/ Modified feb 3, 2021 3:57 p.m.

News roundup: Environmentalists assess border wall damage, state superintendent calls for better school funding

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Feb. 3.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 767,379 | Deaths 13,576

On Wednesday, Feb. 3, Arizona reported 2,296 new cases of COVID-19 and 214 additional deaths.

After months of border wall construction, a look at the damage done


In the last year and a half, crews have raced to complete the border wall promised by President Donald Trump. By the time his term ended, many of the construction projects across Arizona's Borderlands were complete.

As President Joe Biden takes office, environmental groups are taking stock of the environmental destruction caused by the wall as they make the case for restoration.

For months now, construction crews have been dynamiting, drilling, pumping, excavating and clear-cutting public land. Previously wide-open landscapes where wildlife and water could move freely have been severed by the huge steel barrier. The Sonoran Desert's iconic saguaros, protected by law, have been found lying in heaps next to construction sites.

Learn more here.

State's top educator wants steady funding for education


Arizona’s public schools are suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and unsteady funding, according to state Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman.

In her annual State of Education speech, Hoffman took aim at those in state government who deny there is enough money to fully fund distance learning.

In his State of the State speech, Governor Doug Ducey said he doesn’t want to pay for empty classroom seats. In his budget, Ducey proposed a grant program to help school districts recover the money they lost due to students who are using distance learning instead of being in the classroom.

Learn more here.

County, State officials talk past each other on COVID vaccines, aid


State and local leaders may be speaking the same language, but they're not necessarily communicating.

One sign of miscommunication is the subject of financial relief for the county's testing and vaccination efforts. Direct federal aid from last year's CARES act relief bill ran out in December, and County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the county's been dipping into its own budget since then.

"We need some fiscal relief in order to carry on the fight against the pandemic," Huckelberry said.

Learn more here.

San Carlos Tribal members run to advocate for Oak Flat


Members of the San Carlos Apache Tribe are running to the state capitol from a sacred site near Superior that the federal government is set to transfer into the hands of a copper company.

The runners, former Tribal Chairman Wendsler Nosie Sr., and his granddaughters, plan to journey to the federal courthouse in Phoenix before a preliminary injunction hearing begins Wednesday morning.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe, and Indigenous and conservation groups have filed multiple lawsuits to stop the land transfer.

Learn more here.

Second president of Navajo Nation dies after COVID-19 battle


The second president of the Navajo Nation died Tuesday due to complications with COVID-19 at the age of 70.

According to the Navajo Nation Council, Albert 'Ahbihay' Hale served as president from 1995 to 1998. He was also a member of the Arizona Legislature from 2004 through 2017.

Hale also served as the tribe's assistant attorney general and was the chair of the Navajo Nation Water Rights Commission during the negotiation of the tribe's rights to water in part of the Colorado River’s Upper Basin.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 82 new COVID-19 cases, 12 more deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Tuesday reported 82 new COVID-19 cases and 12 more deaths. The latest numbers raised the totals to 28,471 cases and 1,032 known deaths since the pandemic began.

The tribe extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19.

The Navajo Department of Health has identified 56 communities with uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, down from 75 communities in recent weeks.

The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events. The actions in the latest public health emergency order will run through at least Feb. 15.

The Navajo Nation extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.

Apaches' fight over Arizona copper mine goes before US court


FLAGSTAFF — A federal judge will hear arguments Wednesday from a group of Apaches that has been fighting a proposed copper mine in eastern Arizona.

Apache Stronghold recently sued the U.S. Forest Service to try to stop the agency from turning over a parcel of land to Resolution Copper. The group is seeking an injunction until a judge ultimately can determine who has rights to that land and whether mining would infringe on Apaches' religious practices.

The Forest Service says it's doing what was mandated by Congress. The agency also contends the group doesn't have standing to assert its claims because it's not a federally recognized tribe.

Learn more here.

Arizona county discards over 500 doses of COVID-19 vaccines


PHOENIX — Maricopa County public health officials say that more than 500 unused doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been discarded at five distribution sites, but that doing so helps maintain quality.

KPHO-TV reported Tuesday it learned through a public records request that 553 doses were wasted between Dec. 17 and Jan. 20.

County spokesperson Fields Moseley says the health department works diligently to prevent unnecessary waste but said some is unavoidable. The county said some people do not show up for appointments after the doses have already been thawed for the day.

Republican Gov. Doug Ducey characterized vaccine doses being wasted as shocking and unacceptable.

Learn more here.

Arizona Senate seeking contempt charge in election fight


PHOENIX — The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate has introduced a contempt resolution finding that Maricopa County has failed to comply with a subpoena demanding access to elections equipment and ballots cast in the November election.

The Senate introduced the resolution Wednesday afternoon. All 16 Republican senators are sponsors meaning it is virtually certain to pass. If the resolution is enacted, board members could be jailed for failing to comply.

The GOP-dominated board on Tuesday again refused to comply with subpoenas GOP lawmakers issued as they try to show that fraud or other election misdeeds led to Democratic President Joe Biden’s win in the state.

Learn more here.

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