/ Modified jul 29, 2020 4:31 p.m.

Daily news roundup: Pima County message to schools, DACA restrictions

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, July 29.

Cases 168,273 | Deaths 3,454 | Diagnostic tests 901,429

On Wednesday, July 29, the state reported 2,339 news cases of novel coronavirus and 46 additional deaths. According to state data, as of July 28, intensive care unit bed and ventilator use in Arizona had risen slightly compared to the previous few days, but was generally lower than earlier this month.

Pima County leaders urge schools to stay closed


Pima County health officials recommend that schools wait at least until Labor Day, and possibly later, to reopen for face-to-face classes.

The advice came in a letter from County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry to school superintendents Wednesday. It contradicts Gov. Doug Ducey's order that schools reopen at least some of their facilities by Aug. 17.

The governor's order allows districts to apply for a waiver allowing them to open later if local conditions justify it. Huckelberry notes that COVID-19 is still spreading in Pima County, and the effectiveness of the county's mask ordinance is still unknown.

Huckleberry's letter is not binding on local school districts. However, it was a result of a meeting last week between county staff and officials from several districts in the county.

Trump administration memo changes DACA protections, at odds with ruling


A new memo from the Trump administration says it won't accept new applications for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, despite a Supreme Court ruling in June to uphold the policy. After the ruling, advocates and recipients wondered, and if, new applications would be considered by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In the memo issued Tuesday, acting Secretary Chad Wolf said the Department of Homeland Security will "thoughtfully consider the future of the DACA policy," and, in the meantime, introduce some immediate changes.

Those include barring first-time DACA status and work-permit applicants as well as tight restrictions on international travel requests within the program. Existing DACA recipients will also see changes: Instead of having to apply for renewals every two years, the process will now happen annually.

Learn more here.

Arizona unemployment continues to rise


The weekly unemployment numbers in Arizona jumped by 19,000 first-time claims last week to 289,000 first-time filers. That number is a combination of people eligible for regular unemployment and the self-employed. Both groups saw increases last week in new claims.

The number of continuing claims is also continuing to hover near the 3 million mark. Payments to the people eligible for unemployment in Arizona topped $874 million last week. That number includes an additional $600 payment for each person from the federal government. Arizona’s top payment is $240.

If Congress does not act by the end of the week, the $600 federal payment will be discontinued.

See a graph of unemployment claims here.

Pima County to elect new county attorney


For the first time since 1996, voters will elect a new Pima County attorney. Three Democrats are running to replace retiring County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

Candidate Jonathan Mosher is the chief criminal deputy in the Pima County Attorney’s Office. Mark Diebolt is also a prosecutor, and Laura Conover is a defense attorney with experience in federal court.

Diebolt did not answer AZPM’s invitation for an interview.

Listen to an interview with two of the candidates here.

Train derails on Arizona bridge that collapses, catches fire


PHOENIX — Officials say a freight train traveling on a bridge that spans a lake in a Phoenix suburb has derailed, setting the bridge ablaze and partially collapsing the structure. Video on Wednesday morning showed huge flames and thick black smoke rising into the air and train cars in a park next to the lake.

A spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad says none of the train’s crew members were hurt but there was a report of someone suffering from smoke inhalation. Some of the train’s cars carried lumber and others were tank cars. There were no immediate reports of any leaks.

Learn more here.

Arrest made over fire at Arizona Democratic headquarters


PHOENIX — Authorities have made an arrest in a deliberately-set predawn fire that destroyed much of the Arizona and Maricopa County Democratic Party headquarters last week.

Phoenix police announced Wednesday that 29-year-old Matthew Egler was booked on one count of arson of an occupied structure. Police did not disclose details about a possible motive.

The blaze happened at about 1 a.m. last Friday in a business district a few miles from downtown Phoenix. Investigators have said evidence indicated the fire was an act of arson. The building is the longtime home for state and county Democrats.

Learn more here.

McSally, Kelly look to formalize Senate nominations


PHOENIX — The race to finish John McCain’s last term in the U.S. Senate is one of the hottest contests in national politics this November, but there’s likely to be little fanfare in next week’s primary.

Retired astronaut Mark Kelly has only a write-in opponent for the Democratic nomination, while a conservative firebrand has struggled to mount a vigorous challenge to Republican incumbent Martha McSally. Kelly and McSally are targeting each other with a focus on November.

Republicans last year got nervous that businessman Daniel McCarthy could trip up McSally, but he's spent little money and is not well known.

Learn more here.

Report: Coronavirus exacerbates existing health crisis for migrants at the border

Fronteras Desk

Immigration policies that leave migrants and asylum seekers waiting south of the border have caused a public health crisis, says a new report from the Harvard Global Health Institute and Boston College School of Social Work. The coronavirus has only added to the problem.

The found that migrants waiting south of the U.S.-Mexico border face overcrowded housing, violence, poor sanitation and lack of access to health care, making them particularly susceptible to communicable diseases, including COVID-19. Migrants also frequently go untreated for injuries, malnutrition and mental health needs.

Report authors attribute much of the problem to a growing number of asylum seekers stuck in border communities due to U.S. immigration policies including the Migration Protection Protocols, known as the "Remain In Mexico" program, which sends asylum seekers back to Mexico while their cases proceed through U.S. courts.

Learn more here.

Suspect in a Tucson homicide in November arrested in Mexico


Authorities say a suspect in a Tucson homicide case last year is in custody after being arrested in Mexico. Pima County Sheriff’s officials say 27-year-old Brian Altland has been booked into the Pima County jail on suspicion of first-degree murder. They say Altland was arrested last Saturday in Caborca, Sonora through a coordinated effort between the U.S. Marshals Service and Mexican authorities.

Sheriff’s officials say deputies responded to a report of a man down in Tucson on Nov. 18. Upon arrival, deputies say the man was dead at the scene and had obvious signs of trauma. They say the victim was subsequently identified as 46-year-old Eric Duncan McCormick. A possible motive for the killing hasn’t been released.

Learn more here.

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