Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

The COVID News We Covered This Week

THE LOCAL NUMBERS: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Arizona continued to skyrocket, topping 79,000 as of Tuesday, June 30, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 8,004 of the state's 79,215 confirmed cases. The number of confirmed cases nearly quadrupled from June 1, when the state had 20,123 cases. A total of 1,632 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 273 in Pima County, according to the June 30 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 reported that as of June 29, 4,736 Arizonans were hospitalized and 1,435 ICDU beds (86 percent) were filled. The report shows 1,077 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 29.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS: Nationwide, more than 2.5 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed nearly 126,000 people in the United States as of Tuesday, June 30, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

NO ROOM AT THE ICU: Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Marjorie Bessel announced over the weekend that the hospital network, which treats about half of Arizona's hospitalized COVID patients, was reaching its limit as it activated its surge plan and balanced its load of patients among its facilities. Banner is calling in additional health care workers from around the country.

THE WORST IS YET TO BE: As COVID-19 cases continue to skyrocket, Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday ordered the closing of bars, gyms, movie theaters, water parks and river tubing operators for at least 30 days. Ducey also said Arizona would delay the start of the school year by two weeks to Aug. 17. Ducey warned that Arizonans will see more cases of COVID-19 before the numbers begin to decrease and repeated his call for Arizonans to mask up when in public, stay home as much as possible, wash their hands and keep a physical distance from others. The Department of Health will also activate its "crisis standards of care" and cancel non-emergency surgeries as more COVID patients fill hospitals, ICU beds and emergency rooms. Ducey noted the greatest growth was among people ages 20 to 44, who generally do not face the worst symptoms of the disease but are capable of transmitting it to parents, grandparents, and others who do. "I don't want there to be any illusion or sugar-coated expectations," Ducey said last week. "We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following in terms of cases and hospitalizations."

SCHOOLS WILL HAVE MONEY, BUT WILL THEY HAVE STUDENTS? Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman last week announced new funding for Arizona schools to support the reopening of schools in August. Ducey resolved a major challenge that schools were facing: Funding is based on how many students physically attend schools and with some families turning to online learning to avoid infection in the classroom, those numbers are likely to fall. Ducey, rather than call a special session of lawmakers to change the law, instead issued an executive order providing $200 million to Arizona schools to prevent the funding cuts and support remote learning. The package also includes $40 million to improve broadband lines in rural Arizona, where internet connections can be spotty; $20 million for high-need schools; $6 million for the Arizona Teacher Academy to help with a teacher shortage; $1 million in micro-grants for innovative learning programs; $1 million to purchase vehicles for the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind; $700,000 for leadership development; and $500,000 for tutoring programs. The Arizona Department of Education is providing an additional $25 million from the federal CARES Act for assistance to schools.

NO FIREWORKS: The Town of Marana announced late Monday night that it would join Oro Valley and Tucson in canceling their usual Fourth of July fireworks displays. Tucson City Manager Mike Ortega said he hoped the show atop "A" Mountain could be rescheduled "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."

PLEASE DON'T DRINK HAND SANITIZER: Arizonans are being asked to please stop trying to drink hand sanitizer to get drunk. Since June 1, Arizona's poison centers have received 14 cases related to people drinking homemade liquor and hand sanitizers in pursuit of intoxication. While hand sanitizer does contain the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic drinks (ethanol) and can reach 140 proof, it can also contain the toxic alcohol methanol if improperly made. According to Banner Health, all 14 cases resulted in an adult being hospitalized in critical condition.

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