May 18, 2020

Arizona coronavirus news in brief, May 18

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona: Coronavirus liability, community gardens, and more.

Arizona COVID-19 map, June 2

Cases: 21,250 | Deaths: 941 | Tests: 336,589*
Click on a county to see totals and daily increases reported by the state. Daily changes don't necessarily reflect the previous 24 hours. Health experts say case data significantly underrepresents the actual spread of the virus due to limited testing. *Test numbers combine serology and PCR tests.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: ADHS, county health departments, Census 2018 Quick Facts

Select regional and national coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic as of Monday, May 18. For more coverage, visit our resource page.

*For more coronavirus coverage, catch last week's episode of Arizona 360

Gardening brings peace to some Tucsonans during pandemic

AZPM, May 18

Consistency: It’s a quality that's been hard to find in recent months. For some Tucsonans, their gardens have been a reliable oasis to nurture cucumber seedlings, hungry bees and their own mental health.

It’s not uncommon to hear the gardeners within the Community Gardens of Tucson, including myself, share stories with each other about the change of seasons, the rise of the pandemic and what seems like an increased interest in gardening around the country.

Read more here.

House Republicans push virus liability, Democrats object

AP, May 18

PHOENIX (AP) — Republicans who control the Arizona House hope to rush through a bill this week protecting businesses that reopen from lawsuits by employees or patrons who contract coronavirus. Minority Democrats object to the liability bill and a desire by many House Republicans to push a slew of bills unrelated to the virus.

Monday's moves come as lawmakers return to work following a two month recess triggered by the pandemic and the Senate remains shuttered after voting to adjourn for the year. House Speaker Rusty Bowers said Monday that the protections are needed if businesses are to reopen and not be subject to litigation.

Read more here.

Arizona reports 233 new virus cases, 6 more known deaths

AP, May 18

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona health officials are reporting six more known deaths from the coronavirus outbreak with 233 new cases of COVID-19. The number of cases statewide has increased to 14,170 as of early Monday with the number of coronavirus deaths now at 686.

The latest numbers come the weekend after the Arizona Department of Health Services began a two-week extension of a “testing blitz” for COVID-19. The extension started on Saturday with more than 70 sites in at least nine counties participating in the weekend event. The department said testing was being made available for anyone who thinks they have been exposed and could be infected.

Feds urge 'extreme caution' for reopening nursing homes

AP, May 18

NEW YORK — Federal authorities aren’t setting any hard dates for when nursing homes can allow family members to visit again but are urging governors to use “extreme caution” in making that decision.

New guidelines out this week say it shouldn't come before all residents and staff have tested negative for the coronavirus for at least 28 days. The wait could be longer for homes that have had problems with infection controls, staffing levels or other issues. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ criteria comes more than two months after the agency ordered homes to ban visitors.

Read more here.

Moderna: Early coronavirus vaccine results are encouraging

AP, May 18

A Massachusetts company says its experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing.

Cambridge-based Moderna Inc. said Monday that its vaccine triggered immune responses in eight healthy, middle-aged volunteers. The experimental vaccine generated antibodies similar to those seen in people who have recovered from COVID-19 in study volunteers who were given either a low or medium dose. The study is being led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In the next phase, researchers will try to determine which dose is best for a definitive experiment that they aim to start in July.

Read more here.

Report: Only 8% of Arizona rent relief has gone to renters

AP, May 17

PHOENIX — Arizona Department of Housing data shows more than 10,000 renters have submitted applications seeking help from a program designed to help people hurt economically by the coronavirus pandemic. But the Arizona Republic reports that less than 400 renters statewide have received money from the emergency program or 8% of the funding with more than $4.6 million sitting unused.

Only $395,000 has been approved so far, the newspaper reports. If funds continue to be distributed at the same rate as in the early weeks, it could take about a year to allocate all the money.


Arizona House to resume work despite Senate vote to adjourn

AP, May 17

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The Arizona House plans to return to work this week after a two-month recess triggered by the coronavirus pandemic and despite the Senate’s decision to try to adjourn for the year.

A top priority is enacting a measure that would shield businesses that reopen from lawsuits. Majority Republicans who control the Legislature and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey say such protections are needed to prevent frivolous litigation that could damage businesses. The House plans to take up dozens of other bills as well, testing the Senate's resolve to adjourn for the year. The Rules Committee meets Monday, and floor sessions could start Tuesday or Wednesday.

Learn more here.

Pandemic playing havoc with Arizona high school graduations

AP, May 17

PHOENIX — The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has played havoc with high school proms and graduations across Arizona, but some school administrators are devising backup plans. For example, a small charter school in Prescott is planning to a drive-in graduation ceremony for 32 senior students.

Northpoint Expeditionary Learning Academy director Melissa Wagoner says the ceremony will take place in the back parking lot of Prescott Resort with cars assembling in rows. The event will be projected onto a large screen and the sound will be broadcast through an FM radio channel. The ceremony will include a senior movie with different photos from the students’ four years of high school. Seniors will receive their diplomas “drive-thru” style as they exit.


Students start Spanish-language virus information campaign

AP, May 17

An effort by University of Arizona students to provide coronavirus information to a Spanish-speaking community has gained financial backing from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The Arizona Daily Star reported the campaign launched by four of the university’s College of Medicine-Tucson students also received city and county support. The university says the campaign includes Spanish-language posters to underscore the importance of social distancing, hand-washing and wearing masks in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. The informational posters were displayed in areas where Latinos typically shop and are now featured in more than a dozen Tucson grocery stores.


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