/ Modified aug 17, 2020 4:09 p.m.

News roundup: No new coronavirus deaths reported in state, Pima County cases stabilize

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Aug. 17.

Cases 194,005 | Deaths 4,506 | Diagnostic tests 1,096,897.

On Monday, Aug. 17, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 468 new cases of COVID-19, but no new deaths. According to the Associated Press, reported COVID-19 cases in the state have been decreasing significantly in recent weeks.

Arizona reports zero virus deaths for 1st time in 3 weeks


PHOENIX — Arizona officials reported an additional 468 cases of the coronavirus and zero deaths on Monday. That marked the first time in three weeks that the state hasn’t reported a death from the virus. The last day when Arizona had no coronavirus deaths to report was July 27. Totals released on Mondays typically have a lower number of deaths, when compared to other days, because of a lag in weekend reporting.

According to Johns Hopkins University data analyzed by The Associated Press, seven-day rolling averages of daily new cases in Arizona and of daily deaths in the state have sharply declined over the past two weeks.

Learn more here.

Pima County coronavirus cases show signs of stabilizing


Arizona gained widespread notoriety in early July for being ranked as the place with the highest rate of COVID-19 infections by population in the world. On July 13, its 7-day rolling average of new cases was 49.8 per 100,000 people. As of August 17, that figure had dropped to 12.9, moving far down the list behind many other states, according to the data compiled by Harvard Global Health Institute and others.

Pima County's total rate of per capita infections and deaths from the start of the pandemic is still lower than many other counties in the state. But in recent weeks, Pima County's 7-day rolling average infection rate has stayed around 22 cases per 100,000 people, higher than many other counties.

Pima County Health Director Theresa Cullen said that's partly because because Pima County continues to see high demand for testing, especially as the county continues its blitz of pop-up sites in underserved areas.

Learn more here.

More testing sites added in Pima County


A Tucson church is holding a one-day testing blitz this Saturday. St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church on East 3rd Street will be giving free tests on Saturday between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

Three new permanent testing sites have opened in Pima County, including one on the Pascua Yaqui Pueblo.

Currently, Pima County residents can find COVID-19 tests at nearly 60 sites. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 174,676 COVID-19 tests have been performed in Pima County.

See an interactive map of testing sites here.

'Hands tied behind our back': Protesters decry border wall construction at San Pedro River


A handful of local residents and environmental groups met at the San Pedro River Friday to voice their concerns about how ongoing construction of the Trump administration's border wall will impact the area.

Wall segments are going up across swaths of Arizona wilderness, but critics say the project at the San Pedro is particularly concerning.

Surrounded by looming cottonwoods and tall grasses, the river — Arizona's last free-flowing — is a biodiversity gold mine that's home to over 100 bird species and a vital water and food stop to many more. Randy Serraglio with the Center for Biological Diversity said the area needed protection.

Learn more here.

U.S.-Mexico Border Closure Extended Another Month

Fronteras Desk

Travel restrictions at the U.S.-Mexico border have been extended for another month as both countries struggle to control the spread of the coronavirus.

The United States and Mexico have agreed to keep land borders closed to nonessential travel until Sept. 21 — that will be six months since the border first closed in March to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

"Mexican and U.S. citizens should avoid crossing borders unless the reason is considered essential," said Edgar Ramirez, a Department of Homeland Security attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, said in an announcement about the extension.

U.S. Ambassador Christopher Landau also weighed in on the extension on Twitter, writing that the continued border restrictions are unfortunate but important during the ongoing pandemic, and urging U.S. citizens not to travel.

Sonora Reports Single-Digit Daily COVID-19 Deaths For The First Time In Months

Fronteras Desk

Sononran health officials reported the state’s lowest daily death toll from coronavirus in months Saturday.

On Saturday, there were only eight deaths, compared to the usual dozens that had been reported each day for months.

"It's been months since I can remember that we had a night en which I could provide low numbers of deaths like those that were reported today," State Health Secretary Enrique Clausen said. But Clausen urged residents not to let their guard down, saying preventative measures are as important as ever.

State data show the last time the state’s daily reported deaths were in the single digits was early June.

Sonoran Legislators Postpone Vote On Digital Violence Law Amid Protests

Fronteras Desk

Lawmakers in neighboring Sonora, Mexico, were set to vote on a bill last week that would criminalize non-consensual sharing of sexual images online. But they postponed the decision amid protests by feminist groups.

Dozens of feminist protesters successfully stalled the passage of the controversial bill that they say does not properly address issues of digital violence.

Protesting outside the Sonoran congress building in the capital Hermosillo, women chanted and held up signs calling for their voices to be heard. Some broke down a door, and a woman who got inside the building says she was hit several times by a security guard.

Learn more here.

Arizona schools attempt reopening amid outcry, resignations


QUEEN CREEK — The first day of school, a normally happy ritual, was fraught with conflict Monday at some schools opening in Arizona, echoing debates across the country over the risks of holding all in-person instruction amid the coronavirus pandemic. In some districts, worried teachers resigned or called in sick.

While Queen Creek Unified School District opened its doors, J.O. Combs Unified School District in neighboring Pinal County canceled its planned reopening Monday after an overwhelming number of staff said they planned to be absent. The school board in Queen Creek, about 40 miles southeast of Phoenix, voted last week to offer in-person instruction full time

Learn more here.

Navajo death row inmate seeks Supreme Court review of case


FLAGSTAFF — Attorneys for the only Native American man on federal death row are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a decision from a lower court regarding potential racial bias in his case.

Lezmond Mitchell is scheduled to be put to death Aug. 26 at a federal prison in Indiana where he's being held. He lost a bid in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to interview jurors. The court said Mitchell failed to show any discrimination occurred among the jury and pointed out several safeguards were in place. Mitchell appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court late last week.

Learn more here.

Mormons cool to Trump are finding new influence in Arizona


MESA — Many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are deeply uncomfortable with President Donald Trump's penchant for foul language, his tendency to pick on his enemies and his isolationist foreign policy. That could make a difference in Arizona, a potentially pivotal state in the 2020 election and home to a sizable population of church members. Looking to shore up support, the Trump campaign this past week sent Vice President Mike Pence to launch the Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition. Members of the faith as a group are overwhelmingly conservative and many remain loyal to Trump. But defections could matter in a close election.

Learn more here.

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