/ Modified aug 11, 2020 5:10 p.m.

News roundup: Biden picks Harris for VP, Pence visits Tucson, no UA football this fall

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Aug. 11.

Cases 188,737 | Deaths 4,199 | Diagnostic tests 1,276,952.

On Tuesday, Aug. 11, Arizona reported 1,213 new cases of novel coronavirus and 45 additional deaths. Even though the state has been seeing signs of the virus slowing down, local officials say conditions in Pima County are not yet good enough for students to return to in-person learning.

Biden picks Kamala Harris as running mate, first black woman


WILMINGTON, Del. — Joe Biden has chosen California Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate. It’s a move that fulfills the wish of Democrats clamoring to see a woman of color on a major party’s presidential ticket for the first time in history.

The 55-year-old Harris was elected to the Senate in 2016 after serving as California’s attorney general.

Harris competed against Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination but left the race before voting began as she struggled to raise money. One of Harris’ standout moments of her presidential campaign came at the expense of Biden, when she slammed his past opposition to school busing.

Learn more here.

Pence addresses crowd of Arizona law enforcement


Vice President Mike Pence was in Tucson Tuesday to pick up the endorsement of the Arizona Police Association. He repeatedly told the crowd of law enforcement officers that the Trump administration “backs the blue.”

“I want to assure you that your President, your Vice President and the overwhelming majority of the American people know that the men and women of law enforcement are the best people in this country,” Pence said to the crowd. “Law enforcement isn’t the problem, law enforcement is the solution.”

Pence told the crowd to support Senator Martha McSally in her bid to be elected to the U.S. Sensate, as well as Tiffany Shedd who is running for Congress in the first congressional district and Brandon Martin in the second district.

PAC-12 calls off fall sports


The PAC-12 announced today it is suspending all fall sports and holding off on the start of play for winter and spring sports until January due to the novel coronavirus. In a virtual news conference, PAC-12 Commissioner Larry Scott said the conference looked at many options including starting fall sports season like football later.

“We came to the conclusion, reluctantly that there is no indication that things are likely to change in terms of the criterion that influenced this in the next few weeks,” Scott said at the conference.

While basketball teams will not be allowed to play their first games until January instead of the usual late fall start…the teams can begin to practice in the fall. All fall sport student athletes will keep their scholarships.

It's still unsafe to reopen schools for in-person learning, Pima County health experts say


Pima County health officials say it's currently unsafe to reopen schools to in-person classes next week. The state's official start of the school year is Aug. 17.

At a meeting with education officials Monday, the Pima County Health Department reiterated its earlier assessment that won't be safe to start school with traditional learning, and may be unsafe to do so for several weeks.

The county currently isn't meeting any of its back-to-school criteria, according to Dr. Francisco Garcia, the county's chief medical officer. Garcia said only when those are met can schools welcome more students for in-person or hybrid instruction.

Learn more here.

Prisoners worry as COVID-19 spreads behind bars


The wife of an Arizona prison inmate says conditions remain bleak for prisoners concerned about the coronavirus pandemic.

Lillian Coppess says her husband Wellington continues to be symptom-free inside the Santa Rita Unit of the state prison system outside Tucson, though he's not yet been tested. But he and many others are worried because nearly half the inmates at the nearby Whetstone unit tested positive for COVID-19. Adding to their worries is the fact that corrections officers move back and forth between prison units with COVID-positive inmates and units with inmates who've tested negative.

Contacted by email, the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation and Reentry said all officers and staff wear face coverings and undergo symptom checks every day, and that soap and other cleaning supplies are readily available.

Navajo Nation president asks for leniency for federal death row inmate


The president of the Navajo Nation asked the U.S. Pardon Attorney for leniency Tuesday on behalf of the sole Native American on federal death row, who is scheduled to be executed August 26.

A jury convicted Lezmond Mitchell in 2003 of felony murder, first-degree murder, carjacking resulting in death and other federal crimes in the Navajo Nation. Unlike some federal crimes committed on tribal lands, the carjackin/g resulting in death charge does not need the tribe's consent for the federal government to seek the death penalty.

In a press release, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said commuting Mitchell’s sentence to life in prison would be an act of respect for tribal sovereignty.

Learn more here.

Local church wants to open free COVID-19 test site


St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church on East Third Street is hoping to hold a free, one-day coronavirus testing event at the church, but to do that they must ensure at least 50 people are going to get tested.

The church is asking people to pre-register now so they can get the number of people they need. To preregister, call (520) 344-4110.

Tucson City Council member Steve Kozachik says once the minimum number is met, they will be able to take walk-up appointments.

The event is scheduled for August 22 and is being cosponsored by the Pima County Interfaith Council.

Hobbs certifies marijuana measure for Arizona ballot


PHOENIX — Arizona’s top elections official has certified that supporters of an initiative measure to legalize recreational marijuana collected enough valid petition signatures to put the proposal on the November ballot.

The Smart and Safe Arizona campaign in July submitted 420,000 petition signatures and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs declared Monday that a review indicated 255,080 were valid, above the required 237,645.

A judge on Friday rejected challengers’ argument that supporters of the measure didn’t include some principal provisions in a 100-word summary of the measure. Assuming the measure survives an expected appeal, Hobbs’ certification means the marijuana measure will appear on the ballot and be labeled Proposition 207.

Learn more here.

Border Patrol agent in Arizona accused of drug trafficking


Authorities say a U.S. Border Patrol agent assigned to the Tucson Sector Ajo Border Patrol Station has been accused of drug trafficking. Federal prosecutors say 53-year-old Carlos Victor Passapera Pinott of Buckeye was arrested Sunday on suspicion of multiple counts of conspiracy and possession with intent to distribute controlled substances. Passapera had his initial court appearance Monday in Tucson.

Prosecutors say Passapera drove to a remote area of the border west of the Lukeville Port of Entry early Sunday. They say he then drove to Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport where he allegedly loaded two duffel bags into another vehicle. Authorities say the bags contained cocaine, heroin and fentanyl.

Learn more here.

Arizona rally favors reopening schools to in-person learning


PHOENIX — A rally in support of reopening Arizona schools for in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic drew hundreds of people to the state Capitol.

KNXV-TV reports that many parents and others at the Monday night rally wore green and demanded a green light to have students return to school. People voiced concerns over social-emotional wellness and families who need critical support services.

The Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported 1,213 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases with 45 additional deaths. The reports increased the state’s confirmed cases to 188,737 and its death toll to 4,199.

Learn more here.

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