/ Modified sep 25, 2020 10:25 p.m.

News roundup: Pima County Sheriff's candidates debate, understanding protections for Arizona’s waterways

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, September 25

Cases 216,367 | Deaths 5,587

On Friday, Sept. 25, Arizona reported 518 new cases of COVID-19 and 28 additional deaths. At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Doug Ducey said that the state will remain open, even with some counties experiencing increases in case numbers.

Pima County Sheriff candidates face off in AZPM debate

Arizona 360 and The Buzz

Republican Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier is running for reelection this fall. His opponent is former Pima County Sheriff, Democrat Chris Nanos. This week, The Buzz and Arizona 360 present a special 30-minute debate between the two candidates. Tune in to hear them discuss immigration, staffing, internal and public scrutiny and campaign politics.

Watch or listen to the full debate.

After Clean Water Act change, uncertainty reigns over water protections


In June, the Trump administration's new version of which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act took effect. The new rule is an about-face from the Obama-era regulations, and Arizona state regulators are trying to make sense of it.

The Trump administration significantly narrowed the definition of what qualifies for protection under the Clean Water Act. The new rule stipulates that "relatively permanent waters" that are perennial or intermittent but connect to a traditionally navigable water, like a river, are protected. But defining which waterways are permanent enough is proving tricky, especially since the federal government hasn't provided the data for that yet.

Arizona's Department of Environmental Quality is trying to make the process a bit clearer for those who hold Clean Water Act permits in the state. Part of that work involves creating a map of the so-called "flow regime" of all the waterways in Arizona, using data from multiple sources.

Still, about 80% of stream segments on the ADEQ map don't have defined flow regime yet. ADEQ said they will continue to work on the map and expect some additional federal guidance from the Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers, though those departments have not said when they will release such tools.

Learn more here.

COVID-19 testing down at the University of Arizona


The University of Arizona tested 3,910 students and staff members this week for COVID-19. That is below the goal of 6,000 tests per week the university President Robert Robbins wants.

Tests only broke the 1,000-test threshold one day according to data published by the university on Thursday night.

“We suspect the numbers are down due to the county’s shelter in place recommendation. We have the capacity, but not the business,” wrote Holly Jensen, University of Arizona Vice President for Communications, in an email.

Testing at the university peaked on Sept. 10 at 1,991. The number of cases and the percent positive both dropped at the university this week.

See a graph of COVID-19 cases at the UA here.

Swedish medical wire manufacturer announces Tucson expansion


Sandvik Materials Technology develops precision medical wiring under the brand name Exera, which is used in everything from pacemakers to brain stimulation therapies. The company has leased 8,8000 square feet at 2424 East Aragon Road near the Tucson International Airport, according to Sun Corridor.

Sandvik Head of Business Unit Medical Gary Davies said the company chose Tucson because of its proximity to customers on the West Coast. It also wanted to diversify its manufacturing beyond its Palm Coast, Florida, location, which is prone to hurricanes.

Tucson's tech-savvy workforce was also a factor in choosing the city over several other candidates in the Southwest, Davies said. The expansion will add 20 local jobs in operations and manufacturing. The new facility is expected to open early next year.

In a press release, Governor Doug Ducey said the move is an example of Arizona's pro-business policies.

Head Of One Of Mexico’s Anti-Corruption Office Resigns, Alleging Corruption

Fronteras Desk

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s current administration created an institute to sell and auction seized goods tied to tax fraud, organized crime and corruption. But the head of this office resigned after detecting internal corruption and clashing with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

In his resignation letter, Cárdenas, who lasted about 100 days in the position, says personnel from the institute have stolen jewelry and manipulated auctions. He also says that millions of dollars that came from last week’s so-called “presidential plane raffle” have not been reconciled.

In an interview to Reforma newspaper, Cárdenas says the president’s office expected from him blind obedience but dismissed the data he collected and his methodology.

Mexico’s president said Cárdenas’s resignation was due to political differences and accused him of being afraid of fighting corruption.

Fishermen Plan Return To Vaquita’s Habitat Despite New Government Restrictions

Fronteras Desk

Shrimp season starts in the uppermost part of Mexico’s Sea of Cortez this weekend. And with it hundreds of fishermen plan to return to the water. But that could cause conflict with Mexican authorities over new fishing restrictions in the area.

For years, fishermen who live and work near a protected area for the nearly extinct vaquita marina have struggled against fishing bans implemented to protect the little porpoise. Now, under pressure from the United States and the international community, Mexico has implemented new regulations that prohibit even the possession of nets considered dangerous to the vaquita, among other restrictions. And many fishermen in the region say they can’t and won’t abide by those rules.

"We're just looking for a way to keep working," said Lorenzo Garcia, head of a local fishermen’s federation in the town of San Felipe. "We need some kind of solution."

Learn more here.

Arizona sees 518 new virus cases, hospital counts still low


PHOENIX — New coronavirus cases in Arizona are remaining fairly stable as the state continues to see no big rise in cases after the Labor Day holiday. The state Health Services Department reported 518 new virus cases Friday, bringing the total since the pandemic began hitting the state in March to 216,367. The state also reported 28 new deaths, which brings the total to 5,587.

The average number of new cases has risen over the past two weeks, but are fairly steady this week. Hospital use is way down from the mid-July peak that saw more than 3,500 people being treated.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 42 new coronavirus cases and no deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 42 new confirmed cases of coronavirus but no additional deaths. The Navajo Department of Health says the number of known COVID-19-related deaths remains at 551 since the pandemic began.

The total number of confirmed cases now stands at 10,212. Tribal health officials say 103,959 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 7,242 have recovered on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Learn more here.

Ex-Backpage execs want judge in their criminal case recused


PHOENIX — Former executives of Backpage.com are seeking the recusal of the federal judge presiding over a case in which they’re accused of knowingly publishing ads for sexual services.

Attorneys for Backpage founders Michael Lacey and James Larkin argue that statements made by the judge’s husband, Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, about the now-shuttered site create a situation in which the court’s impartiality could be questioned. They’re seeking the recusal of Judge Susan Brnovich.

The state attorney general’s office declined to comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, also declined to comment. Lacey, Larkin and four others pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Learn more here.

Climatologist: Dry areas in US Southwest getting drier


BERNALILLO, N.M. — New Mexico’s state climatologist says the fingerprints of climate change are evident in the persistent drought that's plaguing the American Southwest.

Dave DuBois says dry areas are becoming drier due to a semi-permanent high-pressure system over the West that has become stronger in recent years. He also warned during an online briefing Thursday that the region should be prepared for more warm temperatures and less precipitation this fall and winter.

In Nevada, forecasters continue to track a record-setting dry streak for Las Vegas as their colleagues in Arizona hold out hope for a break from record heat next week.

Learn more here.

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