March 23, 2020 / Modified mar 23, 2020 3:38 p.m.

Arizona coronavirus news briefs, March 23

Recent coverage of COVID-19 impacting Southern Arizona: State cases grow, border closure impact and more.

Select regional coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak as of midday March 23. For more coverage, visit our resource page. This story may be updated.

Arizona House OKs emergency budget with $50M in virus aid

March 23

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona House has passed an emergency budget package that includes $50 million in funding previously passed by the state Senate to address the coronavisis crisis. The Legislature then adjourned for at least three weeks.

The rare bipartisan Senate package includes money to prevent evictions and foreclosures during the crisis, provide services for the homeless, assist small businesses and pay for food bank operations. It also includes longer welfare payments and a waiver from work requirements. It added to a basic budget package the Legislature rushed through to ensure government keeps running amid the virus crisis.

Learn more here.

Eds.: This story was updated to reflect the passage of the emergency budget.

UA student tests positive for COVID-19, describes experience

March 23

(AZPM) — Lauren is a student at the University of Arizona. On Friday, she received the news that her test for COVID-19 was positive.

AZPM spoke with her Saturday night from her home in Tucson by Zoom. She said that was the first day she hadn’t had a fever in five days.

“I started showing symptoms on Tuesday. Tuesday afternoon is when my symptoms really started to peak. It was weird because, like, I would be fine and then I wasn’t fine. I couldn’t really tell and with all the scare going around, I was very scared. I was like, 'I hope it’s not the coronavirus,'” she said.

Lauren said she had a sore throat, body aches, a severe cough and a strong headache for days. She was tested for coronavirus on Wednesday after a flu test came back negative. Her doctor gave her the test because she has asthma, which put her at higher risk.

For the full story, click here.

COVID-19 cases in Arizona grow by 50% overnight, top 200

March 23

PHOENIX (AP) — Cases of COVID-19 in Arizona have spiked by more than 50% in one day. The Department of Health reported 235 cases Monday, up from 152 on Sunday.

Two men, one in his 70s and one in his 50s, have died. Both had underlying conditions. The spike came as Banner Health announced that three drive-up sites in metro Phoenix and one in Tucson were up and running. More were in the works.

Coconino County officials announced late Sunday that they were closing one of its two drive-up specimen collection sites because the county didn’t have enough supplies and resources for both.

Read more here.

Over 1.5 billion globally told to stay home to avoid virus

March 23

NEW YORK (AP) — More than 1.5 billion people, a fifth of the world's population, are being asked or ordered to stay home as new virus infections soar.

The hunt for ventilators and other medical supplies is consuming Europe and the U.S., where political paralysis stalled efforts for quick aid from Congress, sending U.S. stocks down. New York City is quickly becoming a hot spot for the new coronavirus, and the mayor says hospitals are 10 days away from running out of basic supplies.

Medical supplies and hospital space are in short supply elsewhere as well. British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder.”

Learn more here.

Italy records smaller increase in virus cases for 2nd day

March 23

ROME (AP) — Officials say Italy has recorded a smaller day-to-day increase in new coronavirus cases for the second straight day.

Data released by Italy's Civil Protection agency on Monday showed 4,789 new cases from a day earlier, nearly 700 fewer than the 5,560 new cases reported Sunday. The number of deaths also did not rise by as much. There were just over 600 registered on Monday compared to 651 on Sunday.

Health authorities have said it will be a few more days before they will know if Italy is at the beginning of a positive trend. A top government health official said the improvements registered Monday were due to actions taken at the beginning of the month, not in recent days.

DHS: Pandemic measures cut illegal border crossings by half

March 22

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Trump administration official says illegal border crossings have dropped by half as the strictest U.S.-Mexico border policies yet went into place amid the coronavirus pandemic, despite confusion about how it was all working.

Anyone caught crossing the border illegally is to be immediately returned back to Mexico or Canada, according to the new restrictions based on an order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Friday.

According Mark Morgan, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the decision applies to all migrants.

Border residents brace for change

March 20

(AZPM) — The U.S.-Mexico border was set to close to nonessential travel March 20 at midnight to help stem the spread of the coronavirus. For towns in Arizona that see cross-border movement all the time, that news has left big questions about what will happen next.

Up until Thursday, operations were still mostly normal at Arizona ports of entry. Then the Department of Homeland Security announced a joint agreement with Mexico to close the border for tourism travel and other recreation for at least 30 days.

Robert Uribe is the mayor of Douglas, a rural town of some 16,000 residents that borders the Sonoran city of Agua Prieta. Two million cars and nearly 1 million pedestrians pass through every year, he said. It is a shared place. Residents travel back and forth, workers live in one city and commute to the other. Uribe urged residents to come home to Douglas and wait out the closure together. He said he understands and supports the measure. But closing the border also means drastically changing the way residents live their day-to-day lives.

See the full story here.

Border closure financial impact

March 20

Fronteras Desk — The U.S. and Mexico announced the closing of the shared border to shoppers and tourists alike in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. The response is intended not to shatter cross-border economies, but experts say the economic impact in Arizona is inescapable.

Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf emphasized that trade won’t be affected, and that a secure economic supply chain will be maintained.

But for Arizona, the losses translate to $7 million of revenue from Mexican shoppers and tourists every day. Some cities like Nogales, Arizona, rely on sales tax entirely for their government budget, and much of that comes from Mexican buyers.

Nogales migrant aid group changes protocol to avoid spread of coronavirus

March 20

Fronteras Desk — The Kino Border Initiative has been providing meals, legal assistance and other aid to migrants in Nogales, Sonora, for more than a decade. But with the spread of the coronavirus, it's moved to only the most essential services.

"Which is making sure that people are fed," said Katie Sharar, KBI's communications director.

She said student and long-term volunteers will no longer be helping at the soup kitchen. And they’ve moved from serving migrants sit-down meals twice a day to a take-out model — migrants line up one by one at the door to be served meals to-go.

“This is the work of the hour to be treating the people in the margins with dignity and care and respect," Sharar said.

Read more here.

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