Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup: for Wednesday, June 24: Confirmed Cases Now Near 60K; Hospitals Reaching Capacity; Growing Number of Restaurants Shutting Down Dining Rooms, Returning to Takeout; "A" Mountain Fireworks Canceled

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona jumped to just shy of 60,000 as of Wednesday, June 24, after the state reported 1,795 new cases this morning, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County had 6,318 of the state's 59,974 confirmed cases.

A total of 1,463 people have died after contracting the virus, including 255 in Pima County. Maricopa County has more than half the state's cases, with the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases hitting 34,992.

Arizona hospitals continue to see a steady rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. This morning's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that as of yesterday, a record 2,270  Arizonans were hospitalized, more than double the 1,009 hospitalized on June 1.

A daily total of 1,212 arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 23. Previous to June, the number of people seeking help in emergency rooms never topped 667.

The number of COVID-19 patients in ICU beds dropped to 581 yesterday.

If you're out in public in Pima County, you're now expected to wear masks or face coverings if you're older than 5. The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 along party lines to require face masks on Friday, June 19.

Likewise, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a proclamation that requires face masks and includes a $50 penalty for those who don't mask up, although she said authorities would first try to educate those who don't wear masks and would resort to fines only for report offenders. There are exceptions for those who can't wear a mask for medical reasons.

In other coronavirus news:

• Before visiting Arizona yesterday to tour a border wall project in Yuma and hold a rally before a largely mask-less crowd on several thousand people in a megachurch, President Donald Trump told reporters he was not kidding about his desire to see fewer COVID-19 tests as the climbing numbers looked bad.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-AZ03 was critical of Trump's comments.

“Trump’s admission of his effort to slow testing in this country is a shocking low—even for him—and a recipe for disaster for states like Arizona where new cases are now skyrocketing," Grijalva said in a prepared statement. "But this is unsurprising from a President who refused to heed the advice of intelligence experts and public health officials during the early days of the virus for fear of upsetting his poll numbers. Now, Trump is trying to erase his failures by pretending that COVID-19 doesn’t exist while endangering even more lives across the country."

Grijalva said the nation needed more testing, not less.

“If we ever want to get back to a semblance of normalcy, we must get a grip on this virus, and more testing and contact tracing is how we do it," he said. "To say otherwise not only shows ignorance, but shows a complete disregard for human life and an utter disrespect for the people who have lost their lives."

• As the number of cases spread, some local restaurants, such DOWNTOWN Kitchen and Cocktails, BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs, Fire N' Smoke and Little Anthony's Diner, are closing their dining rooms and returning to takeout service.

“I love my customers and I love my staff, and I’m concerned,” Little Anthony's owner Tony Terry said. “It was an easy decision until things calm down and we get a handle on it. I really think every responsible business owner in Tucson should do the same thing."

• The City of Tucson has decided to postpone this year's Independence Day fireworks display on "A" Mountain. City officials cite growing concerns over large gatherings during the pandemic as well as the potential for wildfires as reasons for the postponement. Local firefighters have been battling the Bighorn Fire in the Catalina Mountains since early June after lightning ignited dry brush on the mountain's backside. "With the recent large spike in COVID-19 case and the current administrative order to postpone reopening our City facilities to August 3, postponing the event at this time is the right decision to ensure that we stay on track slowing the spread and for our planned reopening," City Manager Mike Ortega said. "It is our intent to hold the event sometime in the future, when we can all safely come together, to celebrate coming out of this time of crisis and our return to a new normal for our society."

• The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to allocate more than $380,000 to tourism-related agencies in response to the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic impacts. Nine nonprofit organizations will receive funds from the county to promote events and programs that could provide local economic development and improve tourism, according to a press release: Ajo District Chamber of Commerce, Arts Foundation for Tucson & Southern Arizona, International Sonoran Desert Alliance, Portable Practical Educational Preparation, Southwest Folklife Alliance, Children’s Museum of Tucson, Perimeter Bicycling, Tucson Botanical Gardens and the Tucson Presidio for Historic Preservation. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, attractions are open with limited capacity and events altered to accommodate physical distancing,” said Diane Frisch, the county’s Attractions and Tourism Director. “These nonprofits need our assistance now more than ever as we navigate these unprecedented times.”

—additional reporting from Tucson Weekly staff