/ Modified sep 10, 2020 4:10 p.m.

News Roundup: Indigenous activists arrested at protest, Pima County residents can text 911

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Sept. 10.

Cases 207,002 | Deaths 5,273

On Thursday, Sept. 10, Arizona reported 461 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 22 additional deaths. State health officials expressed concern that the pandemic could increase deaths from suicide.

Indigenous activists arrested in demonstration against border wall construction near Quitobaquito Springs

A demonstration against border wall construction near Quitobaquito Springs led to two arrests Wednesday morning.

The protesters are Hia-Ced O’odham, a tribe not federally recognized that used to live at Quitobaquito Springs before it became part of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the 1950s.

Protesters stopped construction there for more than an hour by preventing machinery from moving. A video shows a demonstrator sitting inside the bucket of a backhoe as law enforcement officers come into frame.

The demonstrators are part of O'odham Anti Border Collective and Defend O'odham Jewed, a network of Akimel O'odham, Tohono O'odham and Hia-Ced O'odham activists at the center of recent demonstrations against wall construction on ancestral tribal land across Central and Southern Arizona.

Learn more here.

Pima County residents can now text 911 for help


Pima County now has a Text-911 program. That means someone needing help can type 911 into the "To" line of a text message program in order to reach a 911 dispatcher.

Messages to 911 sent via text will be handled with the same priority as phone calls.

“Obviously, life and death situations are a little bit more high priority than, say, someone whose neighbor is playing loud music, and that priority system is still in place for any text calls that we get along with voice calls,” said Joanne Amstutz, a 911 trainer with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department.

Police agencies across Pima County announced the change via their social media channels.

Tucson mayor and council rethinking development tax incentives


A tax incentive popular with developers is getting a second look from the Tucson City Council.

The Tucson mayor and council voted Wednesday to delay the renewal of the city's central business district, in which developers can take advantage of the government property lease excise tax, or GPLET. The incentive introduced in 2012 has come under scrutiny in recent years for a perceived connection to gentrification and a process that some on the council say doesn't hold developers accountable.

The current central business district encompasses downtown Tucson and its surroundings, West Saint Marys Road, North Stone Avenue, North Oracle Road and West Grant Road. Tucson Mayor Regina Romero questioned whether the current boundaries make sense given downtown's development boom over the past decade.

Learn more here.

COVID could cause suicide rates to rise, health official warns


Arizona's state health director expects the protracted COVID-19 pandemic will contribute to a higher suicide rate, as people try to cope with months of isolation. At a news conference marking worldwide Suicide Prevention Day, Doctor Cara Christ said the answer won't be known for up to a year, but she expects suicide numbers in Arizona will be affected.

"Looking at where we are with our numbers, to be already at some of the same levels we were last year, we anticipate that we will see more. I hope I'm wrong, but we do anticipate to continue adding to our suicide numbers,” Christ said.

Anyone experiencing difficulties, or contemplating self-harm, can call the statewide 211 hotline to connect with a wide variety of social services throughout the state.

Sonora Among Hardest Hit By Excess Deaths During COVID-19 Outbreak In Mexico

Fronteras Desk

Sonora, Arizona’s neighbor to the south, has seen one of the largest jumps in excess deaths among Mexican states during the coronavirus pandemic.

In the absence of the global coronavirus pandemic, an estimated 6,600 Sonorans would have likely died between mid-March and the end of July. Instead, according to data recently presented by the federal government, roughly 12,400 died — nearly 90% more than the expected figure. That’s the fourth highest jump among the 24 states analyzed.

Ruy López, head of the national disease control and prevention center, said Covid does not account for all of those deaths, but is one of the key factors.

There have been roughly 2,750 confirmed Covid deaths in Sonora, according to the most recently available state data. New cases and deaths have been steadily declining in the state in recent weeks, according to data tracked by the University of Sonora.

US Attorney General levels broadside on voting by mail


PHOENIX — U.S. Attorney General William Barr delivered a broadside attack on mail-in voting Thursday during a visit to Phoenix. He attacked the process used by many Americans and the vast majority of Arizonans as prone to undue influence and coercion. The Republican also said that mail-in ballots impinge on the historic American tradition of the secret ballot, an attack refuted by states that allow widespread mail-in voting.

Barr's comments continue a push by President Donald Trump to raise doubts about election security in the run-up to the November election. Barr was in Phoenix to announce a crackdown on methamphetamine trafficking.

Learn more here.

Inspectors cite Arizona nursing homes for safety errors


PHOENIX — Health inspectors have cited more than one in four Arizona nursing homes for errors that could cause further spread of COVID-19.

The Arizona Republic reports that inspections conducted since April observed staff who did not wear masks properly, neglected to sanitize their hands or medical equipment and failed to keep residents 6 feet apart. The inspection reports note facilities failed to follow their own policies and the shortcomings could result in the spread of infection to residents and staff.

The nursing homes included for-profit, nonprofit and government-run facilities that collectively serve more than 3,400 residents.

Learn more here.

Arizona Democrat Mark Kelly apologizes for offensive joke


PHOENIX — Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly has apologized for making an offensive joke while speaking to a group of Boy Scouts two years ago.

The retired astronaut was discussing the physiological changes that his twin brother, who is also an astronaut, experienced while living in space for a year. Kelly said the experience changed his brother's DNA and took a toll on his body. He then made a joke that the family had to release his brother back into the wild and renamed him “Rodrigo,” a video of which a former Republican mayoral candidate of Phoenix shared online and called shameful.

Learn more here.

'It's going horribly': College towns fret about census count


PHOENIX — Officials in college towns all over the U.S. are fretting that off-campus students are being counted in places other than the communities where their schools are located. That is leading to an expected major undercount for the 2020 census in college towns where students can make up as much as three-quarters of the population.

The situation could result in severe shortfalls in federal dollars these college towns normally would expect and also a dilution of their political power over the next decade.

Off-campus students are said to account for 4 million of the 19 million college students in the U.S.

Learn more here.

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