/ Modified jan 19, 2021 4:01 p.m.

News roundup: UA opens vaccination site, federal money pads state unemployment fund

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Jan. 19.

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 685,699 | Deaths Deaths 11,266

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, Arizona reported 6,417 new cases of COVID-19 and one additional death.


Vaccination site for educators opens at UA

AZPM

The University of Arizona opened its doors as a COVID-19 vaccination site Tuesday morning for teachers and education staff. UA president Robert Robbins said the first few days will be a ramp up.

“Each day, from today through Thursday, 132 individuals working in K-12 education will be vaccinated,” Robbins said.

Robbins said beginning Friday the number will jump to hundreds of people a day. Pima County is in prioritized phase 1B right now and though people are clamoring for the vaccine, Robbins said people will have to be patient. He said he hopes this phase will be completed by April.

Registration for vaccines is handled by Pima County, not the university.


State keeping unemployment trust fund solvent

AZPM

Arizona will use federal CARES Act dollars to keep the state’s unemployment trust fund from running dry.

More than 200,000 people in Arizona received some sort of unemployment benefit during the first full week of January, according to the state Department of Economic Security.

Those benefits are a combination of state and federal dollars. The state trust fund used to pay regular unemployment had a balance of $58,521,888 on Jan 9, the last weekly report released by the state.

State officials say, if the fund is left alone it will run out sometime in the spring. To prevent that, Arizona is using $150 million of federal CARES Act money to keep the fund solvent.

Learn more here.


UA astronomers observe far-away quasar for clues to universe's early years

AZPM

University of Arizona astronomy researchers are looking at the most distant quasar ever discovered.

Quasars are interstellar objects powered by supermassive black holes, and this one could help scientists understand more about how galaxies were formed just after the Big Bang.

UA astronomer Feige Wang notes the group’s observations are limited by the use of earth-bound telescopes. He says the next generation of orbiting space optics will give them a clearer look.

“The most remarkable thing is this quasar hosts a 1.6 million solar mass black hole 600 million years after the big bang. It is an early epoch and it’s a very distant quasar,” he said.

When astronomers look at distant objects in the universe, they are also looking back in time. The quasar that Wang’s group is viewing is more than 13 billion light years from Earth, so it dates back to 670 million years after the Big Bang, when the universe was only 5% of its current age.


Arizona reports 6,417 new COVID-19 cases, 1 new death

AP

PHOENIX — As Arizona prepares to expand its vaccination reach, health officials are reporting more than 6,400 new COVID-19 cases and one new death.

The state on Tuesday will open up appointments at two mass vaccination sites in suburban Phoenix to people age 65 and older. The earliest they will be able to register for is February.

The state Department of Health Services last week transformed the parking lot outside State Farm Stadium into a round the clock vaccination site. Phoenix Municipal Stadium will open for vaccinations on Feb. 1.

Health officials say there are 6,417 new COVID-19 cases. Since the pandemic began, Arizona has had 673,882 cases and 11,266 known deaths.

Learn more here.


Navajo nation reports 65 new COVID-19 cases, 3 more deaths

AP

WINDOW ROCK — Officials on the Navajo Nation reported 65 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths. The latest figures released late Monday bring the total reported coronavirus cases on the reservation to 26,448, including 922 deaths.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement that while people are getting vaccinated, it’s crucial to keep in mind that another variant of the virus has been found in nearby regions. Nez says residents still need to remain vigilant and practice health safety measures like staying home.

Residents of the vast reservation are still under a stay-at-home order Friday through Monday morning. On Tuesday, the Navajo Department of Health identified 75 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 from Jan. 1-14.

Learn more here.


Sonora Adds 2 More Cities To 'Code Red' Designation For COVID-19 Spread

Fronteras Desk

There are now five Sonoran cities facing stricter pandemic restrictions as part of the state’s Codigo Rojo (Code Red) strategy, which is determined by factors including test positivity rate, mortality and hospital occupancy.

The capital Hermosillo, and border cities San Luis Rio Colorado and Nogales were designated as red last week. Now, the coastal towns of Guaymas and Empalme have been added.

On Saturday, State Health Secretary Enrique Clausen also announced that Sonora had hit a record high for the number of new coronavirus case and deaths reported on a single day since the start of the pandemic.

There have been more than 56,000 reported coronavirus cases and 4,500 deaths in the state, according to official data. However, because of limited testing the real numbers are likely significantly higher.


Predicted Arizona dry year could impact trees, cause fires

AP

FLAGSTAFF — Experts have predicted another dry year for Arizona following 2020, when the driest year on record stressed forests across the state’s northern region.

Arizona Daily Sun reported the conditions could have significant impacts on the health of trees and increase wildfire danger.

The U.S. Drought Monitor reported Flagstaff experienced only 9.56 inches of precipitation in 2020. The dry conditions stress trees including Northern Arizona's Ponderosa pine.

Flagstaff Forest Health Supervisor Neil Chapman says drought in 2020 also means earlier fire restrictions and other public land impacts this summer, while ongoing dry winter conditions raise the fire risk throughout this year.

Learn more here.


Military nurses, tests coming to help hard-hit Arizona city

AP

PHOENIX — Exhausted nurses in rural Yuma, Arizona, are regularly sending COVID-19 patients on a long helicopter ride to hospitals in Phoenix when they don’t have enough staff.

The so-called winter lettuce capital of the U.S. also has lagged on coronavirus testing in heavily Hispanic neighborhoods and just ran out of vaccines.

But some support is coming from military nurses and a new wave of free tests for farmworkers and the elderly in Yuma County, which is the hardest-hit county in one of the hardest-hit states. The area's only acute care hospital has no other facility to turn to nearby as it competes for medical workers nationwide.

Learn more here.


Coronavirus deaths rising in 30 US states amid winter surge

AP

NEW YORK — Coronavirus deaths are rising in nearly two-thirds of American states as a winter surge pushes the overall toll toward 400,000 amid warnings that a new, highly contagious variant is taking hold.

As Americans observed a national holiday Monday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pleaded with federal authorities to block travelers from countries where new variants are spreading. He cited new versions detected in Britain, South Africa and Brazil.

A vast effort is underway to get Americans vaccinated, but the campaign is off to an uneven start. According to the latest federal data, about 31 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, but fewer than 11 million people have received at least one dose.

Learn more here.

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