Arizona COVID-19 one-week snapshot, July 11
Ducey orders closure of bars, movie theaters and gyms, delays start of school
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Monday announced an executive order temporarily stopping the operation of bars, gyms and movie theaters, banning certain mass gatherings and delaying the start date for the state's schools in an effort to rein in the state's rapidly increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
The order goes into effect at 8 p.m. Monday, June 29. It says businesses that are ordered to be closed — which also include waterparks — will need to show they're following public health regulations if they are to reopen after a target of 30 days. Schools are now set to reopen Aug. 17, for now.
Tucson Police will disclose in-custody deaths immediately, chief says
The Tucson Police Department will now notify the public of deaths that occur in TPD custody and release body camera footage of the incident within 72 hours.
TPD Chief Chris Magnus announced the new policy at a virtual town hall with the Tucson NAACP Saturday. The department previously had no obligation to provide the public with immediate notice when someone dies in its custody.
"People are going to have to understand it's going to be preliminary and it may well be incomplete," said Magnus. "But we get it, people want to know right away how it looks."
In announcing the new policy aimed at increasing transparency, Magnus warned making information available before internal investigations conclude could have negative consequences. For example, he said it could compromise those investigations, invalidate officer discipline and even influence whether an officer is prosecuted.
TUSD reopening plan adds money, space to mitigate COVID-19
The rules will be different on the first day of school in the Tucson Unified School District. Halls will be one-way, desks will be distanced, lunches will be staggered and everyone will wear masks. Originally, the mask rule was going to be applied beginning in fourth grade, but teachers in the younger grades told the district they can get students to wear masks.
“We teach kids how to walk in lines, we teach kids how to pick up their stuff, we teach kids how to work in teams together, we teach kids how to raise their hands, we can certainly teach kids how to wear a mask,” is what TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said was the message given to him by teachers.
Bighorn Fire grows to 167 square miles
More than 1,000 firefighters in Southern Arizona continue to battle a wildland blaze in extremely windy conditions in the Santa Catalina Mountains that has closed a state park and forced evacuations northeast of Tucson.
The fire sparked by lightning more than three weeks ago has now burned across more than 167 square miles. It was estimated Monday to be 45% contained. No one has died and no structures have been damaged but seven minor injuries have been reported since the fire broke out June 5. Most of Arizona was under a red-flag warning Monday due to extreme fire danger with winds gusting up to 40 mph.
White Mountain Apache Tribe shuts down reservation to stop coronavirus
The White Mountain Apache Tribe has shut down the reservation for two weeks to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
About one-eighth of its 13,500 residents has tested positive for the coronavirus. People seeking cooler temperatures often flock to the eastern Arizona reservation. White Mountain Apache Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood said they can drive through but cannot stop.
With random calls, Sonora hopes to rout out COVID-19 cases
To uncover possible COVID-19 cases, residents of Sonora will start getting calls from the government seeking health information.
With deaths mounting and cases confirmed in the vast majority of the state’s municipios — similar to counties — those random calls were slated to start Sunday.
“They are very simple questions, to find out how you feel and if you have any COVID symptoms,” Sonoran Health Secretary Enrique Clausen said Thursday.
If there is suspicion, a followup call to schedule testing and possible treatment will be made.
In the last two weeks, confirmed deaths in Sonora have more than doubled to 749 and confirmed cases have nearly doubled to 7,706, according to the most recent state data. There is far less testing in Sonora than in Arizona.
Arizona reports highest daily virus cases with 3,858 on Sunday
PHOENIX — Arizona health officials reported 3,858 more confirmed coronavirus cases on Sunday, the most reported in a single day in the state so far. It was also the seventh time in the last 10 days that daily cases surpassed the 3,000 mark.
The Arizona Department of Health Services also reported nine additional deaths. That pushes Arizona’s documented COVID-19 totals to nearly 74,000 cases and 1,588 known deaths. Some Arizona hospitals have begun activating surge plans to increase their capacity to treat COVID-19 patients as confirmed cases rise and more people seek treatment.
Supreme Court declines to hear border wall challenge
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court is leaving in place a decision that rejected environmental groups’ challenge to sections of wall the Trump administration is building along the U.S. border with Mexico.
The high court on Monday declined to hear an appeal involving construction of 145 miles of steel-bollard walls along the border in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas. Environmental groups had challenged a federal law that allows the secretary of Homeland Security to waive any laws necessary to allow the quick construction of border fencing.
Environmental groups argued that violates the Constitution’s separation of powers. But a lower court dismissed the case.
Tracking coronavirus cases proves difficult amid new surge
HOUSTON — Health departments around the U.S. that are using contact tracers to contain coronavirus outbreaks are scrambling to bolster their ranks amid a surge of cases and resistance to cooperation from those infected or exposed.
With too few trained contact tracers to handle soaring caseloads, one hard-hit Arizona county is relying on National Guard members to pitch in. In Louisiana, people who have tested positive typically wait more than two days to respond to health officials — giving the disease crucial time to spread. Contact tracing tracks people who test positive and anyone they’ve come in contact with. It was challenging even when stay-at-home orders were in place, but it’s exponentially more difficult now.
Pence postpones visit to Arizona, now set for Wednesday
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has called off campaign events in Florida and Arizona for this coming week as the states experience a surge in new coronavirus cases. He was scheduled to visit Arizona on Wednesday.
The White House says Pence will still travel to those states to meet with their governors and health teams. Florida and Arizona have set records for new confirmed infections in recent days. Pence is traveling to Dallas on Sunday to attend a “Celebrate Freedom Rally” at First Baptist Church Dallas before meeting with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
Pence was set to visit Arizona on Wednesday, according to the Arizona Republic