November 2, 2020 / Modified nov 3, 2020 9:42 a.m.

News roundup: Halloween parties raided at UA, spending big on Prop 208, trails reopen in Santa Catalinas

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Nov. 2

Cases 248,139 | Deaths 5,982

On Monday, Nov. 2, Arizona reported 666 new cases of COVID-19 and 16 additional deaths.


Business group spends big against Prop 208

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The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has spent more than $8,500,000 this fall trying to convince voters to reject Proposition 208.

The measure would fund teacher and public school employee salaries through a tax on the wealthy. Business groups have argued the measure would hurt small businesses that file under individual tax rates.

The Chamber represents thousands of businesses, and fought the nearly identical 2018 measure which was knocked off the ballot after a legal challenge.

But supporters have also campaigned hard for the measure, which survived a similar court challenge. The Invest in Ed committee has garnered over twenty million dollars in donations, mostly from teachers unions.


Halloween parties up, masks down at UA

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Officials with the University of Arizona said the community response team broke up 17 parties over the weekend, seven of which had more than 100 people. University of Arizona President Robert Robbins said he also sees a decrease in mask wearing by students.

“It was sort of 2:1, 3:1 now it is 4:1 people that we see out and about not having their face covered,” Robbins said at his weekly briefing.

The university has already punished students who held parties earlier in the semester and more punishment is coming.

“Because this is not just a nuisance. These people who are acting indiscriminately are placing all of us at risk by doing these actions,” said Richard Carmona, the head of the university reopening task force.

Last week, the University of Arizona saw a slight uptick in COVID-19 cases in the campus community. Officials are worried that Halloween and the upcoming Thanksgiving break could bring another surge.

Currently, in person classes with 50 or fewer students are allowed at the university. Officials hope that is where they can begin the spring semester in January.

The increase in positive cases in Arizona and across the country is putting all options back on the table, however.

“We’ll see what the numbers look like through the (winter) break, but I would consider just saying ok we’ve got the option for everybody just doing the whole semester online,” said Robbins.

Robbins said no matter what the decision is regarding how classes are taught in the spring, he wants more testing.


More Santa Catalina trails and campsites reopen

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November marks more trails and campsites opening up within the Coronado National Forest following the Bighorn Fire earlier this summer.

As the forest service has evaluated and cleared areas in the burn scar throughout the Santa Catalina Mountains, it's opened up trials. According to a press release, Incinerator Ridge, Bigelow, Mountain, Lower Green, Mint Spring and Marshall Gulch trails opened to the public Sunday.

A few more campgrounds along the Catalina Highway, like Molino Basin and Gordon Hirabayashi, reopened, too. Though, Dorilis Camacho-Torres, a spokesperson with the Coronado National Forest, said dispersed camping on Mount Bigelow is still closed.

The forest service closed these and many other sites after the Bighorn Fire burnt 119,978 acres across the mountain range, creating dangerous conditions for hikers and campers.

Some trials are still closed, but the release states that the forest service will reopen more as it's safe. However, some sites may remain closed till the order looking at trail and recreation site closures expires May 1, 2021.


AZ Supreme Court expansion criticized

AP

Current and former chief justices of the Arizona Supreme Court say the addition of two more justices didn’t make it more efficient. That was one of the expectations stated by Gov. Doug Ducey in 2016 when he signed the expansion legislation.

Chief Justice Robert Brutinel told the Arizona Capitol Times that the increase to seven justices made the court less efficient because two more justices and their law clerks now review draft opinions before they’re issued.

Similarly, former Chief Justice Scott Bales said he still does not believe the expansion made the court more efficient. Both Bales and Brutinel said the court had the capacity to handle its caseload without expansion.


OSIRIS REx successfully stows payload

KJZZ

Scientists have confirmed material collected by the University of Arizona backed OSIRIS-REx spacecraft has been safely tucked away for a return trip to Earth.

Following a successful touch-and-go in which the spacecraft picked up enough dust and rock to fill a flour bag, the OSIRIS-REx team scrambled to secure the payload quickly to avoid further leakage.

Team leader Dante Lauretta said the leak’s salt-shaker-like effect actually offered a chance to study particle ejection like they had witnessed on Bennu.

“So even though my heart breaks for loss of sample, it turned out to be a pretty cool science experiment,” he said

The sample is due to return to Earth in September 2023


Dia de los Muertos altar honors COVID-19 victims in Pima County

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As the election arrives, communities across Arizona are still celebrating Dia de los Muertos — or Day of the Dead. In Tucson, that celebration includes an altar set up to honor those who lost their lives to COVID-19.

The altar was nestled in the courtyard of the Sosa Carrio house in downtown Tucson. The flat-roofed adobe was built in the 1870s and is one of the few buildings to survive a 1960s urban renewal program that razed most of the barrio libre area. This is the second the year that a Dia de los Muertos alter was set up there. This year's event was a collaboration with Mayor Regina Romero’s office and the Mexican American Heritage Museum that tends to the house.

Miriam Cruz with the mayor’s office said the site will remain open until Tuesday afternoon and serves as a place of calm.

"We hope that people will take the time to reflect, reflect on everything we have gone through in the last year and in the last months. Especially as it relates to COVID, the lives that were needlessly lost," she said.

Cruz said Romero's office is also encouraging people to get tested for the disease at free sites across the county, particularly amid large, often maskless, rallies ahead of the presidential election on Tuesday.

On Monday, The colorful altar was full of marigolds, family photos and exactly 639 tiny crosses — one to represent every person who has died of COVID-19 in Pima County. Almost six thousand people have died statewide.

Betty Villegas heads Los Descendientes Del Presidio De Tucson, the community group that helped organize the event.

"Six-hundred-and-thirty-nine people, people with families, with loved ones, that are no longer with us," she said. "You talk about data, you talk about numbers but it’s a person."

Villagas said the event was also meant to honor Richard Elias, a longtime Pima County Supervisor who died suddenly in March. Villegas took over the district seat in his absence.

"We knew from the beginning that it had to center around Richard and of course the community," she said.


Lost weather balloon found in Mexico

AP

A businessman in Mexico has kept a University of Arizona researcher’s hope of getting back his solar-powered balloon from being deflated.

Tristan Schuler, an aerospace engineering student, told the Arizona Daily Star today that his balloon became lost during a test flight Oct. 15 from Lake Havasu City.

According to the attached GPS tracker, high winds swept the balloon across the border into a remote area of Sonora, Mexico.

Schuler offered a $100 reward on various social media platforms for anyone willing to go retrieve it.

Aron Brown, a Rocky Point businessman, decided to try to find it. Brown was successful and retrieved its transmitter and other electronics.

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