/ Modified mar 30, 2021 4 p.m.

News roundup: Groundwater protection bills stall in legislature, county and UA retains mask mandates

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, March 30.

Cases 841,078 | Deaths 16,941

On Tuesday, March 30, Arizona reported 586 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths.

No movement on groundwater protection bills


Arizona's 1980 Groundwater Management Act established pumping regulations in the state's most populous areas but set no such limits on rural parts of the state. In recent years, some rural areas have come under increased pressure from agricultural pumping that has dropped groundwater levels dramatically.

Haley Paul, policy director with Audubon Southwest, said rural parts of the state, in particular, are being depleted.

Lawmakers introduced several bills in the current legislative session to regulate or provide more options for managing the state's groundwater.

But those bills and others didn't make it very far—some didn't even get a hearing.

Learn more here.

UA not lifting mask requirements


The University of Arizona has a strict mask wearing policy for anyone coming on campus and it is not changing despite Governor Doug Ducey’s executive order allowing mask mandates to be lifted.

Dr. Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona, said the mitigation and push for vaccines is important not only for the university but for the community as a whole.

“Otherwise, this virus is going to continue to mutate and kill people,” said Robbins

The University of Arizona entered Phase Three this week, which means allowing classes of 100 or fewer students to meet in person.

Learn more here.

Anniversary of first COVID-19 cases among Tohono O'odham members


A year ago Sunday, the Tohono O'odham Nation learned a tribal member had contracted COVID-19. Tohono O'odham Nation Health Care reported 1,740 members have had the disease, as of March 3, 2021.

Last year's announcement came two weeks after Tucson officials identified the first COVID-19 case in the area.

For several months, more members of the Tohono O'odham Nation who lived in Tucson were reporting contracting the disease. Now, the latest data shows 68% of the cases are among members who live within the nation.

Learn more here.

Arizona county keeps mask mandate in defiance of governor


PHOENIX — Pima County officials say they will continue to enforce a mask mandate to contain the spread of COVID-19 despite Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey's attempt to block public health measures by local governments.

Leaders of the state's second-largest county said Tuesday they expect their decision will be challenged but they believe they are on solid ground.

Officials say health inspectors will continue enforcing mask requirements in restaurants, and other businesses face potential fines up to $500 or the loss of their operating permits.

Ducey lifted his remaining coronavirus restrictions, prompting a backlash from hospital executives and some local officials. A spokesman for Ducey did not immediately comment.

Learn more here.

No increases for resident undergrads in tuition proposals


PHOENIX — The Arizona Board of Regents says tuition proposals by the presidents of the three state universities for the 2021-2022 academic year don’t include increases for undergraduate students who are Arizona residents.

Regents President Larry Penley said the stance taken by the university presidents reflects a commitment to ensuring that education is affordable despite the financial hardships placed on many students by the pandemic.

While Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona proposed no tuition increase for resident undergraduates, Arizona State University went broader by proposing no tuition increases for any current or incoming student, including undergraduates and graduate students.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation: No COVID-19 deaths for 2nd consecutive day


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation on Monday reported five new COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the second consecutive day and fifth time in the last nine days.

Tribal health officials say the latest figures bring the total number of cases since the pandemic started to 30,064. The number of deaths remains 1,246.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher than reported because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. The Navajo Nation reservation covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.

After 2 Weeks In The Green, Sonora’s COVID-19 Risk Rises To Medium

Fronteras Desk

Sonora, Arizona’s neighbor to the south, spent just two weeks at green, or low-risk, according to the federal government’s pandemic risk measure.

But now it’s back to yellow, or moderate risk, according to a presentation of the latest version of the federal semaforo — or traffic light — scale from the health ministry’s Hugo Lopez Gatell.

Other states have experienced the same, only to regain green status by sticking with pandemic protocols, he noted.

State health authorities are worried about the possibility of a third wave in Sonora, brought on by travel during Holy Week, which just got underway.

Learn more here.

Arizona Senate sends 2nd Amendment bill to governor


PHOENIX — The Arizona Senate on Tuesday voted to prohibit police and sheriffs from enforcing federal gun laws that violate the 2nd Amendment.

Backers said it would ensure that the rights of gun owners are protected from what they say is the potential for overreach by President Joe Biden’s administration.

Democrats critics say it will undermine the rule of law and is an unconstitutional measure that will cost taxpayers to defend in court.

The measure has already passed the House and goes next to Gov. Doug Ducey.

Learn more here.

Pandemic liability shield for Arizona businesses advances


PHOENIX — The Arizona House has voted to give businesses, nursing homes and others a broad shield from lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Republicans approved the measure in a 31-29 party-line vote on Monday. They say businesses struggled during the pandemic and shouldn't have to worry about the potential for frivolous lawsuits.

Democrats say the measure would reward bad actors who flouted health guidance and endangered their workers or the public.

The measure goes back to the Senate, which has already approved it but must sign off on changes made in the House.

Learn more here.

Arizona Senate proposal would ban nearly all abortions


PHOENIX — A proposal in the Arizona Senate would effectively ban most abortions by making it a felony for a physician to perform the procedure if a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The amendment proposed by Republican Sen. Sine Kerr of Buckeye to an unrelated bill is set for a hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

A fetal heartbeat can often be detected as early as six weeks, before many women even know they are pregnant.

Abortion rights groups called Kerr's proposal an unconstitutional infringement to a women’s right to choose.

Learn more here.

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