April 29, 2020 / Modified apr 29, 2020 5:46 p.m.

Arizona coronavirus news in brief, April 29

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona: Stay-at-home order, calls for inmate releases, and more.

Arizona COVID-19 cumulative counts, Dec. 14

Cases: 420,248 | Deaths: 7,358
The state reported 11,806 more cases and 1 deaths on this day. Choose a Layerlayer and click on county for more.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: ADHS, county health departments, Census 2018 Quick Facts. *Test numbers and rates utilize total test numbers (diagnostic and serology). Cumulative totals are based daily numbers posted by the state. Daily changes don't necessarily reflect the previous 24 hours.

Select regional and national coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic as of Wednesday, April 29. For more coverage, visit our resource page. This story may be updated.

Ducey extends stay-at-home order

AZPM, April 29

Gov. Doug Ducey Wednesday extended his stay-at-home order through May 15 with modifications. The order had been due to expire at the end of the month. Ducey thanked business people and residents who he credited with helping to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"Our physical distancing is working. Your cooperation is working. I'm confident that we can say that we've seen the spread has been slowed and these have been a hard-fought gains. We've learned where we are today and we are not going to undo this," Ducey said.

Wednesday's announcement came after the mayors of Tucson, Phoenix and Flagstaff all called for the governor to maintain his executive order until it could meet the CDC guideline that calls for 14 days of declines in COVID-19 cases before reopening the economy.

Ducey says the state will work with the restaurant industry to gradually reopen dining rooms across the state starting May 12. Ducey says the dining experience will be different when restaurants resume on-premises dining.

"It'll be a temporary experience with food service workers and service workers wearing masks," Ducey said. "Rather than coming to your table and asking you what you like to drink, they'll likely inform you that they've just washed their hands and ask how you would like your food delivered."

Advocates plead with Arizona to release vulnerable inmates

AZPM, April 29

This month on a phone call, Lillian Coppess’ husband told her what to do with his remains.

"He’s very realistic, and he knows that, god forbid, if he gets the virus, his chances of surviving are very minimum," she said.

Her husband Wellington Coppess is one of nearly 42,000 people incarcerated in the Arizona prison system.

He is about halfway through a 44-year sentence in Tucson for aggravated assault and second-degree murder. It's taken him years to get treatment for hepatitis C, and he also suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD.

As of Wednesday, 49 incarcerated people have tested positive for coronavirus. Coppess said if her husband becomes one of them, he likely won’t survive.

Listen to today's feature here.

Pima County employability class moves online

AZPM, April 29

Workers looking for a head start on new jobs can find help through Pima County's employable skills course. Classes are being moved online for the first time starting this week.

The course was offered by the One-Stop Career Center in-person before classes were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pima County Community Services manager Dan Sullivan explains the virtual class is also part of the approval process for those seeking funding for job training.

Read more here.

Clean Elections Commission moving Arizona debates online

AZPM, April 29

The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission is moving its legislative debates to the internet this year due to COVID-19.

The debates will be live streamed on the commission’s YouTube page, but people will still be able to ask the candidates questions in real time.

Learn more here.

Drug proves effective against virus as economic damage rises

AP, April 29

Scientists have announced the first effective treatment against the coronavirus — an experimental drug that can speed the recovery of COVID-19 patients — in a major medical advance that comes as the economic gloom caused by the scourge deepens in the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. government says it is working to make the medication available to patients as quickly as possible.

Learn more here.

Smallest businesses get a few hours at head of relief loan line

AP, April 29

NEW YORK (AP) — The smallest companies seeking coronavirus relief loans are moving to the head of the line.

The Small Business Administration says that for eight hours ending at midnight Eastern time it will accept loans only from small lenders.

SBA head Jovita Carranza says in a tweet that the step is being taken to ensure that small community lenders and their small business customers will have access to the $310 billion program, There have been concerns about the nation’s smallest businesses being able to get loans because small banks, many of them with just a few hundred applications, have had to compete with big national banks submitting hundreds of thousands of loan requests.

Learn more here.

Trump says he won't extend social distancing guidelines

AP, April 29

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the federal government’s coronavirus social distancing guidelines will be “fading out” when they expire on Thursday and states pivot to reopening.

The administration says the guidance issued 45 days ago has been incorporated into recommendations given to states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.

Meanwhile, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, described the administration’s response to the pandemic as “a great success story" and predicted that, by July the country will be "rocking again.”

Learn more here.

Air Force, Guard jets to perform flyover to honor responders

AP, April 28

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Air Force and Arizona Air National Guard aircraft on Friday will conduct a flyover above metro Phoenix to honor healthcare workers and others responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Luke Air Force Base officials say 15 jets will begin the flyover at approximately 3:10 p.m., and that it will last 50 minutes. Officials say the flight path will take the jets over Buckeye, Luke, Litchfield Park, Surprise, Waddell, Goodyear, Tolleson, Phoenix and Tempe before they head over Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Scottsdale, Deer Valley, Glendale, Peoria, Sun City West, and El Mirage.

Participating aircraft will include seven F-35A fighters and seven F-16 fighters from Luke and a KC-135 tanker from the Air Guard’s 161st Air Refueling Wing at Sky Harbor International Airport.

Pima County hires new public health director, starts June 1

AP, April 28

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Pima County has hired a new public health director. County officials announced Tuesday that Dr. Theresa Cullen will start her job on June 1.

Cullen is a graduate of the University of Arizona College of Medicine. She has worked as a public health physician and retired as a Public Health Service Officer from the federal government with the rank of Rear Admiral and Assistant U.S. Surgeon General.

Cullen will replace Bob England, who has served as interim health director since last June after Marcy Flanagan left to direct the Maricopa County Health Department. England will stay on as a part-time physician to help guide Pima County through the coronavirus pandemic.

Jobless benefits expand next month, but advocates worry it’s not enough

Cronkite News, April 28

TEMPE – Arizona unemployment benefits will expand next month to cover workers who are not now eligible, to last longer than before and to pay more in weekly benefits to some jobless workers.

But economists and advocates say that while the change is welcome – it’s probably too little, and too late.

The changes, which take effect May 12, are part of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that all states are rolling out under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the $2 trillion federal relief package approved last month.

Under the new rules, benefits will be available to the self-employed, to people seeking part-time work and people who lack sufficient work history. It also includes federal funds that extend benefits to 39 weeks for some workers and can add $600 a week to unemployment checks.

Learn more here.

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