/ Modified nov 24, 2020 3:55 p.m.

News roundup: Pandemic at levels not seen since summer, tribal nations hit hard

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Nov. 24.

Cases 306,868 | Deaths 6,515

On Tuesday, Nov. 24, Arizona reported 4,544 new cases of COVID-19 and 51 additional deaths. Arizona’s average daily case count has doubled in the past two weeks, the Associated Press reports.

Pima County top health official warns of 'sobering weeks ahead' with pandemic


Pima County issued a public health advisory Monday evening, calling for a voluntary curfew beginning at 10:00 p.m. each night and ending at 5:00 a.m. each morning. The voluntary curfew will run through Dec. 31.

The curfew applies to everyone in Pima County except those who have "no fixed address".

The exceptions to the curfew are for traveling to and from work, obtaining food, medical care or medicine, caring for family, or responding to emergencies.

The number of positive cases of COVID-19 in Pima County has reached levels not seen since this summer.

Learn more here.

Arizona average of new virus cases doubles in past 2 weeks


PHOENIX — Arizona reported more than 4,000 new COVID-19 cases for the fourth time within six days as the surge in the outbreak doubled the state’s seven-day rolling average of new cases in the past two weeks. The Department of Health Serviceson Tuesday reported 4,544 new cases and 51 new deaths, bringing the state’s totals to 306,868 cases and 6,515 deaths.

The COVID Tracking Project says the seven-day rolling average of new cases went from 1,651 on Nov. 9 to 3,630 on Monday. Virus-related hospitalizations also continued to increase, reaching 2,084 as of Monday, including 474 patients in intensive care unit beds.

Learn more here.

Cost of a Thanksgiving meal rises


A Thanksgiving dinner for 10 people in Arizona will cost $47.02 this year, according to the Arizona Farm Bureau’s Market Basket report.

The cost of dinner this year reflects a 10% increase over 2019, according to the report. The largest price increase in Arizona was the turkey. A 16-pound turkey will cost about $14 this year but there is a bright spot.

“If you break that down that’s only 88 cents a pound. That’s below national’s market basket, which is done by American Farm Bureau, their turkey was $1.21 per pound,” said Julie Murphree with the Arizona Farm Bureau.

Learn more here.

UA working on plans for spring semester


The University of Arizona plans to begin the new semester in January in the same educational mode it is currently in, with some in-person classes. But that could change if COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the U.S.

“If things continue to go and we can’t get the curve going downward and flattened out, then I think they are going to have to start over and go back like we did with this term,” said Robert Robbins, University of Arizona president.

UA began the fall semester with online instruction for all but what were classified as essential classes, like labs. Currently, the university allows in-person meetings for classes that have 50 or fewer students.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 Infections Continue To Soar On Navajo Nation

Fronteras Desk

The Navajo Nation was hard-hit with COVID-19 cases early in the pandemic. But recent cases have far surpassed the reservation’s spring peak. A record 383 new cases were reported Sunday.

The Navajo Nation extends from northeastern Arizona into Utah and New Mexico. It is under a strict lockdown until at least Dec. 6. Most businesses on the reservation must close by 3 p.m. each day. In a town hall video Sunday, Navajo Nation president Jonathan Nez pleaded for patience and cooperation.

“We can do this, we’ve gone through some tougher times in our history and we overcame. Here is the time for all of us to come together as one," Nez said.

More than 600 Navajos have died from COVID-19. That makes the rate of death on the Nation more than four times higher than in the state of Arizona as a percentage of population size.

Navajo Nation reports 197 additional virus cases, no deaths


WINDOW ROCK— The Navajo Nation is reporting 197 additional COVID-19 cases and no deaths from the virus as of Monday evening. A day earlier, officials had reported 383 cases, an all-time high for the vast reservation. In all, the tribe has reported more than 15,000 cases of the virus and 631 deaths since the pandemic began.

The Navajo Nation is currently under a three-week stay-at-home order. Only essential workers are allowed to come and go. Others are permitted to travel in cases of emergency or for essentials.

Learn more here.

Navajo And Hopi Tribes In Need Of Funding As COVID-19 Cases Continue To Rise

Fronteras Desk

Lockdowns have been put in place for both the Navajo and Hopi reservations. But with another COVID-19 surge and limited resources, the tribes need a second infusion of donations.

Without additional funding for another surge in coronavirus cases, both the Navajo and Hopi tribes will be forced to stop providing food boxes to families in a matter of weeks.

Only 16 hospitals and two clinics serve both reservation communities. In addition, the communities have only 14 grocery stores to serve 30,000 square miles, making the areas food deserts.

More than 240k Navajos apply for tribal virus relief funding


WINDOW ROCK— About three-quarters of Navajos enrolled with the tribe have applied for financial assistance due to the coronavirus pandemic. The deadline to file an application is Monday. Already, more than 240,000 Navajos have applied.

The Navajo Nation has about $90 million available for hardship assistance. The money comes from the tribe's share of a federal coronavirus relief package. More money could be added to the fund next month if other projects fall through.

Tribes across the country have until Dec. 30 to spend the money. Many turned to financial aid programs to disburse the funding quickly.

Hermosillo Businesses Prepare For Return To Tighter Pandemic Restrictions

Fronteras Desk

After a number of weeks operating with lighter restrictions on hours and occupancy, businesses in the Sonoran capital Hermosillo, are preparing for the return of tougher rules.

The whole state rose to orange on the federal semáforo — or traffic light — pandemic risk scale a few weeks ago, while city officials insisted that Hermosillo was at yellow, or moderate risk. Now its own risk measure also says the city’s situation has worsened, and tougher restrictions are expected soon.

“We’re worried,” said Manuel Lira, the Sonoran representative of Canirac, which represents restaurants nationwide. “This means that in some way we’re going to have restrictions on hours. The proposal is that we close at 10 at night, and the reduction in occupancy looks like 25% for closed spaces.”

But he’s also worried about the pandemic situation worsening, which could mean continued tight restrictions through some of the industry’s most important months.

Ducey acknowledges Biden victory in Arizona for 1st time


PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is acknowledging for the first time that Joe Biden won Arizona's 11 electoral votes.

The Republican governor publicly acknowledged the results three weeks after the election when pressed during an interview on Phoenix radio station KTAR. Ducey says any legal challenges will go through the courts but he expects the state will certify the election results as scheduled on Monday.

Ducey has avoided discussing Biden's victory in Arizona or nationally as President Donald Trump seeks to overturn the election with baseless claims of fraud.

Learn more here.

Kelly meets with Ducey as he prepares to take seat in Senate


PHOENIX — Incoming Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly met with Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Monday as he prepares to take office as soon as next week. Both men said afterward that the discussion touched on distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, addressing the economic fallout from the pandemic, infrastructure and trade with Mexico.

Kelly says he’s concerned about polls showing much of the country doesn’t plan to get vaccinated, which would prevent the herd immunity necessary to keep the spread of the coronavirus in check. Kelly says he and Ducey agreed that Congress needs to do more to sustain families that are struggling during the pandemic.

Learn more here.

Tucson zoo prepares to start next phase of expansion


Tucson’s Reid Park Zoo is taking the next steps in an ambitious decade-long, $80 million expansion plan.

The Arizona Daily Star reports the zoo is adding more acres this spring to accommodate a bigger tiger habitat, an aviary and other improvements. The incoming new animal dwellers will include red pandas, fishing cats, sloth bears and a Komodo dragon. This phase of the project has been branded the “Pathways to Asia” expansion.

The entire years-long renovation is primarily funded by a voter-approved sales-tax increase from 2017. Under the measure, the higher tax will gather between $8 million and $10 million in funding each year for zoo improvements.

Learn more here.

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