May 19, 2020 / Modified may 19, 2020 3:26 p.m.

Arizona coronavirus news in brief, May 19

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona: Unemployment, federal funds for Arizona testing, casinos 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 Tuesday, May 19. For more coverage, visit our resource page.

Casinos closed for now

AZPM, May 19

As many businesses begin reopening, Southern Arizona’s tribal casinos remain closed for now.

Casino del Sol intended to reopen this week, but has now pushed that back to June 3, according to its website.

In an online statement, Casino del Sol lists the safety measures in place upon reopening to minimize the spread of COVID-19. In addition to increased sanitation and deep cleaning, staff and guests are required to wear masks and follow social distancing. Plexiglass barriers, gloves and hand sanitizer will now be part of table games, with cards destroyed at the end of each day. Slot machines have been spaced out to allow for distance between players.

The casino’s bars and pools will remain closed for the time being.

On its website, Desert Diamond Casinos says its operations will remain closed at least through the month of May. No further details are provided.

Legislation proposes additional stimulus funds for tribes

AZPM, May 19

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act Friday, which includes $20 billion for tribal governments for COVID-19 related costs and $4 billion for tribal provisions.

Some of the provisions included were $2.1 billion for Indian Health Services, which is responsible for providing tribal members with health care; $900 million to the Bureau of Indian Affairs to address crowded housing, hygiene and sanitation issues; and $4 million for Violence Against Women Act programs, according to a press release from U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva.

Learn more here.

North American border closures extended to June

Fronteras Desk, May 19

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it is keeping the southwestern border with Mexico closed to nonessential travel.

The border closure that started two months ago will now go into late June, according to a Homeland Security Department announcement.

The U.S., Canada and Mexico agreed to keep their shared boundaries closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The Trump administration also extended its CDC health protocol Title 42: the rule that allows it to bypass regular detention of apprehended immigrants who cross the border illegally and immediately deport them. Both policies are now set to expire June 22.

Agency: US provides $150.1M to Arizona for COVID-19 testing

AP, May 19

PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that the federal government is providing $150.1 million of new funding to Arizona to support testing for COVID-19.

The department said the funding for Arizona is part of $10.25 billion provided to states, territories, and local jurisdictions from the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The department said in a statement the money will provide critical support for testing and other work while helping jurisdictions reopen their economies.

Arizona health officials reported 396 additional COVID-19 cases with 18 more deaths as of Tuesday.

Program for self-employed leads to jump in Arizona unemployment numbers

AZPM, May 19

Arizona’s first-time unemployment claims topped 108,000 for the week ending May 15. The number of first-time claims had been dropping for a month, but last week Arizona joined the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.

The PUA allows the self-employed, contractors and those working in the gig economy — who are not usually eligible for unemployment — to receive benefits.

Self-employed Arizona residents filed 77,000 new claims the first week they were eligible for the program.

To see the numbers, click here.

States accused of fudging or bungling COVID-19 testing data

AP, May 19

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — As large parts of the U.S. ease their lockdowns against the coronavirus, public health officials in some states are being accused of bungling infection numbers or even deliberately using a little sleight of hand to make things look better than they are.

The result is that politicians, business owners and ordinary Americans who are making decisions about reopenings and other day-to-day matters risk being left with the impression that the virus is under more control than it actually is.

Read more here.

Outbreak on edge of Navajo Nation overwhelms rural hospital

AP, May 18

GALLUP, N.M. (AP) — A night of revelry before bars and restaurants shut in New Mexico appears to have led to an outbreak in a detox center and homeless shelter in the city of Gallup, on the fringes of the Navajo Nation.

The outbreak would combine with the local hospital’s ill-fated staffing decisions and its well-intentioned but potentially overly ambitious treatment plans to create a perfect storm. The hospital became overwhelmed and now sends all of its critically ill coronavirus patients to other facilities. Doctors, nurses and hospital executives disagree about who is to blame.

Read more here.

More than 1,000 health care workers sign up for antibody tests in first afternoon

AZPM, May 18

Hundreds of Arizona doctors, nurses, and first responders have been signing up for COVID-19 antibody tests developed by the University of Arizona. The university made 250,000 of them available starting Friday.

Dr. Dan Derksen with UA Health Sciences says their online system took over 1,000 test reservations that afternoon. "Yeah I've been getting phone calls all day long from physicians and first responders who're interested in getting the test and starting to sign up and giving us feedback on that," Derksen said Monday afternoon.

Learn more here.

Social distancing measures lead to crowding outside port of entry

Fronteras Desk, May 18

There is rarely a wait for northbound pedestrians crossing the border at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales. But some border crossers are concerned that new social distancing strategies inside the port are causing unsafe crowding for people waiting outside.

"There’s just this long line of people who are huddled close together," said Katie Sharar, who crosses the border frequently to work at a soup kitchen run by the migrant aid group Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Sonora. "It's creating a problem that didn't exist before."

Read more here.

Firefighting crews grapple with COVID-19

Cronkite News, May 18

TEMPE – As if fighting fires wasn’t dangerous enough, firefighters now have to worry about COVID-19 while they’re on the job, making for what fire officials say will be the “most challenging season we’re going to have.”

Strategies to check the spread of the disease include everything from avoiding eating together in large mess halls to splitting the regular 10-person fire crew into two teams of five. But officials said they still expect challenges in a job that relies on constant face-to-face communication.

All of which comes in a year in which conditions are ripe for intense wildfires in the state.

Learn more here.

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