/ Modified nov 19, 2020 4:41 p.m.

News roundup: State sees highest COVID case count since July, officials warn against holiday risks

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Nov. 19.

Cases 287,225 | Deaths 6,384

On Thursday, Nov. 19, Arizona reported 4,123 new cases of COVID-19 and 19 additional deaths. Amid rising case numbers nationwide, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned against traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Arizona sees over 4,000 virus cases for 1st time since July


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported 4,123 additional known COVID-19 cases, the most in a single day since July. The Department of Health Services on Thursday also reported 19 additional deaths due to the coronavirus. Arizona's case total increased to over 287,000 and the death toll rose to nearly 6,400.

Arizona last topped 4,000 new cases in July during a summer surge that made the state a national hot spot. That rise came after Gov. Doug Ducey relaxed business closings and stay-home restrictions.

Arizona’s outbreak lessened in August and September but the outbreak surged again in October and into November. Officials cite school and business reopenings and public weariness with antivirus precautions.

Learn more here.

State officials discourage holiday gatherings for people in assisted living facilities


When COVID-19 took hold in Arizona in late March, some of the places it hit hardest were long-term care facilities. Older people living in close quarters with existing health conditions were vulnerable targets.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, families who have loved ones in assisted living centers may want to bring them home for the holiday. With COVID-19 cases in Arizona rising rapidly, Gov. Doug Ducey's task force on long term care isn't recommending residents of assisted living facilities go home for the holidays. The task force continues to emphasize the roles of designated essential visitors to attain in-person visits and boost mental health.

Learn more here.

See how Pima County voted on Arizona ballot initiatives


Pima County threw its support behind two statewide measures on the ballot in the 2020 general election, but the level of enthusiasm for the two measures differed significantly between the county and the state as a whole.

An October poll of 502 registered voters in Arizona suggested both Proposition 207 — legalizing recreational marijuana — and Proposition 208 — establishing a wealth tax to fund education — were on track for passage. While trends had shifted slightly compared with a previous poll, the survey showed stronger support from respondents for Prop. 208 than it did for Prop. 207.

When ballots were cast, however, Arizona overwhelmingly supported recreational marijuana and approved the Invest in Education Act by a much narrower margin.

Support for the two measures in Pima County didn't show as stark a divide.

See the voting trends maps here.

Ducey waits for courts to settle presidential election


Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday Arizona’s election is not over until all of the court cases are settled.

The state Republican Party and the Trump campaign are suing to keep Maricopa County from certifying its vote claiming there were voting irregularities in the state’s largest county.

Before the election, Ducey had plenty of praise for Arizona’s election system but on Wednesday he would not go so far as to say the election was without problems. Ducey said he has heard about voting problems in the state but has not personally seen any evidence showing those problems existed.

Learn more here.

McSally says goodbye to Senate


Sen. Martha McSally took the floor of the U.S. Senate Wednesday to give her final speech. In the brief remarks she thanked Governor Doug Ducey for appointing her to the office two years ago. She also thanked her staff, many of whom worked with her during the four years she represented southern Arizona in the U.S. House.

McSally said representing the people of Arizona as a member of the House and the Senate was her deepest honor.

At times McSally was emotional during the speech.

“As I make the trip back home from DC to Arizona for the last time and close out this nine-year chapter of my life, I do so with gratitude, with joy, and with no regrets. And with the pride of having represented the most optimistic, resilient, and gritty people on the face of the earth,” she said.

Court lays out next steps after DACA ruling


A case challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to curtail the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, was in court again Wednesday.

This hearing was to decide the next steps of a district court ruling that said changes made to DACA by Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf were unlawful.

In July, Wolf issued a memo barring new DACA applicants and shrinking the amount of time current recipients could retain status to one year instead of two. The memo also limited advanced parole, which allows DACA recipients to travel abroad.

Last week, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled those changes were unlawful because Wolf’s appointment was unlawful.

Learn more here.

White Mountain Apache Tribe Fears 2nd COVID-19 Wave

Fronteras Desk

The White Mountain Apache Tribe fears a second wave of COVID-19 cases. Nearly 2,800 people have tested positive. More than 20% of the small eastern Arizona tribe have contracted the virus. Most have recovered but 42 people have died.

Derrick Leslie, a spokesman for the tribe’s Emergency Operations Center, told a Facebook Live event case numbers and hospitalizations are ramping up again.

“It’s unnerving but that’s the reality that we face here on the reservation. A lot of it has to do with gatherings — religious gatherings, you know family parties, birthday celebrations, a couple clusters have been tracked to work gatherings,” Leslie said.

The tribe is dealing with water shortages, lack of internet access and multiple generations living under one roof.

Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood told people to stock up on water and firewood to prepare for another potential lockdown.

Navajo Nation reports 135 new COVID-19 cases, 8 more deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Wednesday reported 135 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths.

The latest figures bring the total number of known cases to 13,880 with 613 known deaths. Tribal health officials say 141,751 people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 8,011 have recovered.

On Monday, the Navajo Nation reinstated a stay-at-home lockdown for the entire reservation. Under the order, tribal offices will be closed and new closures and safety measures will be required for businesses on the vast reservation that spans more than 27,000 square miles in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.

Judge rejects GOP bid to delay vote certification in Phoenix


PHOENIX — A judge has rejected the Arizona Republican Party’s bid to postpone the certification of election results in Maricopa County and dismissed its legal challenge that sought a new audit of a sampling of ballots. Judge John Hanna issued the ruling Thursday with little explanation. Maricopa County is expected to certify results Friday.

It’s unclear whether the party plans to appeal the decision. While the GOP said its challenge aims to determine whether voting machines were hacked, no evidence of fraud or hacking has emerged during this election in Arizona.

The court ruling comes as the state GOP has pressured county officials statewide to delay certifying election results.

Learn more here.

Federal Regulators, Arizona power plant agree on resolution


PHOENIX — Federal regulators say they and the operator of an Arizona nuclear power plant have resolved apparent violations involving safe handling and storage of spent nuclear fuel, which is high-level radioactive waste.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Wednesday that an order resolving the apparent violations involving the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station requires Arizona Public Service Co. to take several steps that the agency and the company agreed upon. The three-reactor plant is located west of Phoenix.

The NRC said the operator had failed to adequately analyze the consequences of a hypothetical tip-over of a cask for storing spent nuclear fuel or to properly evaluate a change to the cask storage system.

Learn more here.

Phoenix changes Robert E. Lee, Squaw Peak street names


PHOENIX — The city of Phoenix has renamed two streets many consider offensive. One is because of its demeaning reference to Native American women and the other because of its glorification of the Confederacy.

Robert E. Lee Street will now become Desert Cactus Street and Squaw Peak Drive will change to Piestewa Peak Drive, in honor of fallen Native American soldier Lori Piestewa. Piestewa was a member of the Hopi tribe and was killed during an ambush in Iraq in 2003.

The Phoenix City Council on Wednesday approved both changes. They will go into effect in March 2021.

Opponents argued the renaming requires a host of changes for people using addresses on those streets.

Learn more here.

How Native American votes help secure Biden's win in Arizona


FLAGSTAFF — Turnout on tribal land in northern Arizona surged this year, helping Joe Biden carry a state that hadn't gone to a Democrat since 1996.

Clara Pratte, a Navajo woman who was the national tribal engagements director for the Biden campaign, says the credit is widespread among minority groups. But she says the win wouldn't have been possible without the tribal vote.

Arizona includes part of the country's largest Native American reservation, where voters overwhelmingly supported Biden and cast more ballots than they did in 2016. Voting rights advocates had long argued that if Native Americans and other minority groups were mobilized, they could be decisive in a tight race. This year proved that.

Learn more here.

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