/ Modified apr 27, 2020 4:18 p.m.

Arizona coronavirus news in brief, April 27

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona: "Testing blitz," education initiatives, and more.

Arizona COVID-19 cumulative counts, Dec. 14

Cases: 420,248 | Deaths: 7,358
The state reported 11,806 more cases and 1 deaths on this day. Choose a Layerlayer and click on county for more.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: ADHS, county health departments, Census 2018 Quick Facts. *Test numbers and rates utilize total test numbers (diagnostic and serology). Cumulative totals are based daily numbers posted by the state. Daily changes don't necessarily reflect the previous 24 hours.

Select regional and national coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic as of Monday, April 27. For more coverage, visit our resource page. This story may be updated.

Arizona to conduct COVID-19 'testing blitz'

AZPM, April 27

The Arizona Department of Health Services will hold a COVID-19 “testing blitz” on three Saturdays in May beginning this weekend.

The goal is to test 10,000-20,000 people each of the three days of the blitz. Currently, about 67,000 Arizona residents have been tested for the novel coronavirus.

“We know that rapidly identifying cases, conducting case follow-up, and performing contact tracing will help slow the transmission of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Dr. Cara Christ, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Read more here.

One Tucson couple takes happy hour virtual

AZPM, April 27

It's a classic cocktail — sugar, bitters and whiskey with a twist of citrus. But to learn how to make this old fashioned, you'll need one more ingredient: an internet connection.

For the past month, Dale and Stephen Ott have been leading virtual happy hours. Both are former bartenders with years of experience in the service industry. The couple launched their food and events consulting business Ampersand & Ampersand in January, at just the right time for the coronavirus to put that industry on ice.

Hear about Dale and Stephen's creative solution here.

Education initiatives turn to mailing out petitions

AZPM, April 27

The stay-at-home orders for the coronavirus pandemic came during prime signature-gathering time for citizen initiatives, and that has put many efforts in danger of not making the ballot.

“Many keystone events in the state take place in March and April and February when we could have been getting a lot of this work done,” said Wes Oswald with the Invest In Ed initiative.

The Invest In Ed and the Save Our Schools initiatives have come up with a socially distanced way to gather signatures. They are mailing out petitions to anyone who requests them.

Read more here.

Rule makes small casinos eligible for Paycheck Protection Program

AZPM, April 27

Small casinos that had to close due to the pandemic are now eligible to receive financial help through the Paycheck Protection Program. Several members of Congress are calling this a win for tribal casinos.

The U.S. Small Business Administration clarified that legal gaming businesses can qualify for the program in an interim final rule Friday.

Read more here.

Renovated Phoenix hospital to open as COVID-19 deaths steady

AP, April 27

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Contractors overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are completing work on a closed Phoenix hospital planned to house coronavirus patients.

The move comes even as there are signs a spike of cases may not emerge in Arizona and Gov. Doug Ducey nears a decision on whether to ease his closure and stay at home orders. The $4.1 million rehabilitation of St. Luke’s Medical Center should be done by the end of the week.

Health Services officials on Monday reported no new virus deaths for the first time in a month, holding steady at 275. Confirmed cases statewide climbed to 6,716 after 190 new cases were added.

Read more here.

Health officials ready new guidelines as restrictions ease

AP, April 27

WASHINGTON (AP) — Businesses should close break rooms. Restaurants should consider disposable menus and plates. Schools should have students eat lunch in their classrooms. These are some of the recommendations offered in new federal plans designed to help restaurants, schools, churches and businesses safely reopen as states look to gradually lift their coronavirus restrictions.

The draft guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been sent to Washington but still could be revised before the Trump administration unveils it to the public. The CDC put together so-called “decision trees” for at least seven types of organizations: schools, camps, childcare centers, religious facilities, mass transit systems, workplaces, and bars/restaurants.

Read more here.

Small business loan program restarts, runs into snags

AP, April 27

NEW YORK (AP) — The second round of loan applications for the government’s program to aid small businesses hit by the coronavirus has been slowed by computer issues at the Small Business Administration.

Bankers are complaining that they can’t get their applications into the SBA system that processes and approves loans. The agency says it notified lenders Sunday it was limiting the number of applications any lender could submit at once, but the head of a banking trade group says the change was too last-minute.

The first round of loan applications was also slowed by computer issues at the SBA.

Read more here.

Tucson schools confront digital divide among students

Arizona Daily Star, April 27

Tucson schools have been working narrow the digital divide exposed by the seismic shift that sent thousands of students home, and online, to continue their schooling amid restrictions brought by COVID-19.

Tucson Unified School District reported that 10-15% of its households lacked home internet service, not to mention devices to access online resources. The district has had to postpone certain plans in order to pay for and distribute devices to families adjusting to the transition to online schooling.

Read more at Tucson.com.

COVID-19 could lead to reductions in Arizona school funding


PHOENIX (The Arizona Republic) — Education leaders around Arizona fear a looming recession created by the coronavirus could once again mean reductions in school funding.

From 2008 to 2015, Arizona slashed more money for schools compared to any other state, dropping funding per student by about 36.6%. The cuts brought criticism from some state education leaders. It eventually prompted the #RedForEd movement in 2018, when teachers protested at the state Capitol for a week and brought public education to a halt.

Since then, lawmakers have returned some of the money cut since 2008 to the state’s education budget, but funding is still not back to pre-recession levels, according to the Arizona Republic.

Arizona sites a refuge for jets grounded by travel shutdown

AP, April 26

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — Hundreds of airliners idled by the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the travel industry and other circumstances crowd a southern Arizona airfield where workers are trying to make room for even more aircraft that may not fly again soon.

The Arizona Daily Star reports that Pinal Airpark as of last week was providing storage space for approximately 270 aircraft, and manager Jim Petty said most of them were there because of the pandemic.

About 250 miles away in northwestern Arizona, Kingman Municipal Airport officials hope to also attract some of the plane-storage business as airlines ground more aircraft and move others to longer-term storage locations. The Kingman Miner reports that the city-owned airport is preparing new lanes for aircraft storage.

Pace of Arizona deaths in outbreak slows after recent surge

AP, April 25

PHOENIX (AP) — The pace of additional deaths in Arizona’s coronavirus outbreak has slowed following a recent surge.

The Department of Health Services’ tally of deaths statewide rose by seven to 273 as of Saturday, following ,an increase of 17 deaths reported Friday and a total of 62 deaths reported over the previous three days The department said there were 6,820 cases reported statewide as of Saturday, an increase of 235 from Friday.

Health officials said Thursday that the recent surge in reported fatalities likely resulted from a boost in cases weeks ago and was expected to slow because it often takes weeks for patients to die once hospitalized and because hospitalizations appeared to have leveled off.

Arizona 360: Tucson mayor, pandemic impacting farms, restarting the economy

Last Friday's episode of Arizona 360 explored how COVID-19 is impacting Southern Arizona. Lorraine Rivera spoke with Tucson Mayor Regina Romero about what it would take to end the stay-at-home order and what's being done to soften the economic blow.

Tony Paniagua explored the effect the coronavirus is having on agriculture, by visiting a cotton and durum wheat farm in Marana and speaking with an expert on disruptions to supply chains.

Also on the show, a scientist sees little evidence warmer weather will slow the spread of the virus, and a county health official discusses the models that project different timelines for projected infection and hospitalization rates.

Explore the topics on Arizona 360.

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