January 13, 2021

News roundup: AZ hospitals consider triage, land swap of Oak Flat approaches

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Jan. 13.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 641,729 | Deaths 10,673

On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Arizona reported 5,629 new cases of COVID-19 and 191 additional deaths. As of Tuesday, only 8% of adult intensive care unit beds remain available statewide, health department data shows.

Land swap of Oak Flat due to start Friday


The U.S. Forest Service is scheduled to submit its final environmental impact statement Friday concerning Oak Flat near Superior.

The area, which has religious, cultural and historical value for the San Carlos Apache Tribe, is marked to become one of the largest copper mines in the country.

Oak Flat and neighboring Apache Leap are within the 2,422 acres of Tonto National Forest that would be transferred to Resolution Copper under a land swap Congress approved in 2014. A 60-day window to complete land swap, which was pushed last minute in a defense bill by the late Sen. John McCain, will be triggered once the forest service submits its EIS.

Apache Stronghold is a nonprofit trying to stop the land swap and protect Oak Flat.

Learn more here.

Apache group sues over land swap for Arizona copper mine


FLAGSTAFF — A group of Apaches who have tried for years to reverse a land swap in Arizona that will make way for one of the largest copper mines in the U.S. sued the federal government Tuesday.

Apache Stronghold argues in the federal lawsuit that the U.S. Forest Service cannot legally transfer land to international mining company Rio Tinto because it was reserved for Western Apaches in an 1852 treaty. The Tonto National Forest plans to release a final environmental review of the project and the land exchange on Friday.

A forest spokesman did not immediately respond to messages left by The Associated Press late Tuesday.

Learn more here.

New letter asks Mexican officials to help stop border wall construction


President Donald Trump was in Texas Tuesday afternoon touting the construction of his administration’s 30-foot steel bollard wall. It's his final trip to the U.S.-Mexico border while in office, and the visit coincides with a letter asking Mexican officials to help stop construction.

President-elect Joe Biden will come into just over 450 miles of the new border wall, and building contracts for hundreds more are still active. On the campaign trail he pledged not to build more, but questions remain about how the nearly $1.4 billion approved by Congress for border barriers will be spent in 2021.

Learn more here.

Chance of COVID-19 triage care looms over Arizona hospitals


PHOENIX — Currently facing the worst COVID-19 infection rate in the country, leaders of Arizona's major hospitals say the state is teetering on the brink of having to ration life-saving care. The chief clinical officers of Arizona’s five biggest hospital systems spoke Wednesday at a joint news conference to implore the public and the state to do more.

Under a triage plan, “triage officers” at each hospital would decide which patients receive treatment if there are shortages in staffing, beds or ventilators.

The physicians believe at least 1 in 10 people in Arizona is infected with the virus. The state Wednesday reported over 5,600 additional COVID-19 cases and nearly 200 more deaths.

Navajo Nation reports 193 additional virus cases, 3 deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation officials report 193 additional known COVID-19 cases and three more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak.

The additional cases and deaths reported late Tuesday increased the pandemic’s totals for the tribe’s reservation to 25,576 cases and 874 deaths as of Tuesday. The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

The reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.

Sonoran Vaccination Effort To Start Wednesday

Fronteras Desk

The coronavirus vaccine has arrived in Sonora, Arizona’s neighbor to the south.

Military personnel are transporting it to 34 hospitals across the vast, sparsely populated state. Front-line health care workers will be prioritized during the first round of vaccination, and they should all have their first dose by the end of the month, according to a federal health official.

Sonora has seen nearly 4,300 deaths during the pandemic. In recent months, daily confirmed cases and deaths have been steadily rising, and reaching figures not seen since the first wave in the summer, according to data tracked by the University of Sonora.

Border Restrictions Extended To Late February, Nearing First Full Year

Fronteras Desk

In what has become a monthly ritual over nearly the last year, crossing restrictions have again been extended at the U.S.-Mexico border.

They will now go through at least Feb. 21, according to a Tuesday tweet from the Department of Homeland Security.

The agency does note that it is working with “counterparts in Mexico and Canada to identify appropriate public health conditions to safely ease restrictions in the future and support U.S. border communities.”

With minimal southbound enforcement, the restrictions have generally not impacted US citizens, whose return trips to the United States from Mexico are considered essential, according to federal rules. Many Mexicans, however, have not been able to cross into the United States since last spring.

Judge: Arizona Senate, Maricopa County need to settle fight


PHOENIX — A judge is refusing to order Maricopa County to immediately turn over a raft of election data and copies of all mail-in ballots from November’s election to Republicans who control the Arizona Senate. Instead, he's imploring the two sides to settle their bitter dispute.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Timothy Thomason said during a Wednesday hearing that it would be far better for the citizens of Arizona if the county and Senate Republicans reached a deal.

The Senate sought the material in the wake of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory in the state’s presidential race. Some Republicans have made unsupported claims Biden's win was fraudulent.

Learn more here.

Arizona redistricting commission to hold its first meeting


PHOENIX — Arizona’s latest redistricting commission will meet Thursday for the first time to be sworn in and interview five independents nominated to serve as the panel’s chair and potential tie-breaking vote.

The Independent Redistricting Commission is formed each decade under a 2000 voter-approved ballot measure that took drawing of new congressional and legislative districts after each U.S. Census out of the hands of the Legislature. Legislative leaders took turns appointing two Republicans and two Democrats as the first four commission members.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports that the new commission’s organizational tasks include hiring a legal team and an executive director.

Learn more here.

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