Friday, January 22, 2021

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 9:23 AM

With more than 8,000 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases surpassed 708,000 as of Friday, Jan 22, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 858 new cases today, has seen 94,697 of the state’s 708,041 confirmed cases.

A total of 12,001 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,571 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 22 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in the last week but still remains far above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 21, 4,495 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. The summer peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients was set on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27, or about one-tenth of the current count.

A total of 2,007 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 21 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 1,054 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 20. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

Most school districts delaying return to the classroom; Marana will resume hybrid instruction Monday

As the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County continues to reach dangerous levels, most public school districts in the Tucson area are pushing back previously set dates to resume in-person hybrid instruction.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is recommending all counties commit to virtual learning for students with online classes and some onsite support services.

ADHS made its recommendation based on three key benchmarks: cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness. All benchmarks are currently in a state of substantial transmission throughout the state.

In Pima County, ADHS data shows 8,983 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population and a 12.3% positivity rate of the virus as of Jan. 21. The most recent data available on the state health department’s school benchmarks website shows hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses at 14.8% as of Jan. 3.

While most districts remain in remote learning models, Catalina Foothills has remained open for in-person learning since Oct. 26. The Marana Unified School District anticipates returning to hybrid instruction on Monday, Jan. 25.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 7:00 AM

WASHINGTON – In one of his last acts as president, Donald Trump on Wednesday pardoned two Arizonans, including former Rep. Rick Renzi who was convicted of extortion, racketeering and other charges while representing the 1st District in Congress.

click to enlarge Rick Renzi - OFFICE OF THE HOUSE HISTORIAN
Office of the House Historian
Rick Renzi

The pardons – including one for Scott Connor Crosby, a one-time bank robber who supporters say has turned his life around – were among 73 pardons and 70 sentence commutations Trump issued Wednesday morning.

Renzi’s pardon was called for by Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Prescott, and a slew of former House members who cited Renzi’s family and his service to constituents while in office in urging clemency.

Gosar did not respond to a request for comment on Renzi’s pardon Wednesday. But others criticized the flurry of pardons, which included former Trump associates, as “offensive, but not surprising.”



Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 1:30 PM

We know that the allegation that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen somehow is a massive fraud and a lie. But many of those who say it, also know it is a lie. They do not mean to convince anyone, they are sending a message to those who believe as they do. They are sending a coded message: a racist, white supremacist message. That message is that the election was stolen from white Americans because minority American voters participated.


Joe Biden won the election fairly and by a wide margin. But Joe Biden lost the white vote. Therefore, to those who believe that non-white Americans are not fully Americans — who do not deserve the vote, do not deserve power, do not deserve to share in American Democracy — Joe Biden did not win fairly. They believe that Joe Biden is not theirPresident.

This is what the election lie truly means: because minority voters gave Joe Biden the Presidency, Joe Biden did not fairly win the Presidency.

Because the lie of the stolen election is nonsensical, without factual foundation, and provably and demonstrably false, it makes the perfect signal to others that the teller believes that minority Americans are not legitimate participants in democracy. Thus this lie becomes a perfect dogwhistle of racist convictions.

The lie is not an assertion of an "alternative fact", it is an assertion that the only legitimate power is white power.

 

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 12:17 PM

click to enlarge When will we hear all that noise in the hallways again? - COURTESY TUCSON UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT
Courtesy Tucson Unified School District
When will we hear all that noise in the hallways again?

As the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County continues to reach dangerous levels, most public school districts in the Tucson area are pushing back previously set dates to resume in-person hybrid instruction.

The Arizona Department of Health Services is recommending all counties commit to virtual learning for students with online classes and some onsite support services.

ADHS made its recommendation based on three key benchmarks: cases per 100,000 individuals, percent positivity and hospital visits for COVID-like illness. All benchmarks are currently in a state of substantial transmission throughout the state.

In Pima County, ADHS data shows 8,983 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 of the population and a 12.3% positivity rate of the virus as of Jan. 21. The most recent data available on the state health department’s school benchmarks website shows hospital visits for COVID-like illnesses at 14.8% as of Jan. 3.

While most districts remain in remote learning models, Catalina Foothills has remained open for in-person learning since Oct. 26. The Marana Unified School District anticipates returning to hybrid instruction on Monday, Jan. 25.

As of Jan. 21, the state health department is recommending all school districts remain in remote learning models. - THE ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH SERVICES
The Arizona Department of Health Services
As of Jan. 21, the state health department is recommending all school districts remain in remote learning models.

Amphitheater

Originally set to return to a hybrid model on Jan. 19, Amphitheater Superintendent Todd Jaeger announced in a letter to families on Jan. 4 that remote-only learning would continue until a Feb. 1.

After the county health department said it would not be able to provide guidance until it receives more data, Jaeger said he plans to announce an official return date decision Friday.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 10:36 AM

As Arizona health officials scramble to speed up rollout of the life-saving COVID-19 vaccine, the deadly virus is still spreading rapidly. Nearly 12,000 Arizonans have died, and we are seeing more than 9,000 new infections daily. The outbreak in Arizona is the worst in the nation, with one in every 147 residents being infected as of 1/21/2021. The clock is ticking and the time for action is now.

Even under the best circumstances, it will take a year or more for a vaccine to be fully effective. In the meantime, we can save lives with aggressive public health measures. No arena is more important than Arizona workplaces, a dangerous source of COVID hotspots which then spread to our neighborhoods and communities.

We need enforceable emergency workplace standards and worker safety committees to monitor and implement worksite COVID protection plans. Workplaces can play a significant role in turning the economy around to create a safe environment for everyone. Unfortunately, many workplaces remain unsafe, endangering frontline workers and the public they serve.

Our government offices have been impacted by this disease: A top county health official, unemployment staffers and county employees have contracted COVID-19 in their workplaces. Healthcare workers and their support staff are stretched thin and exhausted, grocery, retail and postal workers are exposed to risk of infection on a daily basis. All of us rely on these workers, who don’t have the option to stay at home, and we all need to be involved in demanding that employers and the government do more to keep them safe.

If we want to flatten the curve of new virus cases, employers must take every step possible to implement safety controls to reduce contact with the public and co-workers. Companies like Amazon, with a deplorable record of putting workers in unsafe environments, must involve workers in safety plans, instead of fighting worker efforts to have a voice in the workplace. Every job can be protected, if management develops a plan with input from workers, who know their own jobs and can come up with solutions to reduce exposure.

Innovative approaches to reducing contact between workers and the public include remote working whenever possible, barriers for cashiers, staggering service hours, and reducing the number of shoppers to allow for social distancing. In-person work requires detailed planning and implementation of COVID protection programs. These controls have been adopted in some workplaces, frequently only because workers took the initiative to protest unsafe conditions.

Gov. Ducey recently chose to protect himself from the risk of infection by delivering his state of the state address from inside his own office, instead of in front of the legislature. But instead of protecting frontline workers who can’t work in isolation, his backwards response has focused on protecting business at the expense of worker and community health. This will not preserve jobs and actually makes it more difficult to rebound to a healthy business climate.

Fourteen states and local communities around the country have enacted new protections to assist both workers and employers in implementing COVID protection programs. The Arizona Department of Occupational Safety and Health [ADOSH] has the legal authority to enforce compliance if there is a new standard. We can’t wait any longer to take positive steps to make workplaces safe for everyone. Workers have been the engine driving our efforts to control the virus and deserve to be protected. Protecting them helps protect our communities.

Mr. Valencia is chair of Tucson Jobs with Justice. Mr. Dooley, a certified industrial hygienist (CIH), is safety and health senior project coordinator for the National Council of Occupational Safety and Health (National COSH). Shannon Foley is with IATSE Local Union 415

Arizona COSH is a new worker safety advocacy organization to promote safe jobs for all workers in Arizona. Visit nationalcosh.org for more information or contact peter@nationalcosh.org

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 8:48 AM

With more than 9,300 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases nearly hit 700,000 as of Thursday, Jan 21, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 1,320 new cases today, has seen 93,839 of the state’s 699,942 confirmed cases.

A total of 11,772 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 1,531 deaths in Pima County, according to the Jan. 21 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has dropped slightly in the last week but still remains far above the peak levels of the summer’s first wave. ADHS reported that as of Jan. 20, 4,580 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. The summer peak of 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients was set on July 13; that number hit a subsequent low of 468 on Sept. 27, or about one-tenth of the current count.

A total of 2,046 people visited emergency rooms on Jan. 20 with COVID symptoms, down from the record high of 2,341 set on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. That number had previously peaked at 2,008 on July 7; it hit a subsequent low of 653 on Sept. 28.

A total of 1,058 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Jan. 20. The summer’s record number of patients in ICU beds was 970, set on July 13. The subsequent low was 114 on Sept. 22.

Bars win round in court against Pima County curfew

Pima County’s mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been temporarily halted after a group of Tucson bars were granted a preliminary injunction barring the county from enforcing the curfew.

Owners of Cobra Arcade Bar, HighWire Lounge and The Maverick filed a joint lawsuit on Jan. 5 contending the county overextended their legal authority to mandate a curfew.

Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 6:57 AM

WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden unveiled a sweeping immigration reform bill Wednesday that would create a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, preserve DACA and end the ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries, among other changes.

The proposal, released on the first day of his presidency, is a sharp reversal from former President Donald Trump’s policies and was hailed by advocates for righting “the cruelty that was the cornerstone” of Trump’s immigration actions.

But other experts warned that while there are many good elements in the bill, it has little chance of passing the Senate without revisions.

“The big thing is the legalization of illegal immigrants, that’s a non-starter for a majority of Republicans,” said Alex Nowrasteh, director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute. In its current form, Nowrasteh, “has no chance of passing.”

Supporters would need to get 60 votes to overcome any likely filibuster attempts in the Senate, which is now evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans with Vice President Kamala Harris, a Democrat, holding the potential tie-breaking vote.



Posted By on Thu, Jan 21, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Posted By on Wed, Jan 20, 2021 at 1:10 PM

click to enlarge Bar service at the HighWire Lounge. - ARIANA CASTORENA
Ariana Castorena
Bar service at the HighWire Lounge.

Pima County’s mandatory 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew has been temporarily halted after a group of Tucson bars were granted a preliminary injunction barring the county from enforcing the curfew.

Owners of Cobra Arcade Bar, HighWire Lounge and The Maverick filed a joint lawsuit on Jan. 5 contending the county overextended their legal authority to mandate a curfew.

The owner of The Maverick, Grant Krueger, included other Tucson restaurants he owns in the lawsuit: Union Public House, Reforma Modern Mexican and Proof Artisanal Pizza & Pasta.

After considering the evidence at a Jan. 15 hearing, Pima County Superior Court Judge Kellie Johnson ordered Pima County to cease enforcing the curfew in a ruling filed Jan. 19.

“The Court finds the hardships imposed on the Plaintiffs by the curfew are severe. Additionally, the hardships are arguably unfair because the Court finds Plaintiffs can adhere to the ADHS required safety measures both before and after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote in the ruling, echoing the defendant’s arguments. “Moreover, the virus is spread just as easily late at night as it is during the day. Bar patrons can drink excessively during the day just as easily as they can at night.”

While the judge acknowledged the challenges Pima County has managing the COVID-19 pandemic, she held the parties’ legal arguments tipped in the restaurant owners’ favor.

“The County could not demonstrate in testimony or other evidence that more cases are contracted after 10 p.m. Nor has it demonstrated specifically that its current hardships are worsened by people and businesses engaging in conduct after 10 p.m.,” Johnson wrote of the county’s defense. “To the contrary, the burden the County faces in managing this pandemic will continue until the pandemic is under control. The County has simply failed to demonstrate how the curfew not being enforced would cause it additional hardship.”

Pima County County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia said the 10 p.m. curfew was based on evidence gathered when the county sent 46 inspectors to observe nearly 400 establishments for compliance to the curfew and found 15% of them didn’t comply.

“We have to draw a line in the sand in terms of when you would ask a business like a bar or a restaurant to stop operating. That line in the sand needs to not be entirely arbitrary,” Garcia said. “We know that, based on the surveillance that our county inspection team did, that bars that were operating after 10 o'clock, that there was a substantial amount of non-compliance with the kinds of measures that we've recommended all along. So yes, 10 may seem like a rather odd and very specific time to select, but this is based on actually our observations of what people are doing in those kinds of establishments.”

Grant Krueger, a plaintiff in the case, said he plans to keep both The Maverick and Union Public House open until 2 a.m. beginning tonight.

“We feel that we've been doing it safely since before 10 p.m. and we can do it safely as well after 10 p.m.,” Krueger said. “We've made a lot of really, really good people really happy today by calling back all kinds of staff members who have had to have their hours reduced, limited or even completely eliminated.”

Chuckie Duff, a plaintiff and owner of Cobra Arcade Bar, said he plans on keeping the bar open until midnight tonight and returning to normal business hours of 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. this weekend.

“We're very happy with the ruling and we're glad that we can go back to our normal business hours and continue to follow the rules as we were before and keep everybody safe,” Duff said. “If we have more hours we can be open, it's definitely more hours for our existing employees and hopefully more employees that we'll be bringing back.”

Judge Johnson wrote she’s granting the injunction on the grounds that the curfew is not “statutorily authorized,” the plaintiffs demonstrated the harm it causes them and it violates Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order.

The governor’s May 12 executive order states: “...no county, city or town may make or issue any order, rule or regulation that conflicts with or is in addition to the policy, directives or intent of this Executive Order, including but not limited to any order restricting persons from leaving their home due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”

click to enlarge On May 12, Gov. Ducey issued his "Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger" executive order. - GOVERNOR DOUG DUCEY EXECUTIVE ORDER 2020-36
Governor Doug Ducey Executive Order 2020-36
On May 12, Gov. Ducey issued his "Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger" executive order.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors authorized the county attorney to appeal the ruling, according to a press release.

“It is the County’s firm belief that state law empowers the Health Department to take specific actions such as the curfew to mitigate and halt the spread of infectious diseases,” the release said. “In the meantime, Pima County Chief Medical Officer Dr. Francisco Garcia urges all businesses to continue to voluntarily adhere to the curfew and limit gatherings.”

The curfew was originally set to end when the county reached a rate of 100 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people. Its current rate is 8,856 cases per 100,000, according to state data.

The curfew will be halted until the resolution of the case. A trial date has yet to be set.

This post has been updated to include comments from bar owners and county officials.