall before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The Big Sky Conference postponed its football season until the spring, pushing Vance’s true senior season back to next fall.

“I’ve been working my whole life towards a dream to play professionally,” Vance, 23, says in a 30-second ad supporting Joe Biden. “Missing this season puts those dreams in jeopardy.”

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