Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

A glimpse at the news covered throughout the week

WELCOME TO THE HOT ZONE, MR. PRESIDENT: As President Donald Trump arrived in Arizona on Tuesday, June 23, with plans to hold a rally at a Phoenix megachurch, the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Arizona continued to skyrocket, topping 58,000, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 6,089 of the state's 58,179 confirmed cases. With roughly 19,000 new cases in just one week, Arizona is now considered a new pandemic hotspot. A total of 1,384 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 247 in Pima County, according to the June 23 report. Arizona hospitals continued to see a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. ADHS reports that as of June 22, a record number of 2,136 Arizonans were hospitalized, which is more than double the number who were hospitalized on June 1. A record 614 people were in ICU units, which had only 16 percent capacity remaining statewide. The report shows a record 1,228 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 22.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS: Nationwide, more than 2.2 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed nearly 120,000 people in the United States as of Monday, June 22, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. Before leaving for Arizona, President Trump told reporters that he was not joking when he said he thought the United States should slow down testing for COVID-19 because the growing numbers looked bad.

MASK UP—IT'S THE LAW: The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 along party lines Friday, June 19 to mandate the wearing of masks countywide. The order will be enforced by the Pima County Health Department and not by law enforcement and carries no criminal penalty. One day before the supervisors voted to require the masks countywide, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a proclamation requiring masks in the city limits, with a possible $50 fine for repeat offenders. The actions by the city and county came after Gov. Doug Ducey agreed to allow local governments to mandate the wearing of masks; previously, Ducey's emergency declaration prevented local governments from imposing regulations that went beyond what the state was mandating in the battle against COVID-19.

SUMMER OF HELL CONTINUES: The Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains grew to more than 58,000 acres as hotshot crews and aircraft continued to battle the blaze as of Tuesday, June 22. The fire was only 33 percent contained. While the fire had blazed through peaks and canyons, firefighters had managed to protect the Mount Lemmon community of Summerhaven and the surrounding cabins, as well as homes in Oracle, Catalina, Oro Valley and the Catalina Foothills. Mount Lemmon residents have been warned to evacuate, as have some residents of Oracle. Other Oracle residents as well as those in the foothills were warned to be "set" to evacuate under the state's Ready, Set, Go evacuation system.

HAPPY JUNETEENTH! Tucson Mayor Regina Romero celebrated Juneteenth on Friday, June 19, by hanging a massive Black Lives Matter banner from the top of City Hall that could be seen from Interstate 10. "Tucson stands in solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters across the country in fighting the systemic racism that pervades our society at all levels," Romero said in a prepared statement. "We are here to support, listen, and learn from the Black Lives Matter movement and our community so that we can better effect change and work for meaningful reform that closes racial, economic and social inequities."

BUT THE PACKRAT PLAYHOUSE REMAINS AN INFECTIOUS DEATHTRAP: The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum began a phased reopening June 16 with new safety precautions based on the Center for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. The natural history museum, located at 2021 N. Kinney Road, is also a zoo, botanical garden and aquarium. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, they frequently hosted art gallery events and educational programs for children and adults of all ages. Guests who plan a visit to the museum will still have access to most exhibits. Some indoor amenities will be closed, such as the Packrat Playhouse, while others will be modified to ensure health safety. Food and beverages will still be available onsite.

— Jim Nintzel with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Tara Foulkrod and Logan Burtch-Buus.

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