/ Modified feb 17, 2021 3:58 p.m.

News roundup: Advocates wonder about future immigration policies, cold spell threatens vaccine deliveries

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Feb. 17.

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 801,055 | Deaths 15,063

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, Arizona reported 1,315 new cases of COVID-19 and 82 additional deaths.

As Biden rolls back 'Remain in Mexico,' advocates say next steps are still murky


This week the federal government is expected to begin processing asylum seekers who were part of the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP. Enacted in 2019, the Trump administration policy forced more than 70,000 people to wait in Mexico for immigration hearings in the U.S., according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC).

On the campaign trail, Biden pledged to end the program on day one. Rights advocates say it’s an important step, but more questions remain.

Under President Joe Biden’s new order, asylum seekers waiting in some border cities will start getting processed as early as this Friday.

Learn more here.

Weather may delay weekend vaccinations


The frigid weather in the country's midsection could affect COVID-19 vaccinations in Tucson. Marjorie Bessel, the Chief Medical Officer for Banner Health, says Banner's vaccination clinics have enough vaccines on hand for appointments today and tomorrow, but not beyond that, because the weather has slowed down shipments.

"We do have a number of appointments upcoming on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and those are at risk if we do not get supply," Bessel said at a Wednesday news conference.

She says Banner Health will reach out by text, email, or phone call if an appointment needs to be postponed.

Learn more here.

Senate Education Committee approves in-state tuition bill for Arizona Dreamers


The Arizona Senate will consider a bill that would give in-state tuition to all students who graduated from an Arizona high school and have lived in the state for at least two years, regardless of immigration status.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 1044 was approved in the Arizona Senate Education Committee Tuesday with a 6-3 vote.

If passed, it would ask voters next year to reverse a portion of Proposition 300, another voter-approved law passed more than a decade ago that blocked undocumented people from accessing in-state tuition and financial aid. The ban later included recipients of the Obama administration's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

Learn more here.

Arizona county leaders rescind expanded eviction ban


PHOENIX — The Pima County Board of Supervisors has rescinded an expanded eviction moratorium enacted early this month after two Republican state lawmakers asked the Arizona attorney general to review whether it was legal.

The 3-2 vote by the board at Tuesday’s meeting avoids the potential loss of state shared revenue the county would have faced if Attorney General Mark Brnovich agreed with the GOP lawmakers.

Sen. Vince Leach and Rep. Bret Roberts alleged the county ban violates state law because it blocks evictions that aren’t covered under a federal eviction moratorium.

The board will consider the ban again next month.

Learn more here.

Arizona COVID-19 toll tops 15,000 deaths, over 800,000 cases


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported COVID-19 pandemic totals of over 800,000 confirmed cases and more than 15,000 deaths. The state passed the two grim milestones Wednesday after nearly 13 months since the coronavirus outbreak was first reported in the state.

The Department of Health Services on Wednesday reported 1,315 additional confirmed cases and 82 new deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 801,055 cases and 15,063 deaths.

Arizona was a national hot spot in both last summer’s surge and the larger one that began last fall, accelerated during and after the winter holidays and began declining in January. New confirmed cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to decline.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 24 more COVID-19 cases, no new deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials reported 24 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, but no additional deaths.

The latest numbers bring the total number of cases on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 29,308 since the pandemic began. There have been 1,112 deaths reported related to COVID-19.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that even those who have been fully vaccinated need to continue taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus. He also commended health care workers for helping to get people vaccinated, especially when compared to the rate in areas surrounding the Navajo Nation.

Learn more here.

As Vaccination Restarts, Sonora Now At Moderate Coronavirus Risk

Fronteras Desk

After a several week delay, vaccination is starting up again in neighboring Sonora.

That comes the same week that the state fell to yellow, or moderate risk, on the federal coronavirus semaforo, or traffic light. Cases, deaths and hospitalizations continue to steadily fall, according to data tracked by the University of Sonora.

Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich said that the roughly 20,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine are being given to older residents of smaller, rural communities in the vast, sparsely populated state.

A second shipment of Pfizer’s vaccine is also expected to arrive this week and will provide a delayed second dose to front-line health care workers in the state.

Bill to purge Arizona permanent early-voting list fails


PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate has rejected a bill purging about 200,000 people from a list of voters who automatically get mail ballots.

The measure has drawn harsh criticism from voting rights advocates. They described it as a Republican voter-suppression tactic after Democratic President Joe Biden narrowly won Arizona last year.

Republican Sen. Paul Boyer joined all 14 Democrats to kill the bill in a 15-15 tie on Tuesday. But Boyer is facing intense pressure from his fellow Republicans to flip his vote, and the measure could come back later. He didn't explain his vote and couldn't be reached for comment.

Learn more here.

Official clears Arizona governor of electioneering claims


PHOENIX — The Arizona attorney general has determined that Republican Gov. Doug Ducey did not violate state law when he encouraged small business owners to vote no on a ballot measure calling for a tax surcharge on high-earners to boost education funding.

The Arizona Capitol Times reported that Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich said his office had closed its investigation and won’t take any further action.

Ducey was accused of electioneering by using state resources while on a phone call in his office with state employees in September. Deputy Solicitor General Michael Catlett found that the purpose of the call was to discuss the economy during the pandemic.

Learn more here.

Kelly: As vaccines ship, convincing skeptics needs focus


LUKE AIR FORCE BASE — U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona says that as production of the COVID-19 vaccine ramps up, the next focus for officials needs to be ensuring people want to get the shot.

The newly elected Democrat said Tuesday that he’s working to boost vaccine supplies in Arizona. He says he's making a case to the White House that Arizona’s population swells in the winter with snow birds. But he says there aren't enough people who want to get the shot, and that will become an issue as more doses ship.

Kelly spoke to reporters after visiting Luke Air Force Base in the West Valley.

Learn more here.

Arizona's chief federal law enforcement officer to resign


PHOENIX — U.S. Attorney Michael Bailey announced his resignation as the chief federal law enforcement officer in Arizona, effective Feb. 28.

The Arizona Republic reports that Bailey is stepping down along with other top prosecutors across the country who were appointed by former President Donald Trump. The U.S. Department of Justice asked dozens of attorneys appointed by Trump to resign as part of a routine transition between administrations.

Bailey said he was proud of his work in fighting crime and drug trade and preventing fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn more here.

Arizona Board of Regents to interview 2 for NAU presidency


FLAGSTAFF — The Arizona Board of Regents will interview two senior university officials from Florida and New York to become the next president of Northern Arizona University.

The regents on Tuesday announced interview invitations to Jose Luis Cruz, executive vice president and university provost of The City University of New York, and Bret Danilowicz, provost and vice president for academic affairs at Florida Atlantic University. Regent Fred DuVal called Cruz and Danilowicz “stellar leaders in high education."

The NAU presidency opened up last fall when current President Rita Cheng announced she would not seek a contract extension. Cheng will stay on pending appointment of her replacement.

Learn more here.

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