/ Modified aug 28, 2020 5 p.m.

News Roundup: Pedestrian safety, unemployment fraud, Lute Olson

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Aug. 28.

Cases 200,658 | Deaths 4,978 | Diagnostic tests 1,182,397

On Friday, Aug. 28, the state reported 519 new cases of COVID-19 and 49 additional deaths. Some methods of testing, like wastewater monitoring, can allow for the virus to be detected and treated early and potentially helped avoid a larger outbreak at the University of Arizona, according to experts.

Revisiting the danger to pedestrians in Tucson

The Buzz

In recent years, the pedestrian death toll has been on the rise in Tucson and around the country. But finding the reasons behind that trend isn't easy.

This week, the Buzz looks at the issue with people from law enforcement, transportation, urban planning and history, all working to understand the problem and find solutions. And we get an update on how this issue has been affected--or not--by the pandemic, as well as what the city might do in the future to create safer streets for all.

Listen to the full episode here.

Unemployment fraud, bridging digital divides, Mexican consulate

Arizona 360

Arizona Department of Economic Security Director Michael Wisehart discusses the department’s push to investigate fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits. Claims have soared during the pandemic and currently a million Arizonans receive benefits.

For students who lack the necessary tech to learn from home, Tony Paniagua reports on how educators and nonprofits like Chicanos Por La Causa are teaming up to help bridge the digital divide. Patricia Haynes, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Arizona, explains what families can do to manage the stress both parents and students can experience with remote learning.

Lorraine Rivera sits down with the newly appointed consul of the Mexican Consulate in Tucson. Despite international travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border, Rocky Point is open to tourists. KJZZ radio’s Kendal Blust discusses what restrictions are in place and concerns from communities in Sonora about the influx of visitors.

Watch the full episode here.

Lute Olson, Hall of Fame coach, Arizona icon, dies at 85


Lute Olson, the Hall of Fame coach who turned Arizona into a college basketball powerhouse and led the program to its lone national title in 1997, has died. He was 85. Olson’s family said he died Thursday evening. The cause of death wasn't given. Olson spent 24 seasons at Arizona, revitalizing a fan base in the desert while transforming a program that had been to the NCAA Tournament just three times in 79 years before he was hired in 1983. Olson first took the Wildcats to the NCAA Tournament during his second season in Tucson to start a string of 25 straight appearances. The Wildcats won a national championship under Olson in 1997 with a team led by Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Miles Simon.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 wastewater testing saves 'precious' time in outbreak prevention, researcher says


Wastewater testing at University of Arizona dorms caught two cases of COVID-19 early, but it was what happened next that officials say made sure a potential outbreak was stopped before it started.

The 300 residents of Likins Hall, where wastewater tests alerted to the virus, were tested, and a special UA cleaning crew was brought into to disinfect the dorm, according to university officials. The two students who tested positive were isolated in another residence hall and the next day the wastewater was tested again.

The wastewater testing is extremely sensitive. The two students in question were asymptomatic, something UA President Robert Robbins calls a good thing. According to Robbins, wastewater testing can detect the virus up to a week before symptoms show.

Ian Pepper, the researcher in charge of the wastewater testing program, called those seven days “precious” when it comes to preventing a widespread outbreak.

Learn more here.

Tucson election date challenged in court


Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich asked the state Supreme Court to force the city of Tucson to hold its elections on even-numbered years. Currently, Tucson holds elections for the mayor and council on odd-numbered years.

In 2018, the Legislature passed a law requiring local elections to be held on even-numbered years if turnout on odd-numbered years was 25% lower than even-numbered years.

Brnovich is now asking the Supreme Court to back up that finding and force the city to hold local elections on even-numbered years.

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero issued a statement about Brnovich's complaint in the Supreme Court calling it, "another politically motivated attempt by Phoenix-area state legislators to micromanage and undermine our ability to self-govern as a city."

Learn more here.

As some movie theaters reopen, it's still too soon for The Loft Cinema


Tucsonans sick of streaming movies at home will soon have other options.

Pima County businesses that closed in June, such as movie theaters, got the green light from state health officials to reopen Thursday.

Harkins Theatres planned to reopen its Arizona locations Thursday, Aug. 27. The movie theater chain has two locations in Pima County. The theaters will open at 50% capacity and require masks, except when eating or drinking.

AMC Theaters has not announced plans to reopen.

The Loft independent cinema in Tucson has no plans to reopen. Executive director Peggy Johnson said the nonprofit theater isn't facing the pressure corporate chains are.

Learn more here.

Rocky Point Cruise Operator Declares Bankruptcy

Fronteras Desk

The first cruise to embark from the popular Sonoran beach resort of Rocky Point sailed out into the Sea of Cortez in early January. But amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the British company behind it, declared bankruptcy in July, according to a post on the company’s website. That raises questions about when — or whether — cruises will return.

“I personally am still motivated about Rocky Point,” said John Dennis, who until recently was a senior sales and marketing VP with the company’s U.S. branch.

Beyond the havoc the pandemic is wreaking on the cruise industry, Rocky Point does not have a home port for cruise ships. Without better infrastructure, would-be operators will still face a serious obstacle to long-term viability, even after the pandemic is controlled, according to Dennis.

Arizona, once a virus hotspot, approaches 5,000 deaths


PHOENIX — The number of deaths from the coronavirus in Arizona is approaching 5,000, even as the state reports lower daily cases and hospitalizations from the virus. In all, 200,658 cases and 4,978 deaths have been reported since the pandemic began.

Gyms and some bars across metro Phoenix and Tucson were allowed to reopen Thursday. Six of 15 Arizona counties remain in the higher category where gyms, bars, nightclubs and water parks can’t reopen without a state waiver.

For most people, COVID-19 causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in a few weeks. For others, it can cause more severe illness, including death.

Learn more here.

233 new virus cases reported at ICE facility in Arizona


ELOY — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is reporting 233 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona. It’s unclear how many people are detained at La Palma, but overall there are more than 21,000 people being held in ICE custody on civil immigration violations nationwide, and 850 of them tested positive recently.

The Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project, which provides legal services, says ICE should release detainees. The organization says its clients at La Palma report that large sections of the detention center are locked down and that they’re being fed cold, boxed meals three times a day.

Arizona governor pushes masks but goes without in big crowd


PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants residents to “mask up” to prevent spread of the coronavirus, but he was spotted by television cameras mingling maskless in a large White House crowd Thursday night.

The Republican governor was attending the South Lawn speech where President Donald Trump formally accepted his party’s presidential nomination. Ducey was seen without a mask in the crowd of about 1,500 invited guests, even after tweeting photos of himself wearing one.

The Arizona Democratic Party was quick to pounce on the disconnect between what Ducey preaches and what he actually does.

There was no immediate comment from Ducey's office Friday.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation wants more say over criminal justice matters


FLAGSTAFF — Following the federal execution of one of its citizens, the Navajo Nation wants more say over criminal justice matters on its reservation in the U.S. Southwest.

Lezmond Mitchell, who is Navajo, was executed Wednesday at a federal prison in Indiana where he was being held. He was the only Native American on federal death row.

The Navajo Nation says the federal government violated the spirit of a law that allows tribes to decide whether to subject their citizens to the death penalty. Tribal officials say they'll work with congressional leaders and advocacy groups to push for change.

Learn more here.

Arizona sending more than 150 Guard troops to Wisconsin


PHOENIX — Arizona is sending more than 150 National Guard troops to Wisconsin to help after widespread unrest over police shooting Jacob Blake, a Black man, on Sunday. Gov. Doug Ducey's office confirmed Thursday that members of the 850th Military Police Battalion will help Kenosha law enforcement. They are expected to arrive Friday. Three states are sending Guard units to Wisconsin after Gov. Tony Evers requested assistance.

Kenosha saw peaceful protests Wednesday night for the first time since police shot Blake. Tuesday night, two demonstrators were fatally shot and another was wounded.

Kenosha is the latest focal point in the racial injustice fight since George Floyd, a Black man, died in May after a white officer pressed a knee to his neck.

Learn more here.

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