Arizona COVID-19 one-week snapshot, Sept. 18
Cases 204,681 | Deaths 5,171| PCR tests 1,235,142
On Friday, Sept. 4, Arizona reported 728 new cases of COVID-19 and 41 additional deaths. While the state’s new case numbers have generally decreased in the past few weeks, college campuses, like the University of Arizona, have seen spikes in cases.
The risks of severe heat
This has been the hottest summer on record in Tucson, and that heat can be deadly. This week, the Buzz takes a deep dive into how the risk of heat illness and death in southern Arizona is compounded by factors like housing and the pandemic. Plus policy makers and advocates discuss ways to help people deal with future summers.
Listen to the full episode here.
Campaign strategies, independent voters, debate season
With only a few months until Election Day, Arizona 360 checks up on the campaign season so far and Arizona’s position as a battleground state. That includes analysis into what strategies the parties are deploying to gain the upper hand from political commentators Barrett Marson and Catherine Alonzo.
University of Arizona professor and political scientist Samara Klar discusses the role of independent voters. Tony Paniagua reports on current efforts in Southern Arizona to register more voters.
Plus, as Republican Sen. Martha McSally and Democratic challenger Mark Kelly settle on the terms and dates for debates, Arizona 360 learns more about the role of debates in contemporary campaigns and their effectiveness at swaying voters from Ron Faucheaux, a political analyst and author.
Watch the full episode here.
Out-of-state and foreign groups defrauding Arizona unemployment system
Arizona’s Department of Economic Security has most likely paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in fraudulent unemployment claims, according to the head of the agency, and some of those claims were paid to people living out of state or in another country.
A month ago, there was a dramatic drop in continuing unemployment claims when the state launched a major anti-fraud initiative. The state is now adding a system called "ID Me," which is supposed to help DES verify a person’s identity.
The fraudulent claims are coming from Arizona, other states and even overseas.
University of Arizona sees COVID-19 spike
More than 200 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed on the campus of the University of Arizona this week. The university has a positive test rate of 8.3%, according to UA President Robert Robbins. Thursday was the third day with a large increase in cases.
Most of the cases, according to Robbins, are asymptomatic and come from students living off campus. The university’s isolation dorm currently has 54 students in it, the rest of the positive cases are self-quarantining off campus.
Since testing began on campus, Aug. 14, 15,310 people have been tested. A total of 397 cases have been reported.
Tucson firms largely safe from airline industry turbulence
United and American Airlines are both warning of furloughs in the thousands come October. But for Tucson-area companies that make products and parts for airplanes, the situation isn't so dire. In some cases, the commercial airline industry's loss is the local economy's gain.
The winners include Ascent Aviation Services, which is currently maintaining dozens of Delta planes parked at the Pinal Airpark. Arizona's dry desert climate makes it ideal for plane storage, according to Pinal County. Over 200 planes are currently parked there.
Charter jet flights have bounced back from April lows much faster than commercial airliners, as moneyed customers skip sometimes crowded planes.
'Feels like the end of the world': Tucson grapples with record heat during pandemic
Extreme heat isn’t new in Arizona. But it is getting worse.
This summer has been the state’s hottest on record. The National Weather Service says Tucson clocked four days in August that were 110 degrees or hotter and 26 that were over 99 degrees.
Local resources like the Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona are already on the ground to help residents get through the heat. The agency offers free repairs to lower income homeowners in Pima County.
Navajo Nation's 32-Hour Weekend Curfews Extended Through End Of September
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has extended the weekend curfew starting this holiday weekend and on through the end of September.
While Nez acknowledges that seeing COVID-19 rates dropping is encouraging, residents must be cautious. He says other safety measures such as social distancing and wearing masks must also remain in place.
“Those numbers are coming down, but I just want to say that we can’t let up," Nez said. "We cannot stop what we’re doing. And that’s wearing masks, and social distancing.”
The 32-hour weekend curfews begin on Saturday nights and end Monday mornings.
Trump, GOP Groups Oppose Navajo Nation Members' Request For Late Mail-In Ballots
President Donald Trump and some Republican-led organizations want a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit joined by members of the Navajo Nation, which would force Arizona to count mail-in ballots received after Election Day from reservation voters as long as the postmark was before the deadline.
OJ Semans, is the co-director of Four Directions, a native American organization that helped craft the lawsuit.
“Basically what they're stating is that individuals are going to vote a certain way so we shouldn't allow them equality. And that's not what the democracy is about,” Semans said.
He says this lawsuit seeks to give equal time for all Arizonans to cast their early ballots.
More Businesses To Open In Sonoran Capital As COVID-19 Measures Further Relax
More businesses — including movie theaters and casinos — will be allowed to open in the Sonoran capital Hermosillo.
Gyms and malls are also on the list of businesses to reopen, though all will need to respect reduced occupancy rules. Bars and nightclubs will remain closed until the city falls to green on the national semaforo — or traffic light — rating system. It is now at yellow.
“Health measures remain strictly obligatory in commercial establishments,” said Mayor Mayor Célida López. Those include facemasks, hand sanitizer and safe distancing. Officials will be visiting businesses to ensure compliance, according to a release from the city.
Arizona high court: Signatures must be collected in person
PHOENIX — The state Supreme Court says backers of voter initiatives must collect qualifying signatures in person even during a pandemic because the Arizona Constitution clearly requires it.
Friday's ruling explained why the seven-member court in May rejected an emergency appeal from backers of four initiatives seeking to allow them to use the electronic signature system like candidates do.
The decision rested on a section of the constitution that lays out how Arizonans can bypass the Legislature and write their own laws. Justice Andrew Gould wrote that that section clearly says initiative petitions must be signed in person.
Ducey appoints 4 as Maricopa County Superior Court judges
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey has appointed four lawyers as Maricopa County Superior Court judges to fill vacancies. Ducey’s office on Friday announced his appointments of Julie Mata, Max-Henri Covil, Monica Edelstein and Rusty Crandell.
They fill vacancies created by Ducey’s previous appointment of Judge Cynthia J. Bailey to the Arizona Court of Appeals and the retirements of Judges Lisa Daniel Flores, Warren Granville and Andrew Klein.
Mata and Covil are current Superior Court commissioners. Edelstein is an assistant U.S.attorney. Crandell is the deputy solicitor general for the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.
Officer points gun at Black man while pursuing white suspect
TEMPE — The Tempe Police Department has launched an investigation into a police officer authorities say held a Black man at gunpoint while searching for a white suspect. KTVK-TV reports that while responding to a report of a man with a gun at a hotel Saturday, Officer Ronald Kerzaya held a Black man at gunpoint despite being told that the suspect was a white man. The employee was later released and the suspect was never found. Kerzaya has been assigned to an administration role.
Detective Greg Bacon told The Associated Press on Friday that Kerzaya has been with the department for nearly four years and that the incident is under investigation.
Kanye West appeals ruling that bars him from Arizona ballot
PHOENIX — Kanye West has asked the Arizona Supreme Court to reverse a ruling that bars him from appearing on the state’s Nov. 3 ballot as an independent presidential candidate. The appeal came a day after a judge ruled against him and concluded that a voter who challenged West’s candidacy had shown the possibility of an irreparable harm if the rapper’s name were to appear on the ballot.
Lawyers leading the challenge argued West should be barred from running as an independent because he’s a registered Republican. West’s lawyers said their client’s status as a registered Republican in Wyoming was irrelevant to getting on the Arizona ballot.
Salvation Army opens heat relief stations in metro Phoenix
PHOENIX — The Salvation Army is opening heat relief stations across metro Phoenix as much of the Southwest bakes under extremely high temperatures over the Labor Day weekend. The National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings for Phoenix and other desert areas for Friday through Monday evening. Highs of 112 degrees to 117 degrees are expected around Phoenix and across the deserts.
The Salvation Army’s relief stations are located in Phoenix and multiple suburbs, including Apache Junction, Avondale, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Surprise and Tempe.
The weather service recommends drinking plenty of fluids, limiting outdoor activity, staying indoors in an air-conditioned space and checking on relatives and neighbors.