March 24, 2020 / Modified mar 24, 2020 1:23 p.m.

Arizona coronavirus news briefs, March 24

Recent coverage of COVID-19 impacting Southern Arizona: UA scientists make testing kits, Pima County cases on the rise, and more.

banner 2 Banner Health workers seal a collection kit at a drive-thru testing site, in this undated still image from video. Banner says the testing is by appointment only.
Courtesy Banner Health

Select regional coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak as of midday March 24. For more coverage, visit our resource page. This story may be updated.


Pima County cases on the rise, more expected

March 24

(AZPM) — The Arizona Department of Health Services reported Tuesday morning that the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 increased to five in the state. The overall number of cases in the state now sits at 326, with 42 of those in Pima County.

It should be noted that the number of cases reported by the state reflects only those people who are tested. Medical experts say the number of actual cases is much higher.

On Monday, Pima County reported its first death attributed to the novel coronavirus.

“That was inevitable, and inevitably there will be many more,” said Bob England, Pima County Health director.


Trump says he hopes US will be reopened by Easter amid virus

March 24

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is weighing how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.

At a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News on Tuesday, Trump said he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter. Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction, staying home from work and isolating themselves, the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths.

While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.

Read more here.


UA scientists make thousands of testing kits

March 24

(AZPM) — The University of Arizona's Health Sciences Biorepository produced 1,600 coronavirus test kits over the weekend and expects to have 7,000 done this week.

Biorepository Director David Harris said his lab is well-positioned to source the necessary materials and familiar with creating similar biospecimen kits. Researchers created five liters of the media, a critical element in the collection kit, from a formula provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here.


Arizona death prompts warning against self-medication

March 24

PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix-area man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple took an additive used to clean fish tanks known as chloroquine phosphate, similar to the drug used to treat malaria.

Banner Health said on Monday that the couple in their 60s got sick within half an hour. Last week, President Donald Trump touted that the malaria medication chloroquine was a known treatment for COVID-19. The chief of the Food and Drug Administration clarified that the drug still needs to be tested for that use.

The woman told NBC that the president said the drug was essentially a cure. She said people should not taking anything and call their doctors. Banner Health is warning against self-medicating.

Read more here


Lawyers seeking release of nonviolent inmates in Tucson jail

March 24

PHOENIX (AP) — Prosecutors and public defenders are working to release an unknown number of nonviolent inmates in in the county jail in Tucson to guard against the spread of COVID-19.

Attorneys in the Pima County Public Defender’s Office compiled a list of 139 inmates who they say should be released and delivered the names to prosecutors. It’s unclear how many inmates could end up being released.

The releases, which ultimately must be approved by a judge, are expected to be carried out rapidly. Officials say 326 COVID-19 cases and five deaths have been reported in Arizona. No confirmed cases have been reported in Arizona's jails and prisons.

Read more here.


US manufacturing might vs virus; drinking at home

March 24

Manufacturers are reconfiguring operations to help produce desperately needed medical gear. Wine and beer sellers are doing the same to ensure a steady supply of booze to the shelter-in-place crowd.

The global outbreak of the coronavirus is changing the way businesses operate. Ford said Tuesday that it's working with GE and 3M on masks. Orders for booze meant to be consumed outside of bars or restaurants spiked by 30% over the past four weeks at Constellation Brands, the maker of, among other things, Corona beer. Constellation is shifting operations to accommodate the millions of people sheltering at home.

Read more here.


Capitol Hill adjusts to telework

March 23

WASHINGTON (Cronkite News) — Constituents with concerns about the stimulus bill working its way through Congress this week can still share their opinions with their representatives in Washington – even though their representatives may not actually be in Washington.

Arizona lawmakers, like the rest of Congress and much of the nation, are learning to telework in the face of COVID-19, with calls going to voicemail or being forwarded to workers at home – or in some cases going unanswered.

Experts say that while technology has come far since the last major disruption to Congress, after the 9/11 attacks, there are still likely to be some glitches. But service overall should be fairly unchanged.

Read more here


Immigration lawyers say gov't defying health guidance

(Fronteras Desk) — Lawyers and advocacy groups say the U.S. government is defying public health rules in place to stop the spread of the pandemic. They say new rules compel lawyers to wear personal protective equipment but then, the government doesn’t provide them the gear.

On Monday morning, they say an attorney trying to enter the Eloy Detention Center to meet with an elderly client was prevented from going in until they had the right equipment and an interpreter unable to find the gear was not allowed in.

Read more here


Border manufacturing hopes to avoid closure

March 23

(Fronteras Desk — Sonora’s massive manufacturing industry is hoping to avoid state-mandated closures by taking anti-coronavirus measures at its numerous factories.

There are more than 100 export manufacturing plants, or maquiladoras, in Nogales, Sonora, just south of the Arizona border.

They directly employ upward of 50,000 people, according to Joshua Rubin, vice-president of a prominent Nogales shelter company and industry group spokesperson.

“We're definitely investing a lot to keep this virus at bay here in Nogales, or at least keep it outside of our facilities,” he said.

Read more here

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