Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

This week's news

THE LOCAL NUMBERS: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Arizona continued to skyrocket, topping 105,000 as of Tuesday, July 7, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County topped the 10,000 threshhold, with 10,184 of the state's 105,094 confirmed cases. A total of 1,927 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, according to the July 7 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 July 6, a record number of 3,356 Arizonans were hospitalized with COVID symptoms and a record number of 869 COVID patients were in ICU units. The report shows 1,385 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on July 6.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS: Nationwide, more than 2.9 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed more than 130,000 people in the United States as of Monday, June 29, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

UNHEALTHY SURGE: The Department of Health has activated its "crisis standards of care" and asked hospitals to cancel non-emergency surgeries as more COVID patients fill hospitals, ICU beds, and emergency rooms. In a visit to Arizona last week, Vice President Mike Pence said the federal government would be sending up to 500 healthcare workers to Arizona to support Arizona's overstretched nurses and doctors. Pence's trip was delayed by a day after several members of his Secret Service detail tested positive for COVID-19. Some of them were quarantined in a Phoenix hotel with medical supervision, according to CNN.

PANDEMIC LEARNING CURVES: With the spread of COVID increasingly out of control in Arizona, Tucson Unified School District and Sunnyside School District announced that they will only offer "distance learning" or online instruction when school starts next month. Unlike in spring, when schools moved online following spring break, districts are planning stricter instructional time designed to mirror traditional in-person classes. Other local school districts were still planning on a mix of in-person and distance learning. See details on Page 4.

UNDOCUMENTED ENTRY TO U.S. NOW PUNISHABLE BY DEATH: Four Democratic members of Congress from Arizona—Raul Grijalva, Ann Kirkpatrick, Ruben Gallego, and Greg Stanton—were among 80 members of Congress who called on Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and Acting Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director Matthew T. Albence to "safely and swiftly" release children and adults held in immigration detention centers due to the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. The group sent the letter following an order from a federal judge on June 26 saying that all children who have been detained for more than 20 days at three facilities should be released.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Members of Congress, advocates, attorneys, and doctors have continuously urged ICE to use its authority to release detained families," a letter to the Trump administration officials reads. "Instead of releasing families, ICE has used the pandemic to implement cruel and inhumane policies toward immigrants. For example, in May, following another order from Judge Gee that required ICE conduct individualized release assessments for children in detention-the agency asked detained parents to sign documents without counsel present, leading those parents to believe they were forced to choose between indefinite detention with their children, and the release of their children alone, without them."

A BIT OF GOOD NEWS: In non-COVID news, firefighters have mostly contained the Bighorn Fire, which has consumed more than 119,000 acres of the Santa Catalina Mountains since a bolt of lightning set the blaze off on the night of Friday, June 5. The fire is 75 percent contained. According to fire crews, the Bighorn Fire is almost completely out. Despite the scale of the fire, firefighters were able to protect the Mount Lemmon community of Summerhaven, which was evacuated on June 16. ■

—By Jim Nintzel with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Tara Foulkrod

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