January 15, 2021 / Modified jan 15, 2021 10:22 p.m.

News roundup: Vaccine rollout expands with high demand, Ducey proposes annual budget and discusses new legislative session

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Jan. 15.

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 658,186 | Deaths 11,040

On Friday, Jan. 15, Arizona reported 9,146 new cases of COVID-19 and 185 additional deaths.


Pima County expands COVID-19 vaccine rollout

The Buzz

This week the Pima County Health Department announced it will begin dramatically accelerating the pace of its vaccine rollout. Within a few weeks, the county hopes to be vaccinating as many as 12,000 people a day. This week, The Buzz discusses vaccine rollout on the local and national level and provides updates on where the process stands.

Listen to the full episode here.


Ducey unveils budget proposal

AZPM

Governor Doug Ducey released his proposed, on Friday, for the upcoming fiscal year that starts on July 1. The $12.6 billion plan includes a call for $200 million cut to the state’s income taxes. Ducey has run twice on reducing Arizona’s income tax to nearly zero. His plan would expand the cut to $600 million in three years.

The proposed cut comes as the state is getting ready to begin collecting increased taxes from Arizona’s top earners as part of Prop 208, which was approved by voters in November. The Prop 208 dollars will be used to help pay for public education.

The governor’s staff said the main reason for proposing the tax cut was not to offset the tax increase approved in Prop 208.

“The fact that a lot of everyday Arizonans have been through a lot through this (the COVID-19 pandemic), some of them are probably earning less than they were a year ago and we want to make sure that they can keep more of the money that they earn,” said Daniel Scarpinato, Chief of Staff for Governor Ducey.


Gov. Ducey, new legislative session, Tucson road projects

Arizona 360

Lorraine Rivera sits down with Gov. Doug Ducey to discuss the priorities he described in this week’s State of the State Address and his approach to the challenges ahead concerning the pandemic and political unrest.

Arizona 360 learns more about the parties’ agendas going into Arizona’s new legislative session. Lorraine hears from Democrat Rebecca Rios, State Senate Minority Leader, and Republican Travis Grantham, Speaker Pro Tempore of the Arizona House. We also get analysis from Arizona Mirror associate editor Jeremy Duda.

Tony Paniagua reports on major road projects in progress in the Tucson metro area including their scope and impact on commuters.

Watch the full episode here.


Coronor's office reaches capacity

AZPM

The Pima County Coroner’s Office reached capacity for storing bodies this week amid an unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases in the county and across the state.

Pima County Medical Examiner Greg Hess says his office opened up space to the community in July, when morgues and funeral homes said they had too many bodies to handle on their own. This is the first time his facility has also reached its limit.

"We have not really anticipated it getting to this extent, and then we brought in the two additional refrigerated trucks, again operational and full, yesterday," Hess said. "Time will tell if we need to procure more."

Hess says with the additional refrigeration trucks, his office is currently housing some 300 bodies. Those remains will be transferred back to funeral homes as space becomes available. But he’s not sure when that will be.


Pima County moves to Prioritized 1B for COVID-19 vaccines

AZPM

Pima County moved to the Prioritized 1B phase for COVID-19 vaccines Thursday afternoon.

The move means that teachers, educational staff, childcare workers, adults over the age of 75, and protective service workers like those in law enforcement can now sign up for the vaccine.

Pima County opened registration for Priority 1B on Thursday morning and reported that within two hours more than 20,000 people registered to get appointments. The county asked residents to be patient, and said it will open up more slots as it confirms more vaccine availability.

Learn more here.


Ducey plans big tax cuts, make-up summer school classes

AP

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is proposing the largest tax cut in his seven years in office for the coming budget year.

He also wants to use the savings from a pandemic-induced drop in school enrollment to pay for summertime make-up classes for K-12 students who have fallen behind because of virtual learning.

The $12.6 billion proposal released Friday is for the budget year that starts July 1. It includes $200 million in cuts to the state income tax that will rise to $600 million in the third year — the year he leaves office.

Ducey Chief of Staff Daniel Scarpinato says Ducey wants taxes cut for all Arizona taxpayers.

Learn more here.


Trump's Justice Department Drove Border Policy That Separated Children From Parents

Fronteras Desk

A new report shows the Trump administration’s Justice Department under former Attorney General Jeff Sessions enacted the country’s toughest border policy against arriving immigrants knowing it would lead to children being separated from their parents.

The Office of Inspector General’s report is long awaited. It calls Sessions a driving force that pushed the Homeland Security Department to refer families trying to migrate into the U.S. for prosecution. The report shows Sessions told federal prosecutors "we need to take away children" rather than provide them with "amnesty."

Learn more here.


Child Migrant Advocates Call On New Administration To Act Quickly

Fronteras Desk

A Washington D.C.-based nonprofit expects high numbers of children to keep traveling alone to the U.S. border, and it’s calling on the incoming Biden administration to balance receiving them legally with COVID-19 safety.

The legal and social services provider called Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND, wants Biden to make Customs and Border Protection hire child protection workers. And Biden’s Office of Refugee Resettlement should make sure there’s enough room in shelters so kids don’t get stuck in border facilities, said KIND Policy and Advocacy Vice President Jennifer Podkul.

KIND wants every migrant child who comes to the U.S. alone to get a lawyer.

Podkul said she’s optimistic Biden can deliver these and other reforms in his first 100 days in office.


Navajo Nation reports 202 new COVID-19 cases, 13 more deaths

AP

WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 202 new COVID-19 cases and 13 more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. The latest figures increased the pandemic’s totals for the tribe to 25,952 cases and 892 known deaths.

The tribe says nearly 220,000 people have been tested for COVID-19 and more than 13,000 have recovered. 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 Navajo Nation’s vast reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.


Apaches object to Forest Service review of huge copper mine

AP

FLAGSTAFF — The U.S. Forest Service released an environmental impact statement Friday that paves the way for the creation of one of the largest copper mines in the United States. Environmentalists accused the service of trying to push it through before President Donald Trump leaves office.

Resolution Copper plans to mine land east of Phoenix that some Apaches consider sacred and have been working for years to protect. A federal judge denied their request to halt the publication of the environmental review.

The Forest Service now has 60 days to transfer land known as Oak Flat to the international mining company Rio Tinto.


Spokesman: Arizona Guard not sending units to Washington

AP

PHOENIX — An Arizona National Guard spokesman says the state's military force has no orders to send units to the nation’s Capitol to assist with security during next week's presidential inauguration.

Since the U.S. Capitol's breach, multiple states have sent troops to Washington to help provide security. However, Maj. Kyle Key told The Associated Press that the only Arizona personnel going are approximately 25 volunteers. He says they're mostly Air National Guard personnel who will perform administrative and support roles for the inauguration.

Key said the Arizona's two military police companies are training while on standby and are ready to deploy within two hours.

Learn more here.


Arizona child safety department agrees to federal oversight

AP

PHOENIX — Arizona’s department of child welfare has agreed to increased federal scrutiny after failing to provide proper translation services for families whose first language is not English.

The Arizona Republic reported Friday that the state Department of Child Safety entered into a voluntary settlement with federal officials and pledged to improve services to families with limited English-speaking abilities. The agency will be reviewed by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department over the next two years.

The resolution followed complaints from 11 people who said the state agency did not not provide families with Spanish translations for documents and services parents needed for the agency’s family-reunification process.

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