/ Modified sep 3, 2020 6:34 p.m.

News roundup: Federal unemployment bonus likely to end soon, Navajo Nation sues over census changes

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Sept. 3.

Cases 203,953 | Deaths 5,130 | PCR Tests 1,221,089

On Thursday, Sept. 3, Arizona reported 1,091 new cases of COVID-19 and 65 additional deaths. According to the Associated Press, this makes Thursday the first time the state reported over 1,000 COVID-19 cases since Aug. 13.

Federal supplement likely to run out soon as Arizona unemployment dollars dwindle


The federal money used to supplement the unemployment payments of more than 420,000 Arizonans could runout as soon as next week.

The FEMA dollars made available by a presidential order last month are limited and with more states using the funds, the likelihood they will run out soon is becoming more realistic.

Arizona has added the $300 weekly payment to regular unemployment benefits for the last five weeks. Without the supplement, the state's maximum unemployment payment is $240.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation Joins Lawsuit Against The Federal Government For Shortening The 2020 Census

Fronteras Desk

The Navajo Nation has joined a federal lawsuit, alongside several non-profits, city and county governments, and the Gila River Indian Community, against the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Commerce for shortening the time period to complete the 2020 Census.

After the coronavirus pandemic disrupted efforts to complete the 2020 Census. The U.S. Government had extended the deadline to Oct. 31. But last month, the federal government implemented the “rush plan” and changed the deadline to Sept. 30.

The lawsuit claims that the new deadline threatens a significant under-count, especially for hard-to-count communities, and that the government “had no sound basis for expediting deadlines.”

The plan would shorten the follow up phase where census teams go door to door to residents who haven’t yet responded to previous phases. As of Sept. 2, the Navajo Nation is at an 18.2% response rate.

Cochise County sued over polling place access


A complaint filed in federal court says Cochise County is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act over curbside voting access.

The suit contends that when the county stopped offering curbside voting for people with disabilities it infringed on the right to vote. It says even though Cochise County claims all of its voting places are ADA compliant that does not mean they can stop offering curbside voting.

The plaintiff, Kathleen Hoffard, asked for curbside voting in the November 2018 election but was allegedly told it was no longer offered.

A number of Arizona counties, including Pima, do offer curbside voting for the disabled who may have difficulty getting into a voting location.

Learn more here.

Pac-12 announces widespread virus testing policy


The Pac-12 Conference Thursday announced a plan to test athletes every day for COVID-19. The University of Washington's head of sports medicine, Doctor Kim Harmon, said rapid, frequent testing could clear the way for collegiate athletics to resume, even though the pandemic is not over.

"These rapid tests should be able to detect infection before people become infectious, and then we can pull the athlete, so theoretically when people are out there on the field they're not going to affect each other,” Harmon said.

What the conference did not announce was a schedule to resume practice, and eventually competition. Football is out for the rest of this year, and the status of basketball is uncertain.

The conference will be relying on equipment from San Diego-based Quidel Corporation, which also supplies antigen tests for the University of Arizona.

Rocky Point Expects Surge Of Holiday Visitors Despite Border Travel Restrictions

Fronteras Desk

Restrictions on nonessential travel are still in place at the U.S.-Mexico border. But leaders in the Sonoran beach town Puerto Peñasco, known as Rocky Point, are counting on many Arizonans to continue ignoring those restrictions during Labor Day weekend.

Puerto Peñasco Mayor Ernesto Munro said tourism officials estimate 50,000 tourists, mostly from Arizona, have visited since the city reopened its beaches on Aug. 1. And they expect the number of tourists to soar over the holiday weekend.

"We feel that this is going to be the best weekend since we reopened," he said. "And we hope it to be a very good weekend for our business people, for our community, but also for tourists.

Munro said Rocky Point, which shut down to any visitors in March, is still taking precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 1,091 additional COVID-19 cases, 65 deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona health officials on Thursday reported 1,091 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases with 65 additional deaths, increasing the state’s totals to 203,953 cases and 5,130 deaths. Thursday was the first day that the Department of Health Services reported over 1,000 additional cases since Aug. 13, when 1,351 were reported.

Arizona was a national hot spot in June and July, with cases and deaths trending downward since. Seven-day rolling averages for daily new cases and daily deaths reported statewide continued to decrease through Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press.

Arizona schools mull in-person class with COVID-19 declines

PHOENIX — Most counties in Arizona, including Maricopa, have been cleared to transition their schools to some form of in-person learning.

The state Department of Health Services announced Thursday that eight counties now meet the benchmarks required to do a hybrid of remote and in-person instruction if they choose to. Meanwhile, Greenlee and La Paz counties, which are more rural, got the greenlight to switch to full-time, in-person classes.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, however, is urging caution as school districts consider whether to make the switch. Hoffman says COVID-19 can spread so quickly as it did this summer in Arizona.

Learn more here.

Heat warnings issued for desert areas of Arizona, Nevada


PHOENIX — Desert cities in Arizona and Nevada will be under excessive heat warnings through the Labor Day weekend due to high temperatures forecast to reach up to 115 degrees in some areas. The warnings issued by the National Weather Service for Phoenix, Las Vegas and other cities take effect Friday and run into Monday evening.

Forecasters advised limiting outdoor activity and to drink plenty of water and check on friends, neighbors and the sick or elderly. The weather service said some southern Arizona locations may tie or break their all-time September highs Friday or Saturday. Forecasters said Las Vegas' highs will approach or exceed records through Monday.

Learn more here.

Judge bars Kanye West from appearing on Arizona’s ballot


A judge has barred Kanye West from appearing on Arizona’s Nov. 3 ballot.

Judge Scott McCoy said Thursday that a voter who challenged West’s candidacy had shown he would probably prevail in the legal dispute and established the possibility of an irreparable harm if the rapper’s name were to appear on the ballot.

Attorneys leading the challenge argued that putting West’s name on the ballot would create confusion for voters. The decision came a day after West’s campaign turned in nearly 58,000 nominating signatures, well over the 39,000 needed to appear on the ballot. West has already qualified to appear on the ballot in several states.

Learn more here.

National Guard soldiers return to Arizona from Wisconsin


PHOENIX — A contingent of National Guard soldiers has returned to Arizona from Wisconsin. About 150 members of the 850th Military Police Battalion were sent to Kenosha to help authorities manage unrest following the shooting by police of Jacob Blake, a Black man.

The soldiers returned to Arizona on Tuesday after nearly a week in Wisconsin. Arizona was among three states that sent Guard units to Wisconsin after Gov. Tony Evers requested assistance.

The Arizona National Guard said it has experienced a record level of activations this year, including mobilizations and deployments related to wildfires, COVID-19, the Southwest Border Mission and civil support to law enforcement.

Learn more here.

ASU professor forced students to break COVID-19 restrictions


PHOENIX — An Arizona State University professor who forced his students to sit in the first two rows of his classroom, violating the school’s coronavirus guidelines, will allow students to choose their own seats in the future after the incident was posted about on social media. The university's assistant vice president for media relations, Jay Thorne, acknowledged the incident and said the university spoke to Professor Thomas Seager about complying with the school's restrictions.

The allegations were initially posted on Reddit. Seager declined to comment and referred The Associated Press to Thorne.

The Arizona Republic reports ASU had 775 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among its student body as of Monday.

Learn more here.

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