/ Modified jul 20, 2020 4:22 p.m.

Daily news roundup: Federal unemployment set to run out, immigration issues loom over Washington

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, July 20.

Cases 145,183 | Deaths 2,784 | Diagnostic tests 793,523.

On Monday, July 20, the state reported 1,559 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths. According to the Associated Press, the relatively low number of new cases on Mondays could be due to hospitals that do not report their figures on the weekend. On Saturday, July 18, Arizona reported 147 deaths due to COVID-19, a new single-day record for the state. However, according to the Associated Press, some of that spike was caused by a routine review of death certificates.

Loss of federal unemployment dollars will hurt Arizona economy


The federal $600 addition to unemployment benefits will run out at the end of the month if Congress and the president do not act. The federal addition to unemployment brings the maximum payment to Arizona residents to $840 a week. That money, along with stimulus payments and the Paycheck Protection Program, has helped to keep Arizona’s economy afloat during the pandemic and related economic slowdown.

“If all of that (federal stimulus money) goes away entirely and there is nothing at all that replaces it then, yeah, I think we are looking for a pretty significant slowdown as we go into the third and fourth quarters of this year,” said George Hammond, a University of Arizona economist.

Since the start of the pandemic, unemployment in Arizona has skyrocketed. For the week ending July 11, it reached record levels when 263,000 people filed first-time claims. Arizona’s unemployment rate is now 10%.

Learn more here.

US District Court says Trump administration must accept new DACA applications


A U.S. District Court in Maryland has explicitly mandated the Trump administration to start processing new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. The policy protects some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, but new applicants have not been accepted since the administration tried to end it in 2017.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the program and restore its full capacity. That ruling was supposed to go into effect last Monday, but as of late Friday, the Citizenship and Immigration Services website still said it was not accepting new applications.

The 2017 cancellation barred immigrants like Tucson resident Jesus Lucero from getting a work permit and legal status through DACA. The high court's June ruling seemed like an opportunity to try again.

"DACA is one of the things that could change my life forever," they said. "To be teetering on the edge of even being considered for an application, it’s scary."

Lucero hasn't applied yet, but knows first-time applicants who have already been rejected in the last month. Policy experts say the administration's refusal to accept those applications is a rare and direct violation of the Supreme Court.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 closures hit already-backlogged immigration courts


Immigration courts that have long faced backlogs are even harder hit by COVID-19 pandemic closures. Research group Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, or TRAC, estimates at least 368,000 hearings nationwide had been delayed by the end of May.

Earlier this month, Arizona immigration courts shut down completely for several days over virus concerns. They’re back open now. But Jenna Johnson, an attorney with the pro bono legal aid group Keep Tucson Together, said they continue to shutter erratically.

She said in normal times, Keep Tucson Together can go to multiple hearings in a week. But these days she can go weeks without a single bond hearing. Meanwhile, clients still in detention describe rising COVID-19 cases and worsening conditions.

"Eloy and La Palma are deadly right now," she said. "People are being given frozen food, people are being quarantined in cells that have bodily fluids and dirty sheets in them when they arrive to them, and so when a bond hearing is delayed it’s just crushing."

TRAC estimates more than a million immigrants are awaiting court hearings around the U.S. More than two-thirds of those could be affected by court shutdowns as the pandemic continues.

Major issues tied to immigration are on deck as Congress returns

Fronteras Desk

Congress returns from recess this week and has a big to-do list before going back on hiatus for all of August.

Lawmakers are expected to negotiate another stimulus package to offset the effect of the coronavirus pandemic. A key detail in any agreement will again be whether it includes help for undocumented immigrants.

Undocumented people were not eligible for the first round of stimulus checks.

The current political climate means it’s likely to be the same way this time around, said Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the National Immigration Forum in Washington, D.C. Still, he said, Congress could move toward such a policy by making mixed-status households and families with green-card holders eligible for relief.

“There are millions of U.S. citizen with one or two undocumented parents. Why are they being held accountable for their parents’ immigration status?” Noorani said.

Read more hre.

Arizona sees slight downturn in virus hospitalizations


PHOENIX — Arizona is seeing a slight downward trend in the number of people on ventilators and in intensive care because of the coronavirus. The state reported 1,559 new COVID-19 cases Monday and 23 deaths. The deaths typically are lower at the start of the week because not all hospitals submit data over the weekend. Arizona had been experiencing some of the highest rates of coronavirus cases in the country since the governor lifted a stay-at-home order in mid-May.

Hospitalizations reported Monday were at the lowest level in more than two weeks. The number of people on ventilators and in intensive care also has gone down.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 cases In Sonoran capital expected to peak soon

Fronteras Desk

Sonora’s capital Hermosillo has the most COVID-19 cases and some of the fastest growth in the state.

As of Friday afternoon, there were 5,355 confirmed cases in the city, accounting for more than a third of the state’s total. There have been 314 deaths.

“Hermosillo could be reaching its maximum level of transmission,” said Jose Luis Alomia, the federal health ministry’s epidemiology director. Declines could be seen as soon as the last two weeks of July or early August.

But all of that assumes that conditions like the level of mobility don’t change, he said. Hundreds of nonessential shops have opened in recent days, and limitations on driving in the city were recently relaxed.

See an interactive map of COVID-19 cases and deaths in Sonora here.

Arizona virus toll spikes after review of death certificates


PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Saturday reported a daily record 147 additional deaths from the coronavirus and 2,742 additional confirmed cases but said both numbers reflected unusual circumstances.

The Department of Health Services said the additional deaths included 106 newly attributed to COVID-19 after health officials’ latest periodic reviews of death certificates. Officials also say the additional cases did not include figures from a laboratory that missed the reporting cutoff. The department said the missed data will be reported Sunday.

The additional deaths reported Saturday increased the statewide total to 2,730 while the number of confirmed cases rose to more than 141,000.

Learn more here.

Hawaii inmates monitored for COVID-19 at Arizona prison


HONOLULU (AP) — Dozens of Hawaii inmates housed at a private prison in southern Arizona are being monitored for COVID-19 symptoms, including some who had contact with inmates from Nevada who already tested positive. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that the Hawaii Department of Public Safety said 45 Hawaii inmates in the same unit at the Saguaro Correctional Center are in quarantine and being monitored for symptoms, while the 28 Hawaii inmates who had contact with Nevada inmates will be quarantined for 14 days.

CoreCivic, which runs the correctional center, did not immediately respond to calls by the Associated Press on Saturday.

Learn more here.

Arizona's rugged individualism poses barrier to mask rules


PHOENIX (AP) — As Arizona faces a surge in COVID-19 cases, orders to wear masks have met opposition in some quarters from a sentiment as old as the state. A visceral opposition to government mandates and a fierce individualism has endured among some in Arizona since the days of the Wild West.

The buzz-off attitude is taking on new importance as the state has become one of the world's top hot spots for the spread of the coronavirus. The message that “my mask protects you, your mask protects me,” isn’t always well-suited to the mind-your-own-business mentality of a state that produced Barry Goldwater’s small-government conservatism and John McCain’s self-styled “maverick” persona.

Learn more here.

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