Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Oct. 28: More Than 1,000 New Cases Today; Total AZ Cases Top 241K; TUSD Returning to In-Classroom Instruction in Two Weeks; Gem Show Canceled

With 1,044 new cases reported today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 241,000 as of Wednesday, Oct. 28, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Over the last week, the state has seen, on average, more than 1,000 new cases a day

With 259 new cases reported today, Pima County had seen 27,962 of the state’s 241,116 confirmed cases.

With 14 new deaths reported yesterday, a total of 5,905 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 636 deaths in Pima County, according to the Oct. 28 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases has declined from July peaks but has ticked upward in recent weeks as the virus has begun to spread more rapidly. ADHS reported that as of Oct. 27, 871 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. That number peaked with 3,517 hospitalized COVID patients on July 13.

A total of 857 people visited emergency rooms on Oct. 27 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 188 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Oct. 27. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

Arizona Department of Health Director Cara Christ noted on her blog last week that cases in the state were on the increase.

Christ wrote that while Arizona has not seen as big a surge as other states, “we have recently seen a shift of COVID-19 spread in the wrong direction.”

Christ noted that the statewide positivity results from tests has climbed from 3.9 percent to 5.5 percent in recent weeks.

Christ urged Arizonans to wear masks but noted the numbers across the state still indicated “moderate” spread of the coronavirus and hospitals are not reporting a surge of patients.

On a week-by-week basis in Pima County, the number of positive COVID tests peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,452 cases, according to an Oct. 21 report from the Pima County Health Department.

After a bump following the return of UA students, cases on a week-to-week basis declined but have hit a plateau. For the week ending Sept. 19, 1,221 cases were reported; for the week ending Sept. 26, 599 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 3, 526 cases were reported; for the week ending Oct. 10, 462 cases were reported; and for the week ending Oct. 17, 501 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, four in the week ending Sept. 19, four in the week ending Sept. 26 and one 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, 15 people were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 3, 20 patients were admitted; in the week ending Oct. 10, 27 people were admitted; and the week ending Oct. 17, 33 people were admitted. (Recent weeks are subject to revision.)

Major 2021 Gem Show canceled

The Tucson Gem & Mineral Society announced yesterday that the 2021 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show is canceled. While the overall Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase season that takes over Tucson from February to March is home to numerous showcases and exhibits, the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society's Gem and Mineral Show is the largest and the show that launched it all.

"COVID-19-related risks clearly make it impossible for TGMS to put on anything more than a shadow of our accustomed vibrant event," representatives of the Tucson Gem & Mineral Society announced in a prepared statement. "Restrictive COVID-19 travel policies mean many of our major domestic, and most of our international museum exhibitors and friends either won't or can't travel here. This effectively eliminates both our exhibits and educational programs."

However, the society has announced that they intend to use this time to plan for a "blockbuster" 2022 show.

"Most importantly, TGMS does not want to be responsible for a single COVID-19 fatality or serious illness. Our show is run by volunteers and many of us are in high-risk are many of our participants and attendees," the statement continued. "Consulting closely with the Pima County Health Department, the Mayor and City Manager’s offices and the good folks who run the [Tucson Convention Center], it is clear that applying the mandated COVID-19 protocols to reduce risk would mean drastically restricted attendance and curtailment of many of our programs."

In 2018, the total Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase brought an estimated economic impact of $120 million to the City of Tucson.

TUSD set to launch in-class hybrid learning on Nov. 12

Tucson’s largest school district will allow students to return to in-person classes starting Thursday, Nov. 12.

Tucson Unified School District’s governing board voted to return to school in a hybrid model in a 3-2 vote Tuesday night.

Board members Kristel Foster, Bruce Burke and Leila Counts voted to approve the reopening date,and members Adelita Grijalva and Rachael Sedgwick opposed.

The board voted to approve the hybrid learning model on Oct. 6 but delayed voting on when to implement it until tonight’s special meeting.

Pima County Public Health Director Theresa Cullen discussed the county health department’s three specific guidelines for opening in a hybrid model: a two-week decline in COVID-19 cases, two weeks of percent positivity below 7% and hospital visits for COVID-19 illness below 10%. As of Oct. 22, Pima County had met all three benchmarks.

“We believe that as a county, it is okay for school districts to go to a hybrid learning model based on the current statistics,” Cullen said.

She noted the health department recommends the district take strict mitigation tactics including increased sanitation, social distancing and universal mask-wearing, as well as reporting COVID-19 cases to the health department and complying with isolation and quarantine guidelines.

The governing board unanimously approved a second motion to authorize “the Superintendent to initiate school closures…if such closures are recommended by the Pima County Health Department and deemed necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Pima County.”

More details here.

School districts see a handful of COVID cases

As local school districts allow students to return to campus in hybrid learning models, they’re reporting positive COVID-19 cases among students and staff, resulting in some students and staff members being asked to quarantine themselves if they were in contact with people who have tested positive.

As of Monday, Marana Unified School District has reported five positive COVID-19 cases with 24 students and staff in quarantine since they reopened in a hybrid model Oct. 19, according to Alli Benjamin, the district’s public relations and community engagement director.

At Mountain View High School, four students tested positive for coronavirus, causing 23 students and employees who were potentially exposed to quarantine. One case was confirmed yesterday, and the other three on Oct. 22, 23 and 24, according to Benjamin.

One student was reported as testing positive at Marana Middle School on Oct. 21, but no potential contacts were established, according to Benjamin.

As of Friday, the Amphitheater Unified School District has reported five positive coronavirus cases resulting in 35 students and staff members quarantining, according to Communications Director Michelle Valenzuela.

Amphitheater reopened in a hybrid model on Oct. 12, and its latest positive COVID-19 case was reported at Walker Elementary School on Friday. One student tested positive, causing two employees to quarantine.

On Oct. 20, 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 were asked to quarantine themselves.

One student at Canyon del Oro High School reported a positive test Oct. 19, causing 13 students who may have been in contact with the person to self-quarantine.

The week prior, 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.

Get tested: Pima County offers free COVID testing, UA offering antibody testing

The Pima County Health Department has four free testing centers around town 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) 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.

Schedule an appointment at

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

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