/ Modified may 6, 2021 3:58 p.m.

News roundup: Tohono O'odham district leaders discuss pandemic, Boneyard looks back on 75 years of history

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, May 6.

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.

866,623 | Deaths 17,367

*On Thursday, May 6, Arizona reported 601 new cases of COVID-19 and seven additional deaths.

Tohono O'odham district leaders discuss impacts of COVID-19


A Tohono O'odham advocacy group, Indivisible Tohono, had the first in a series of discussions Tuesday with tribal district leaders about the pandemic via Facebook Live.

The Tohono O'odham Nation is broken up into districts, like counties, and in this discussion leaders talked about what changes they'd like to see made before future COVID-19 outbreaks.

The capital of the nation is in Sells, and its district Chairman is Juan Buendia. He said he wished there had been more transparency and better communication between the Tohono O'odham Nation's executive branch and the district leaders.

Learn more here.

The Boneyard spends 75 years adding to history books


In 1946, the U.S. government began storing planes in the Tucson desert. Seventy-five years later that area, known to locals and aerospace enthusiasts as the Boneyard, is home to nearly 3,100 planes.

The area is officially known as the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG). The thousands of acres of planes on Tucson’s east side are part of the area’s lore and have continually been part of history.

In 1948, C-47 cargo planes that were stored in the desert flew out of Tucson and participated in the Berlin Airlift.

Learn more here.

Pima County Sheriff's Department to get up to 450 body cams


The Pima County Board of Supervisors has approved financing for up to 450 body cameras for the sheriff’s department.

Tucson TV station KOLD reports that the department was the only agency in the county without body cameras. The body cameras will cost more than $1 million and the sheriff’s department is asking for another $450,000 to buy new stun guns.

Police agencies nationwide are under scrutiny following a series of shootings that have been recorded, some with body cameras.

The county board must still approve the budget for the cameras. But KOLD says the conversations have already been held and details on policy are being worked out.

Learn more here.

Arizona bill banning 'biased' topics in schools advances


PHOENIX — The Arizona House of Representatives has advanced a bill with a last-minute amendment that would ban racist, sexist, politicized or other controversial topics in schools and penalize teachers with fines.

Republican state Rep. Michelle Udall, who introduced the amendment Wednesday, said the newly amended bill is intended to ensure students are not taught that their race, ethnicity or sex determines their character.

Charter schools and state agencies would be prohibited under the Unbiased Teaching Act from discussing controversial issues in schools unless teachers give equal weight to divisive topics. Violations would result in $5,000 fines.

The bill will next head to the Senate.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 601 more COVID-19 cases; hospitalizations up


PHOENIX — Arizona on Thursday reported 601 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and seven more deaths as virus-related hospitalizations inched upward.

The state’s pandemic totals increased to 866,623 cases and 17,367 deaths.

According to the state’s coronavirus dashboard, there were 672 COVID-19 patients occupying inpatient beds as of Wednesday. That's the highest hospitalization number since March but still far below the pandemic peak of 5,082 on Jan. 11. COVID-19 hospitalizations during most of April ranged between 500 and 600.

Arizona's rolling average of daily new cases rose over the past two weeks while the rolling average of daily deaths dropped. That's according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports no COVID deaths for 3rd time in 4 days


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported seven new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no deaths for the third time in the last four days.

Tribal health officials said the total number of cases since the pandemic began more than a year ago now is 30,550 on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The known death toll remained at 1,282.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said more than half of the reservation’s adult population has been vaccinated, but people still need to stay home as much as possible, wear masks and avoid large gatherings.

Learn more here.

US Justice Department worried about Arizona Senate recount


PHOENIX — The U.S. Department of Justice says it is concerned about ballot security and potential voter intimidation arising from the Republican-controlled Arizona Senate’s unprecedented private recount of the 2020 presidential election results in Maricopa County.

The head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a letter to GOP Senate President Karen Fann that the Senate’s farming out of 2.1 million ballots to a contractor may run afoul of federal law requiring ballots to remain in the control of elections officials.

And the letter said the Senate's plans to directly contact voters may violate federal laws banning voter intimidation. Fann did not immediately comment.

Learn more here.

SRP raising commitment for use of power from solar energy


PHOENIX — The Salt River Project says it is more than doubling its commitment for the amount of electricity that it gets generated by large power plants relying on solar energy.

The SRP, one of the state’s largest utilities, said its current goal to add 1,000 megawatts of new solar energy to its system by the end of the 2025 fiscal year will increase to 2,025 megawatts.

According to SRP, much of the bigger commitment is a result of customer demand for more renewable energy and that all of the solar power will come from Arizona or the Navajo Nation.

SRP currently has 648 megawatts of utility-scale solar plants online or contracted and under development across the state.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation Sends Cloth Masks To India In Midst Of Coronavirus Surge

Fronteras Desk

India leads the world in new coronavirus cases, with hundreds of thousands of infections per day and a staggering death toll.

But it recently got a little bit of help when the Navajo Nation sent 1,200 cloth masks to India. It plans to send more.

Last year, the Navajo Nation was devastated by the coronavirus, but it has rebounded.

The tribe reports that it has vaccinated about 70% of its people and may soon reach herd immunity.

Less than 2% of India’s citizens have been vaccinated, though it is one of the world’s leading producers of the vaccine.

Some in GOP worry new limits will hurt their voters, too


As Republicans march ahead with their campaign to tighten voting laws in political battlegrounds, some in their party are worried the restrictions will backfire by making it harder for GOP voters to cast ballots.

The restrictions backed by Republicans in Georgia, Florida, Iowa, Texas and Arizona often take aim at mail voting, a method embraced by voters from both parties but particularly popular with older voters.

Concerned Republicans note that the new rules may be billed as adding security or trust in elections, but ultimately could add hurdles for key parts of the GOP coalition.

Learn more here.

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