/ Modified may 10, 2021 3:52 p.m.

News roundup: UA kicks off graduations, OSIRIS-REx heads back to Earth

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, May 10.

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 869,472 | Deaths 17,409

On Monday, May 10, Arizona reported 642 new cases of COVID-19 and no additional deaths.

UA kicks off in-person grad ceremonies


The University of Arizona begins nine days of graduation ceremonies starting Monday.

Instead of one massive ceremony, the UA will hold 18 scaled-back, in-person graduation events through May 18. Most of the Tucson ceremonies will happen at Arizona Stadium and the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center on the campus.

Last year's Commencement was held in an all-virtual format due the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials say in-person ceremonies were allowed to resume this year due to low COVID-19 infection numbers on campus and the widespread availability of vaccines.

The university will also live-stream the ceremonies online.

OSIRIS-REx heads back to Earth


OSIRIS-REx is on its way home. The University of Arizona-backed spacecraft successfully fired its main engine to put it on a path back to Earth this afternoon.

The engine firing changed OSIRIS-REx’s velocity relative to the asteroid Bennu, which has been its home away from home since December 2018. OSIRIS-REx grabbed rocks and soil from the surface of the asteroid last October and stored them inside a custom-designed return capsule.

University of Arizona principal investigator Dante Lauretta said mission engineers plotted a precise course for the spacecraft’s return journey.

“The flight dynamics team did their calculations and said that today, May 10th, was the best time to leave the asteroid to conserve fuel on the spacecraft,” Lauretta said.

It will take OSIRIS-REx two years to reach Earth. Then, if everything goes as planned, its sample return capsule will be jettisoned, re-enter the atmosphere, and parachute to the ground in Utah in September 2023.

Arizona finds 642 new COVID-19 cases but no new deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting more than 640 new confirmed COVID-19 cases but no deaths. State health officials released the latest daily virus figures Monday, which include a tally of 642 more cases.

This brings Arizona’s pandemic overall total to 869,472 cases and 17,409 deaths.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 slid slightly to 565. The number of people in ICUS remained more or less the same at 191.

Overall, daily cases, daily deaths and the daily hospitalization figure all remained well below the pandemic highs seen last winter. The dashboard also showed that more than 5.3 million vaccine doses have been administered in Arizona.

Learn more here.

Inside Arizona's election audit, GOP fraud fantasies live on


PHOENIX — The aging Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix once played host to NBA games, roller derby and wrestling matches. Now the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election is being tested there.

Former President Donald Trump and a legion of his supporters hope evidence will emerge during an audit of Maricopa County ballots to prove their claims of fraud.

But the effort and questions about who's providing funding for it have alarmed voting rights advocates, election administrators and civil rights lawyers at the Justice Department.

A former Republican Arizona attorney general who became a Democrat during Trump’s presidency says, “They lost, and they can’t get over it."

Learn more here.

Arizona could become an electric vehicle manufacturing hub


PHOENIX — Can Lucid, Nikola and ElectraMeccanica turn Arizona into a major electric vehicle manufacturing hub? The president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council says it's possible.

Chris Camacho says Arizona has the potential to become a massive global leader in emerging auto manufacturing.

It’s happened before. Nearly 40 years ago, the first Nissans rolled off an assembly line in Tennessee, helping turn the largely rural state into an automotive powerhouse. It now has three major auto brands and more than 900 parts suppliers.

The Republic reports Arizona has commitments from three auto manufacturers and has made significant headway over the past three years.

Learn more here.

Capitol rioters make questionable claims about police


PHOENIX — At least a dozen of the 400 people charged in the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol have made questionable claims about their encounters with officers while inside the building.

Some rioters say officers welcomed them into the Capitol, even though they walked past discarded police barriers into a building where windows were broken and chemical irritants were in the air. Some have claimed officers told them the building was now theirs.

Experts say nonviolent rioters who exited the building immediately stand a better chance at such defenses than those who were violent.

Learn more here.

States push jobless from virus recession to return to work


STOWE, Vt. — States are pushing the unemployed to return to work to help businesses large and small find the workers they need to emerge from the COVID-19 recession.

Some argue the generous unemployment benefits offered when the economy crashed are making it too easy for people to not return to work. Now some states are reinstating a requirement that anyone who collects unemployment must look for work.

At least three states, Arkansas, Montana and South Carolina, are ending the $300 supplemental benefit that is on top of state benefits.

Labor experts say the shortage is not just about the payment, with some people reluctant to look for work because they fear catching the virus. Others have found new jobs.

Learn more here.

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