Thursday, February 25, 2021

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.”
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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.”



Posted By on Wed, Feb 24, 2021 at 1:00 AM

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 2:26 PM

This Saturday, Feb. 27, the Pima Animal Care Center is hosting a pet supply distribution event at Mission Manor Elementary School (600 W. Santa Rosa St.) from 1 to 5 p.m. (or until supplies run out.)

Items available will include collars, food, leashes, bowls, treats, toys, pet stairs and cat litter. There will also be some human-related items too, such as laundry detergent, blankets and hygiene products. Pet owners won’t need to have a pet with them in order to pick up supplies.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, people have been asking us for help so that they can keep their pet,” said PACC Director of Human Animal Support Services Michele Figueroa. “If we are able to keep a pet in a loving home all for the cost of some food or leashes, we absolutely want to make that happen.”

This outreach is part of PACC's Human Animal Support Services program, which has distributed 1.3 million meals and 36,180 pounds of supplies to vulnerable pet owners. This program is funded through the Friends of PACC and food is provided by local donors, as well as Amazon and Greater Good.

For more information, visit PACC's website

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 12:21 PM

After hearing the distressing story of a mother desperate to conceive children only to find out the artificial insemination treatments she received were sourced from the very doctor she entrusted to provide her sperm from an anonymous donor, Arizona Sen. Victoria Steele (D-Tucson) decided to use her position of power to help other victims.

When Kristen Finlayson took an Ancestry DNA kit in 2019, her mother, Debra Guilmette, discovered that Dr. James Blute III, who provided her fertility treatments in the ’80s, used his own sperm to inseminate her instead of using sperm from an anonymous Hispanic donor as she requested.

Finlayson went 34 years believing she was of Hispanic descent, only to find out the DNA test results showed she had no Hispanic DNA and was primarily Irish. The Ancestry site shows that Finlayson has 12 half-siblings, including children of the doctor who delivered her.

click to enlarge Kristen Finlayson as a child, with her brother Aaron Salgado. Both discovered as adults that their mother's fertility doctor was also their father. - COURTESY DEBRA GUILMETTE
Courtesy Debra Guilmette
Kristen Finlayson as a child, with her brother Aaron Salgado. Both discovered as adults that their mother's fertility doctor was also their father.

Finlayson’s DNA tests revealed that Blute is her biological father.

Steele saw the story, first reported by Lupita Murillo of KVOA News 4 Tucson, and drafted a bill that would make fertility fraud a criminal offense in Arizona as it is in California, Indiana and Texas.

Steele introduced the bill before the 2021 state legislative session began, but her bill was never assigned to a committee.

“I requested a meeting with [Senate President Karen Fann], I said I'd like to see her because I want to ask her to please reconsider, and please assign this to a committee so it can get a hearing,” Steele said. “I think that she may be thinking that this is a controversial bill, but I think that actually, I put a bill up here that everybody can get behind, and we could have a real bipartisan bill . . . I assumed that in a few days, it would be assigned to a committee because she would look at it, and in her heart of hearts, she would get that this really does make sense.”

On Jan. 20, Steele found out a bill criminalizing fertility fraud did make it to a committee to be voted on, but it was not hers.

Sen. Nancy Barto, R-Phoenix, had introduced a similar bill that would make fertility fraud a criminal offense. It was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 20.

“I was floored. I knew [Barto] would like it, but I didn't know she'd like it that much,” Steele said. “It's not against the rules, and so she has every right to take my bill and put it in and take credit for it. It doesn't matter, as long as the bill gets passed. But it does matter because that kind of highly unethical behavior makes it really difficult to have bipartisanship, and it's really difficult to get good bills to pass.”

Barto said she never knew about Steele’s bill, but that she was contacted by a constituent who had a story of fertility fraud and felt moved to draft legislation to criminalize the act.

Barto’s bill, SB 1237, proposed making “human reproductive material fraud” a class 6 felony while providing victims liquidated damages of $10,000.

Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 11:30 AM

click to enlarge The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have yet to release specific information about spring training tickets. - ALINA NELSON/CRONKITE NEWS
Alina Nelson/Cronkite News
The Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies have yet to release specific information about spring training tickets.

PHOENIX – Going, going, almost gone!

Tickets are selling out fast at the Valley’s Cactus League stadiums, where 15 major league teams are based during spring training. With attendance limited this year because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, seats are scarce.

At least four Cactus League teams already are sold out for the spring, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, who sold out their games within 24 hours of tickets going on sale.

“The fact that it sold out as fast as it did – that fires me up,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “We’ve been looking forward to this day as much as them.”

Now, Arizona fans will have to rely on third-party ticket sites like StubHub or search for tickets at other stadiums when the Diamondbacks are playing away from Salt River Fields.



Posted By on Tue, Feb 23, 2021 at 9:08 AM

With 1,884 new cases reported today, the total number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 810,000 as of Tuesday, Feb. 23, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Pima County, which reported 151 new cases today, has seen 108,630 of the state’s 810,658 confirmed cases.

With 148 new deaths reported today, a total of 15,650 Arizonans have died after contracting COVID-19, including 2,180 deaths in Pima County, according to the Feb. 23 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases statewide has declined in recent weeks, with 1,515 coronavirus patients in the hospital as of Feb. 22. 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 1,072 people visited emergency rooms on Feb. 22 with COVID symptoms, less than half of 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 447 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.

New COVID cases, hospitalizations continue decline

For the fifth straight week, COVID-19 conditions improved across the state.

The week ending Feb. 14 saw a 35% decrease in total COVID-19 cases across the state from the week prior, according to Dr. Joe Gerald, a University of Arizona professor who creates weekly coronavirus epidemiology reports based on Arizona Department of Health Services data.

In Pima County, cases declined 31% from the week before, Gerald said in the report.