Southern AZ Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

What's happened this week

The Local Numbers. The number of Arizona's confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 166,000 as of Tuesday, July 28, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 15,292 of the state's 165,934 confirmed cases. A total of 3,408 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 431 in Pima County, according to the July 28 report. Arizona hospitals remain under pressure although the numbers of patients has declined from a peak earlier this month. ADHS reported that as of July 27, 2,564 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, down from a peak of 3,517 on July 13 and the lowest number hospitalized since June 24, when 2,453 COVID patients were hospitalized. A total of 1,158 people visited ERs on July 27 with COVID symptoms. The number of ER visits hadn't dipped that low since June 29, when 1,077 people with COVID symptoms visited ERs. The number of COVID-related ER visits peaked at 2,008 on July 7. A total of 814 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds on July 27. That's the lowest it's been since July 3, when 796 COVID-19 patients were in ICU. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

back to school. Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced last week that while school districts have to open up "learning centers" by Aug. 17, they do not have to provide in-class instruction. Instead, the schools can open up for students who need a place to go during the day but offer all online courses, as Tucson Unified School District announced it would do earlier this month. Ducey and Hoffman announced a plan to use metrics regarding the spread of the virus to determine whether schools are safe to reopen. The Arizona Department of Health Services is working with education leaders to develop the standards before Aug. 7. Local school districts have been planning a mix of "distance learning" online instruction and in-school 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.

open campus. University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said last week that UA would offer a mix of four types of classes: in-person, which will include physical distancing and mandated face coverings; flex in-person, which will include both in-class and online instruction; live online, in which students virtually engage with an instructor in real-time on their computers; and iCourses, which students can complete independently through the schools D2L system. Robbins said he anticipated that between faculty, staff and students, there would be about 20,000 people on campus, rather than the usual 60,000 that the fall semester would bring. Students, staff, and faculty will have access to a mix of tests, including PCR tests to determine if they have COVID-19 and antibody tests to determine if they have had it in the past.

closures continue. Citing a drop in the total number of cases on a week-to-week basis, Gov. Doug Ducey again said that mask-wearing and steps to reduce the interaction of people in large groups had resulted in some positive signs regarding the spread of the virus. While he once again sidestepped an opportunity to pass a statewide mask mandate, he did roll out TV commercials featuring a boxer who wears a mask. Ducey also extended the closure of nightclubs, gyms, movie theaters, waterparks, tubing operations and some bars. The executive order pausing the operation of those businesses is up for review every two weeks. While coronavirus cases may be on a slight downward trend in the state, Ducey urged Arizonans to stay vigilant by staying at home and wearing masks while practicing social distancing when out in public to continue the fight against the virus. Ducey again warned the state still had a long road ahead in the fight against COVID-19. "We need to continue to be diligent," Ducey said. "We can't let up."

senate to out-of-work arizonans: Drop dead.

As of Friday, July 24, out-of-work Arizonans are no longer eligible for an extra $600 a week in Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation after Senate Republicans failed to act on legislation from the U.S. House of Representatives that would have extended the program. The Senate was expected to continue working on a new coronavirus relief package this week. Gov. Ducey last week asked Arizona's congressional delegation to consider a number of provisions to help Arizona in the latest coronavirus package, including an extension of the extra unemployment dollars. "We understand the concerns from businesses that are having difficulty rehiring employees when the government pays more in unemployment benefits compared to what they were paying their former employees before the pandemic," Ducey wrote. "We are advocating that, at a minimum, individuals who continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, be eligible to receive at least 100% of their weekly earnings that they were making prior to government intervention in their employers' ability to stay open."

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

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