/ Modified mar 27, 2020 2:38 p.m.

COVID-19: Businesses impacted, mobile meals for students, physical distancing

How the business community and education leaders are responding to the pandemic.

This week communities in Southern Arizona and across the country began adapting to new restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As tests confirm more cases in Arizona, the state’s top health officials caution the disease has yet to reach its peak. Businesses that closed and workers who lost their jobs as a result are already feeling the pinch. Arizona 360 learned more about resources currently available from Tucson Metro Chamber president Amber Smith.

The chamber is collecting and updating information about resources for employers and workers on its website.

Uncertainty over COVID-19’s impact on the local economy extends to the North Fourth Avenue Merchants Association. Fred Ronstadt is a former Tucson city councilman who currently oversees the association, which advocates for businesses in the historic district. Ronstadt told Lorraine Rivera many of its small businesses already had thin profit margins before they closed or restricted hours in response to the pandemic. He discussed the difficult reality they face.

Restrictions meant to prevent gatherings have hit restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues especially hard. Just before the city of Tucson announced mandatory closures, Arizona 360 heard from business owners about some of their concerns.

Coronavirus precautions led Gov. Doug Ducey to order K-12 schools closed until at least April 10. In the meantime, districts are devising ways to continue instruction, including exploring online options. Pima County Superintendent of Schools Dustin Williams discussed the barriers some families face with access to digital learning and how closures are impacting the remainder of the school year.

Arizona Public Media has partnered with Arizona PBS to provide educational resources for families online and on its broadcast channels. You can find more information here.

Despite school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, students can still count on their districts to serve up breakfast and lunch. Arizona 360 saw firsthand how Southern Arizona’s largest school district, the Tucson Unified School District, is distributing thousands of meals daily through its Grab-and-Go Mobilized Meals program.

To prevent large gatherings at schools, TUSD buses make deliveries at 113 locations along 12 routes between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Parents or guardians must arrive with each child who will receive a meal because of federal requirements that say the child must be present, according to TUSD food services coordinator Lindsey Aguilar. During the program’s first three days the district distributed more than 21,000 meals.

As experts urge keeping a safe distance from others and staying indoors, Arizona 360 got insight about how that can cause anxiety for some and how to cope with negative emotions related to the COVID-19 pandemic from University of Arizona psychology professor David Sbarra.

With more people turning to technology to stay connected, Lorraine Rivera got online to learn what physical distancing looks like for one Tucsonan. With World War 2 veteran Ralph Stiles, 93, the two spoke about how he keeps himself entertained and stays social while remaining isolated from others at home.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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