/ Modified apr 29, 2021 4:08 p.m.

News roundup: New Border Patrol facility ready, Tucson rep tests positive for COVID

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, April 28.

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 861,653 | Deaths 17,305

On Thursday, April 29, Arizona reported 881 new cases of COVID-19 and 23 additional deaths.

Border Patrol's soft-sided facility for migrants readies for operation in Tucson


A temporary, soft-sided facility that the Border Patrol will use to process asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border is ready for operation in Tucson.

The 80,000 square foot space is located just east of the Tucson International Airport and has capacity to hold up to 500 people, though the agency says COVID precautions will reduce that by about half.

The facility is the second of its kind in Arizona, a similar structure became operational in Yuma earlier this month.

In an address ahead of the tour on Thursday, Tucson Sector Interim Chief Patrol Agent John Modlin said the agency asked for the facilities amid a larger number of children arriving along the U.S.-Mexico border to apply for asylum.

Reid Park Zoo decision draws criticism


A new plan for expanding Tucson's Reid Park Zoo would preserve a popular open area and duck pond, but supporters of the park say it's still not the best choice.

Six weeks after the Tucson Mayor and Council suspended work on the zoo's planned Path to Asia exhibit, city manager Michael Ortega has recommended an alternative: expanding the zoo to the northwest, into what's currently a grassy field.

Architect Bob Vint, whose credits include parts of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum, says expanding the zoo to the north would preserve more of the park.

Council member Steve Kozachik, whose ward includes the park, wants to stick with the original plan at Barnum Hill, with modifications. He says the features that would be covered over by the zoo expansion can be recreated elsewhere in Reid Park.

The zoo expansion will come back before the mayor and council next Tuesday.

Vaccinated Arizona state lawmaker positive for COVID-19


PHOENIX — A fully vaccinated Arizona state lawmaker has confirmed she has tested positive for COVID-19.

Tucson Democratic Rep. Alma Hernandez announced late Wednesday that she has some symptoms and is quarantining at the home she maintains in Phoenix. Hernandez said she has lost her sense of taste and smell and has a bad headache, typical mild symptoms of the coronavirus.

Her brother, Democratic Rep. Daniel Hernandez, says he tested negative for the virus but will self-isolate for several days and then take another test.

Alma Hernandez is at least the eighth Arizona lawmaker who has confirmed they contracted the virus.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 881 new COVID-19 cases, 23 more deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported 881 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23 deaths. The numbers were released Thursday by the state Department of Health Services.

The number of patients hospitalized statewide due to the virus increased slightly to 643. According to the state dashboard, 189 of those patients are in the ICU.

Meanwhile, more than 27,000 vaccine doses were administered in Arizona on Wednesday.

In the past week, the daily turnout for vaccination has slid to between 23,000 and just over 38,000. State health officials say demand for vaccines has slowed.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 15 new COVID-19 cases, but no deaths


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 15 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths.

Tribal health officials say the total number of cases since the pandemic began more than a year ago now is 30,485 on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The number of known deaths remains at 1,273.

The tribe reported no coronavirus cases and no COVID-19 related deaths on Tuesday. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says the tribe is moving closer to herd immunity.

Learn more here.

Arizona vote recount contractor releases privacy policies


PHOENIX — A contractor overseeing the Arizona Senate’s unprecedented recount of 2.1 million ballots from the November election has complied with a court order and released its policies for ensuring voter privacy and ballot secrecy.

Thursday’s release of three documents by Florida-based Cyber Ninjas came a day after a Maricopa County judge refused to allow the company or the Republican-led Senate to keep the material secret. Judge Daniel Martin gave them a day to appeal, but they declined.

Cyber Ninjas said in a statement that it wants the public to see its practices are sound.

Learn more here.

Governor signs bill to finance Chase Field improvements


PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill allowing a new tax on Arizona Diamondbacks tickets and concessions to pay for stadium improvements.

The legislation signed Wednesday was requested by the Diamondbacks to advance the team’s years-long quest to finance changes to Chase Field in Downtown Phoenix.

The legislation allows for a 9% tax on all sales in the stadium and a hotel the team could build on the property. It also gives the Diamondbacks access to low-interest bonds.

Critics said during legislative debate that the team should pay for its own stadium investments.

Learn more here.

Arizona ruling sets standard on use of mental health records


PHOENIX — A new Arizona Supreme Court decision sets a standard for trial courts to use when deciding whether to open the door for a criminal defendant to possibly use a victim’s mental health records.

The court said Thursday that defendants can ask a trial court to review the records if there’s a “reasonable possibility” they would be useful as evidence or needed to cross-examine a witness.

The decision in the case of a man awaiting trial in a Maricopa County homicide case overturned a state Court of Appeals ruling that said a defendant must satisfy a more stringent standard called “substantial probability.”

Learn more here.

Prisoner disputes shelf life of Arizona’s execution drug


PHOENIX — An Arizona death row prisoner, who would be among the state’s first executions in almost seven years, has filed documents arguing the lethal injection drug to be used would expire sooner than prosecutors maintain and that makes it impossible to carry out his execution.

Frank Atwood’s attorneys argue the pentobarbital that would be used to execute their client has a 45-day shelf life. Prosecutors say the drug expires in 90 days.

Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office says it opposes erroneous legal arguments to delay justice.

Arizona has 115 people on death row.

Learn more here.

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