Friday, February 26, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Feb 26, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 2:33 PM

click to enlarge BYTEMARKS, CREATIVE COMMONS
Bytemarks, Creative Commons

This past year the pandemic has subjected our economy to massive, unprecedented challenges in nearly every sector. We’ve heard from countless constituents who struggled after losing their jobs due to the pandemic and the associated government restrictions on businesses. Hundreds of thousands of hard-working Arizonans have been affected, and nearly one-half million people have applied for unemployment since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Unemployment assistance benefits exist for this singular reason: to provide a temporary safety net to bridge the gap and meet the needs of Arizona’s working families who find themselves without a source of income. We fully believe it is the duty of state legislators to help hard-working Arizonans across the state as they manage the impacts of this crisis.

Arizona’s unemployment insurance benefit is currently limited to $240 – the second-lowest in the nation – providing little help for a family when expenses average $1,120 per week for basic needs like housing, food, and health care. unfortunately, Current unemployment law also punishes people for accepting part-time work by reducing their benefit after earning just $30.

That’s why we introduced bipartisan legislation, HB 2805, to provide much-needed, additional unemployment assistance to Arizonans who have been put in this terrible situation. This legislation raises the weekly unemployment benefit cap to $300, giving the people of Arizona the equivalent of one more assistance payment per month. It also allows people to earn up to $160 per week from part-time hours while looking for a new job without a reduction in their weekly benefit.



Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 2:25 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY REGINA ROMERO
Courtesy Regina Romero
The Weekly is hearing persistent rumors that the Biden administration considering Tucson Mayor Regina Romero for a position as a deputy secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Nathaniel Sigal, a senior policy advisor to Romero, neither denied nor confirmed the rumor when asked about it.

"It would be an honor to even be considered for such an important position," Sigal said in an email. "However, Mayor Romero is focused on the job she was elected by Tucsonans to perform, and is concentrating all of her efforts on navigating Tucson through the pandemic."

Take all the talk with a healthy scoop of salt. Other sources have suggested that Romero's potential appointment is being pushed by local Democratic power brokers who would be happy to see Romero exit her spot atop city government.

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 8:44 AM

With 939 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 813,000 as of Thursday, Feb. 25, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 180 new cases today, has seen 108,952 of the state’s 812,907 confirmed cases.

With 121 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,814 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,202 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 25 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,385 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 24. 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 1,210 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 24 with COVID symptoms, a big drop from 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 415 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Feb. 24, 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.

Eight CVS pharmacies throughout Arizona are set to begin offering COVID-19 vaccines starting today, but 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 to register in advance for a vaccine at a CVS location.

Local school districts moving toward more on-campus instruction

TUSD remains on track to reopen its schools on Wednesday, March 24, for the first time since it went to remote learning after the March 2020 spring break.

But TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said teachers remained concerned about vaccination appointments and class sizes, among other issues.

“I don't think it's any secret that our teachers are not happy,” he said at a press conference yesterday. “They're very concerned right now about coming back.”

Trujillo said the district would be surveying employees and hoped that many of their concerns would be worked out before students return to campus.

Trujillo also said that the district would extend a Feb. 28 deadline for parents to choose their learning option to March 7 because more than four out of 10 parents have yet to make a choice about whether they want to return to school or remain remote.

So far, 30% of TUSD parents have said they will continue with remote learning, 29% have said they will return to in-school instruction and 41% have yet to make a choice.

“If this trend holds up for the remaining 41%, it looks like we're going to be an even 50/50 split, in terms of a district that has half of its student body studying remotely and half of it studying in some sort of in-person learning opportunity,” Trujillo said.

For elementary schools grades K-5 and three K-8 schools (Drachman, C.E. Rose and McCorkle), there are two options available: either attend full-time on-campus Monday through Friday or remain 100% remote. High schools and middle schools, grades 6-12, also have two options. A parent can choose to have their child stay 100% remote or four half-days of in-person learning, meaning students will be on-campus in the morning and remote learning in the afternoon, with Wednesday as 100% remote learning.

Trujillo said the district also came to an agreement with the Tucson Education Association and the Educational Leadership Institute to allow teachers to simultaneously teach both in-person and remote learning students at elementary schools.

“[This] would eliminate the need for any schedule changing that has been a big concern from parents, from teachers and from principals,” said Trujillo. “This new option is going to require a supermajority of each campus's teaching community, 80%, to be able to have a particular school declared campus-wide simultaneous teaching sites.”

However, high schools and middle schools do not have this option as they are required by the state to show 720 hours of instruction through their bell schedules.

Other school districts are also working toward resuming more on-campus activity as COVID cases in Pima County continue to decline from the winter surge.

Marana Unified School District is planning to move to full five days of in-person instruction as of March 22, while keeping remote learning as an option for families. However, the district is still coordinating with schools and aims to confirm the March 22 return date next week, said Alli Benjamin, Director of Public Relations and Community Engagement for Marana.

The district outlined three approaches to return to a full five days of in-person learning: a phased approach, where pre-K through 6th-grade students would return to instruction first; another phased approach in which pre-K through 8th-grade students would return first to in-person learning; or a third approach with a “full implementation, returning students in pre-K through 12th grade at once.”

The nearby Amphi School District, which now has a hybrid program with students attending two days a week and working remotely three days a week, is still considering when to have students back on campus five days a week.

“A lot of people, of course, given the actions of other school districts across our community, are asking the $64,000 question,” said Superintendent Todd Jaeger at the Amphitheater School District’s board meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 23. “‘Can that be, for example after spring break, on March 22?’ The truth is, as I sit here right now. I still don't know.”

Jaeger said the Amphi staff is looking into phased-in approaches or a full reopening and will be sending out another survey to families as well as looking for input from staff, including not only teachers, but “our custodians and our groundsman and carpenters and whoever supports the operations of our schools.”

Jaeger noted that returning to full in-person learning depends on the vaccination progress as well and said their district is ahead in the percent of vaccinations.

Get tested: Pima County has free COVID testing

After the state agreed to provide additional funding to keep testing centers open through at least March 2, Pima County is continuing to offer a number of testing centers around town.

You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center (2805 E. Ajo Way), the Udall Center (7200 E. Tanque Verde Road) and downtown (88 E. Broadway).

The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.

In addition, the Pima County Health Department, Pima Community College and Arizona State University have partnered to create new drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites at three Pima Community College locations. At the drive-thru sites, COVID-19 testing will be offered through spit samples instead of nasal canal swabs. Each site will conduct testing from 9 a.m. to noon, and registration is required in advance. Only patients 5 years or older can be tested.

Schedule an appointment at these or other pop-up sites at pima.gov/covid19testing.

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 Austin Counts, Christina Duran, Jeff Gardner, Nicole Ludden and Mike Truelsen

Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge MC2 JOSEPH MOON
MC2 Joseph Moon

PHOENIX – Cancer screenings in the U.S. have plunged since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago, prompting health advocates to increase calls for the public to stop postponing these potentially life-saving procedures.

More than one-third of adults have failed to receive recommended cancer screenings during the pandemic, according to “Cancer Won’t Wait and Neither Should You,” a bulletin published by the American Cancer Society and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Fear of getting COVID-19 at screening centers and job losses that have affected insurance coverage are among the factors driving this dangerous trend.

“The pandemic has really given cancer the advantage, and the balance of risk has shifted significantly,” Jeff Fehlis, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society’s south region, said in an interview with Cronkite News.

“Patients are continuing to wait on those preventative screenings, or even to have symptoms evaluated, because of fear of going to the doctor or the clinic.”

The statistics around these missed tests are stunning.



Posted By on Thu, Feb 25, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 7:20 PM

click to enlarge TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo: “I don't think it's any secret that our teachers are not happy.” - TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Tucson Unified School District
TUSD Superintendent Dr. Gabriel Trujillo: “I don't think it's any secret that our teachers are not happy.”
TUSD remains on track to reopen its schools on Wednesday, March 24, for the first time since it went to remote learning after the March 2020 spring break.

But TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said teachers remained concerned about vaccination appointments and class sizes, among other issues.

“I don't think it's any secret that our teachers are not happy,” he said. “They're very concerned right now about coming back.”

Trujillo said the district would be surveying employees and hoped that many of their concerns would be worked out before students return to campus.

Trujillo also said that the district would extend a Feb. 28 deadline for parents to choose their learning option to March 7 because more than four out of 10 parents have yet to make a choice about whether they want to return to school or remain remote.

So far, 30% of TUSD parents have said they will continue with remote learning, 29% have said they will return to in-school instruction and 41% have yet to make a choice.

“If this trend holds up for the remaining 41%, it looks like we're going to be an even 50/50 split, in terms of a district that has half of its student body studying remotely and half of it studying in some sort of in-person learning opportunity,” Trujillo said.

For elementary schools grades K-5 and three K-8 schools (Drachman, C.E. Rose and McCorkle), there are two options available: either attend full-time on-campus Monday through Friday or remain 100% remote. High schools and middle schools, grades 6-12, also have two options. A parent can choose to have their child stay 100% remote or four half-days of in-person learning, meaning students will be on-campus in the morning and remote learning in the afternoon, with Wednesday as 100% remote learning.

Trujillo said the district also came to an agreement with the Tucson Education Association and the Educational Leadership Institute to allow teachers to simultaneously teach both in-person and remote learning students at elementary schools.

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 9:02 AM

With 1,310 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 812,000 as of Wednesday, Feb. 24, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 142 new cases today, has seen 108,772 of the state’s 811,968 confirmed cases.

With 43 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,693 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,186 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 24 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,449 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 23. 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 1,208 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 23 with COVID symptoms, a big drop from 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 430 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.

FDA says Johnson & Johnson vaccine is good to go for emergency use

The Food and Drug Administration announced his morning that the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine meets requirements for emergency use, according to CNN.

The Vaccines and related Biological Products Advisory Committee plans to meet Friday to recommend whether the vaccine should be approved for use.

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.”