/ Modified mar 31, 2021 10:07 p.m.

News roundup: UA researchers explore origin of Earth's water, Ducey establishes holiday to honor code talkers

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, March 31.

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 841,811 | Deaths 16,967

On Wednesday, March 31, Arizona reported 733 new cases of COVID-19 and 26 additional deaths.

UA researchers explore origin of Earth’s water


Two University of Arizona researchers are looking to outer space for answers about how water arrived on Earth.

Jessica Barnes and Pierre Haenecour will deliver the opening presentation at this year’s U of A College of Science public lecture series. Barnes notes they are using discoveries about asteroids to piece together clues about how the Earth formed.

“They’re really key because they represent the building blocks of the planet,” Barnes said.

Scientists theorize the water in the oceans came from objects in the early solar system that collided with Earth. They think the objects were similar to present-day asteroids and comets where water has been detected in recent years.

The 16th annual College of Science lecture series begins Thursday and continues through the month of April. All the presentations will be delivered online and the connection is free. Find more information on our website.

Governor establishes Navajo Code Talker holiday


Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill Monday declaring August 14 an annual state holiday in honor of Navajo Code Talkers — National Navajo Code Talkers Day.

A group of Navajo or Diné members of the U.S. Marines during World War II used the Navajo language to defy the Axis Powers and help win the war for the Allies. According to a press release from the governor's office, there were more than 400 men in the Code Talkers during the war.

The project was declassified in 1968, and now there are only four Code Talkers alive: John Kinsel Sr., Samuel D. Sandoval, Thomas H. Begay and Peter MacDonald.

Learn more here.

Arizona increase of COVID cases boosted by records cleanup


Arizona on Wednesday reported 733 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 26 more deaths but officials said about 200 of the additional cases were from records cleanups involving cases occurring over the entire pandemic.

The state’s pandemic totals increased to 841,811 cases and 16,967 deaths. That's according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Of the 733 additional cases, the Department of Health Services said 202 were cases newly reported for Apache and Navajo counties in northeastern Arizona after officials reviewed records provided by neighboring New Mexico.

Department spokesman Steve Elliott said the cases involved Arizona residents who were tested or treated at facilities in New Mexico.

Learn more here.

Virus variant identified in Britain found on Navajo Nation


WINDOW ROCK — A coronavirus variant first identified in Britain has been found on the Navajo Nation.

Tribal health officials said Tuesday that the United Kingdom strain was confirmed in a sample obtained in the western part of the reservation. The Navajo Department of Health is working with states and other public health entities to identify any more variant cases.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez says the finding reinforces the need for social distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and limiting travel.

The person who tested positive for the variant on the Navajo Nation had been fully vaccinated and is now recovering.

Learn more here.

Arizona Senate hires firms to re-count 2.1M Maricopa ballots


PHOENIX — Republicans who control the Arizona Senate have hired four firms to recount all 2.1 million ballots cast in the state’s most populous county to ensure that President Joe Biden’s November win was legitimate.

Senate President Karen Fann’s announcement on Wednesday comes more than a month after a judge ruled the Senate can access Maricopa County’s ballots and ballot tabulation equipment. Fann and Senate Republicans had been pushing to do their own audit of the election results for months.

There's no evidence of any major problems with the election in Arizona or other battleground states where former President Donald Trump lost.

Learn more here.

Havasupai Councilwoman Appointed To Biden Environmental Justice Board

Fronteras Desk

The Biden administration has appointed an Arizona woman to serve on its Environmental Justice Advisory Board.

Carletta Tilousi has been outspoken against uranium mining near the Grand Canyon area.

As a councilwoman for the Havasupai, she has carried on the work of her uncle, a former tribal chairman.

The tribe, which lives in a tributary of the Grand Canyon, has long considered uranium mining to be a threat to its water supply.

Tilousi has also been active in keeping Supai Village free of coronavirus during the pandemic.

The advisory board is expected to take up a variety of issues that affect communities of color, such as pollution, climate change and economic opportunity.

Over 4,000 migrants, many kids, crowded into Texas facility


DONNA, Texas — The Biden administration for the first time has allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility for migrant children.

A tour Tuesday revealed a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 migrants were crammed into a space intended for 250 and the youngest ones are kept in a large playpen with mats on the floor for sleeping.

With thousands of children and families arriving at the U.S. in recent weeks and packing facilities, President Joe Biden has been under pressure to bring more transparency to the process.

More than 4,100 people were being housed on the property Tuesday in Donna, Texas. Most were unaccompanied children.

Learn more here.

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