/ Modified mar 4, 2021 3:48 p.m.

News roundup: City seeks input on transportation, state embraces age-based vaccine distribution

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, March 4.

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 821,108 |Deaths 16,185

On Thursday, March 4, Arizona reported 1,154 new cases of COVID-19 and 96 additional deaths.

City of Tucson wants input on ranking transportation values


Tucsonans have till next Friday to mold draft guidelines the city wants to use to prioritize transportation projects over the next 20 years.

Move Tucson is a long-term transportation plan. The city started asking the community in February 2020 what transportation changes they wanted to see, and now, it needs help prioritizing all the suggested projects.

Andy Bemis, the main project manager for Move Tucson, said they plan on prioritizing the projects using draft guiding principles and vision statement that they've published at the end of a "virtual open house."

Learn more here.

Essential workers are COVID-19 vaccine eligible


Age now determines who can get COVID-19 at the four, state-run mass vaccination sites.

Some people expressed concern that the change leaves essential workers at the end of the line, instead of next in line as they were under the other system.

State health officials explained that is not the case and pointed to the new list as an explanation.

State officials anticipate, based on vaccine availability estimates, that all age groups in Arizona will be vaccine eligible by the summer.

Learn more here.

Romero calls for halt to zoo expansion project.


Tucson Mayor Regina Romero called Wednesday for a halt to proposed expansion of the Reid Park Zoo.

The 3.5 acre project, called Pathway to Asia, would replace a section of wooded, undeveloped land on Barnum Hill. It's being funded by a tax measure that voters passed in 2017.

Critics say they were blindsided by the zoo's plan to take over the popular park area, and that the City and the Zoological Society that operates the zoo didn't properly notify residents of the expansion plan.

Supporters of the expansion say there were public meetings to explain the proposal, and $3 million has already been spent on plans.

Learn more here.

Ducey orders in-person classes by March 15


Governor Doug Ducey issued an executive order, Wednesday, requiring public schools to offer in-person classes no later than March 15.

The order allows schools to continue offering a mix of in-person and virtual classes. It also allows a delay in the start of in-person classes if the school is scheduled for spring break on March 15.

Some school districts across the state were already planning for a return to in-person classes but not by the deadline set by Ducey. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman, said as a result of the order that opening will now be more difficult.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 1,154 additional COVID-19 cases, 96 deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona on Thursday reported 1,154 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 96 deaths as seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases and daily deaths dropped amid the continued slowing of the coronavirus outbreak.

The latest figures reported by the state increased the pandemic totals to 821,108 cases and 16,185 cases.

COVID-19-related inpatient hospitalizations dropped to 1,072 as of Wednesday. That's the fewest since Nov. 13 when the fall and winter surge was on the rise.

The rolling average of daily new cases dropped from 1,687.1 to 1,140.9 Wednesday while the rolling average of daily deaths declined from 85.9 to 66.2 during the same period.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 20 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 20 new COVID-19 cases with three additional deaths.

The latest figures from tribal health officials bring the total number of COVID-19 cases to 29,794 cases since the pandemic began. The death toll now is 1,187.

Health facilities on the reservation and in border towns are conducting drive-thru vaccine events or administering doses by appointment. The Navajo-area Indian Health Service has vaccinated more than 135,000 people so far.

A daily curfew from 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. and a mask mandate remain in effect for residents of the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to prevent the spread of the virus.

Tribal health officials say more than 16,000 people have recovered from COVID-19.

Learn more here.

Disabilities rights groups pan Arizona vaccination plans


PHOENIX — Advocates are calling on Arizona to prioritize people with disabilities and their caregivers when it comes to administering COVID-19 vaccines.

State disability rights groups said Thursday that Gov. Doug Ducey’s changing to an age-based vaccine plan has them worried about those in their 40s and younger who have disabilities. Advocates say the state also needs to provide more communication resources for the registration process and at vaccine sites.

When asked about the matter, state Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ asserted the age-based plan will actually lead to those with disabilities becoming eligible earlier.

Learn more here.

Arizona agency: Air base needs longer term water solution


PHOENIX — The head of Arizona’s environmental agency called on Luke Air Force Base in metro Phoenix to help stop the long-term spread of a plume of chemicals contaminating the area’s drinking water.

Recent testing discovered that the water contains high levels of compounds found in a firefighting foam no longer used on the base.

The director of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality told a public meeting the agency could work with the U.S. Air Force to stop underground movement of the chemicals.

The contaminants have affected drinking water for about 6,000 people living in roughly 1,600 homes.

Learn more here.

GOP lawmakers in Arizona House block clean energy standards


PHOENIX — Republicans in the Arizona House voted to strip the state’s elected utility regulators of their power to require utilities to get more electricity from solar and other clean energy sources.

Rep. Gail Griffin of Hereford amended her bill to adopt the state’s current renewable standards before Wednesday’s 31-28 party-line vote. Democrats were unified in opposition. Gov. Doug Ducey is backing the measure.

It would bar the Arizona Corporation Commission from adopting new proposed standards that would require most of the state’s utilities to get half their power from solar, wind and other renewable sources by 2035.

Learn more here.

Arizona House OKs guns in cars on school grounds


PHOENIX — The Republican-controlled Arizona House has approved a bill allowing people to have loaded guns in their vehicles on school grounds.

The proposal by Rep. Jacqueline Parker passed on a 31-28 party-line vote with no Democratic support.

Parker said during an earlier debate that her proposal simply allows legally armed people to leave their weapons loaded when they're going to pick up their children at school. Democrats said it could lead to adult students bringing a gun onto school grounds where they could be tempted to pull it out after a teenage spat.

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

Learn more here.

Concerns Over Mexican President’s Pitch For New ‘Bracero’-Type Labor Program

Fronteras Desk

During a virtual meeting with President Joe Biden on Monday, Mexico’s president proposed the creation of a new migrant labor program. It would allow as many as 800,000 Mexican and Central American workers into the United States temporarily.

But his comparisons to a former program known for its abuses has caused concern among workers rights advocates.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the United States economy would benefit from the “strength” and “youth” of Mexican laborers, and compared it to the “Bracero” program that brought millions of Mexicans to work on U.S. farms between 1942-1964.

Abuses under the Bracero program included low wages, dangerous working conditions, poor living conditions and racial discrimination.

Learn more here.

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