/ Modified jan 27, 2021 3:56 p.m.

News roundup: Health officials say keep up safety measures, UA scientists test Mars drone

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Jan. 27.

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 738,561 | Deaths 12,643

On Wednesday, Jan. 27, Arizona reported 5,918 new cases of COVID-19 and 195 additional deaths. Health officials caution that the decrease in daily case counts does not mean an end to safety precautions.

UA scientists testing drones for Mars...in Iceland


University of Arizona space scientists are using a $3.1 million grant from NASA to test interplanetary drone aircraft in Iceland.

The team is working on a concept design for RAVEN, or Rover Aerial Vehicle Exploration Networks, to fly above volcanic terrain on Mars. UA planetary science professor Christopher Hamilton says the Icelandic highlands work well for these tests because they are barren and sandy, like the surface of Mars.

A small drone is expected to test the basic technology on Mars next month. The Ingenuity Mars Helicopter is currently housed aboard NASA's Perseverance rover scheduled to land on the Martian surface Feb. 18.

Health officials say remain vigilant, despite COVID improvements


Hospital administrators across Arizona are warning the public not to become complacent because of a noticeable decline in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. The chief clinical officer for Banner Health says enforcement of masks and social distancing are what will be effective.

Despite statistics trending down, health care officials say Arizona is still recording figures higher than during the virus surge last July. The state Department of Health Services reported Wednesday more than 5,900 additional known cases and 195 deaths. Arizona now has had more than 730,000 cases and more than 12,600 deaths.

Arizona report 5,918 additional COVID-19 cases, 195 deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona on Wednesday reported nearly 200 additional COVID-19 deaths and over 5,900 additional confirmed infections as the state remained a national hot spot even while its rate of new cases continues to drop.

The Department of Health Services reported 5,918 additional known cases and 195 deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 738,561 cases and 12,643 deaths.

The outbreak has seen Arizona become a hot spot during both the surge last summer and the current one, but the number of new reported cases has dropped recently. However, Arizona had the worst COVID-19 diagnosis rating among U.S. states over the past week.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 87 new COVID-19 cases, 8 more deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials on Tuesday reported 87 new COVID-19 cases and eight more deaths. The latest figures bring the total reported coronavirus cases on the reservation to 27,665 with 985 known deaths.

On Monday, the tribe extended its stay-at-home order with a revised nightly curfew to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Navajo Department of Health has identified 53 communities with uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus, down from 75 communities in recent weeks.

The Navajo Nation also is lifting weekend lockdowns to allow more vaccination events. The actions in the latest public health emergency order will run through at least Feb. 15.

The Navajo Nation extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Learn more here.

Mexican President Doing Well After COVID-19 Diagnosis, Had Not Been Vaccinated

Fronteras Desk

Interior Secretary Olga Sánchez Cordero said that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has continued working and that he is recovering well, several days after he confirmed he had tested positive for the coronavirus.

But she also noted that, even though he is the head of state, federal laws regarding the protection of personal information still apply to him, and that his health status is sensitive information.

“No, the president has not been vaccinated,” Sánchez said, in response to a question about whether he had passed up an earlier opportunity.

AMLO, as the president is widely known, will get his doses according to the rules and timeline laid out by the secretary of Health, according to Sánchez.

Arizona's 2020 wildfire season among worst in past decade


PHOENIX — Authorities say Arizona had one of its worst wildfire seasons in nearly a decade last year.

Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management officials said that statistics show 2,520 wildfires burned 978,519 acres of state, federal and tribal lands in 2020. Of those fires, wildland fire investigators said 82% were human caused.

In comparison, 1,869 wildfires burned 384,942 acres on all land jurisdictions in 2019. Arizona’s most severe and destructive wildfire seasons came in 2011 with 1,988 fires charring more than 1 million acres.

Among the factors for last year’s severe wildfire season was unseasonably warm conditions, a lack of moisture, an overabundance of fuels across Arizona’s central region and within the Sonoran Desert, and increased recreational traffic across the state.

Learn more here.

2 escaped inmates from an Arizona prison have medical issues


PHOENIX — Authorities say two inmates who escaped from an Arizona prison in Florence last weekend both have medical issues and may try to visit drug stores or pharmacies.

Arizona Department of Public Safety officials on Tuesday released a surveillance photo they said shows fugitives John Charpiot and David Harmon attempting to rob a business in Florence south of Phoenix. Both men were wearing white long-sleeved shirts and not their prison-issued uniforms. DPS officials say the robbery attempt occurred Saturday after Charpiot and Harmon escaped from the medium custody south unit by breaching a fence using tools retrieved from a facility room.

Authorities have offered rewards of $35,000 per inmate for information leading to their arrests.

Learn more here.

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