Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

This week in COVID-19 News

THE LOCAL NUMBERS. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona had topped 11,700 as of Tuesday, May 12, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 1,623 of the state's 11,736 confirmed cases. The coronavirus had killed 562 people statewide, including 136 in Pima County, according to the report. In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 6,219.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS. Nationwide, more than 1.33 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed more than 80,000 people in the United States as of Tuesday, May 12, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. President Donald Trump, who said in a recent Fox News appearance that he expected the death toll to remain below 100,000, is urging businesses to reopen across the country. The IHME model now predicts roughly 137,000 deaths in the United States by the beginning of August. The IHME model forecast of the most likely number of deaths in Arizona jumped from 1,043 last week to 2,987 this week, although the forecast has a range between 1,038 and 7,015. In a testimony before the U.S. Senate on Tuesday, May 12, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the top infectious disease expert in the Trump administration, said that states and cities should follow the guidelines set out by the CDC when allowing businesses to reopen. "It's my concern that if some areas—cities, states, what have you—jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up without having the capability to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is that we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci said. "The consequences could be really serious."

STAY AT HOME, UNLESS YOU DON'T WANT TO ANYMORE. Gov. Doug Ducey stay-at-home order remains in place through May 15, but retail stores, barber shops, salons and similar businesses were allowed to reopen last week, while restaurants and bars were allowed to resume serving in-house food and drink on Monday, May 11. Other businesses, such as gyms and theaters, will remain shuttered for now. Many Republican state lawmakers said they thought Ducey was moving too slowly on easing restrictions, while some Democrats and public health officials said Ducey was moving too quickly. Congressman Raúl Grijalva said that rushing the opening while the virus was still widespread could cause a spike in cases. "If we make the wrong decisions now, it will cost more lives and prolong the economic misery," Grijalva said. "We can't afford to get this wrong."

LET'S HOPE THE APPLICATION PROCESS IS SMOOTHER THAN PPP. The Tucson City Council voted to spend $5.5 million from the City of Tucson's CARES Act appropriation to provide financial assistance to small businesses, non-profits, and workers and their families through the ​We Are One | Somos Uno Resiliency Fund, with $3 million for rent, food and gas assistance for workers, $2 million for small business continuity grants and $500,000 for nonprofit continuity grants.

OOPS, NEVER MIND. The Arizona Department of Health reversed a decision to halt work with an ASU/UA team that was modeling the spread of the virus in the state. After criticism from public health officials and Democratic lawmakers, the health department said it would resume its partnership with the modeling team.

IT'S GONNA TAKE A WHILE TO BOOST THESE NUMBERS AT THIS RATE. The Ducey administration continued its second weekend of a "testing blitz" with a plan of testing 10,000 to 20,000 people every weekend. The Kaiser Family Foundation noted as of Monday, May 11, Arizona was 40th in the nation for testing on a per capita basis, having just tested 18.9 people per 1,000 people. Still, it was a step up for Arizona, which was last among the states last week. While Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak said last week he did not know how many tests were administered in the first weekend of the blitz, County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry said that fewer than 600 tests were conducted in Pima County.

NEED TO FEED. The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona opened a new drive-thru food bank at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium to help serve a larger portion of the community faster and more efficiently. The drive-thru site is open from 7 to 10 a.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

A LIFE SENTENCE. At least five Arizona prisoners have died from complications related to COVID-19 and criminal justice reform advocates fear the number of deaths are likely to increase as prisons are ideal breeding grounds for the virus. In 2019, 11 percent of the state's prison population was over 55 years old. Prison healthcare vendor Centurion recently identified 6,600 incarcerated people who are vulnerable to COVID-19 based on their age group, health status and diagnoses.

—Additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Tara Foulkrod and Jim Nintzel