/ Modified may 12, 2021 3:59 p.m.

News roundup: UA scientists study volcanic activity on Mars, AZ reports nearly 500 more COVID cases

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, May 12.

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 870,624 | Deaths Deaths 17,430

On Wednesday, May 12, Arizona reported 469 new cases of COVID-19 and two additional deaths.

Scientists rethinking volcanic theories on Mars


University of Arizona scientists are investigating a new mystery on the planet Mars. They’ve located an area on the red planet where volcanoes may have erupted in the relatively recent past.

Researchers at the UA Lunar and Planetary Laboratory and Tucson’s Planetary Science Institute found evidence of a volcanic deposit similar to those in still-active regions on Earth. Professor Jeff Andrews-Hanna calls it an unexpected discovery.

“Well this is really a big surprise. We knew that there was volcanic activity on Mars in the recent geologic history, the last 10-million years or so,” Andrews-Hanna said. “But this new observation with this new volcanic eruption as little as 50-thousand years ago, geologically speaking that’s basically yesterday.”

Photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter showed an 8 mile-wide deposit of dark material along a 20-mile long fissure on the Martian surface. NASA’s Mars InSight lander detected two Marsquakes, the Martian version of earthquakes, in the same region during the past three years.

Arizona finds 469 new COVID-19 cases, 2 more deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona is reporting 469 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths.

The latest figures posted by the state Department of Health Services on Wednesday bring the pandemic totals to 870,624 cases and 17,430 deaths.

Hospitalizations of patients with the virus climbed slightly to 599 statewide.

Meanwhile, more than 3 million people in Arizona have received at least one dose. Over 2.5 million have been fully vaccinated.

Health officials are hoping for a dramatic rise in doses after Thursday when children ages 12-15 can get vaccinated at the seven state-run sites. The Navajo Nation is also anticipating expanding vaccines to that age group.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 9 new COVID-19 cases, but no deaths


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation on Tuesday reported nine new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the second consecutive day.

Tribal health officials say the latest figures pushed the total number of cases since the pandemic began more than a year ago to 30,642 on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. The known death toll remains at 1,285.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez says 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.

Navajo Nation President, Vice President Disappointed By Arizona's New Restrictive Voting Laws

Fronteras Desk

In a joint statement, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer voiced their disappointment with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for signing two voter restriction bills into law.

In the last week, Ducey signed a bill, Senate Bill 1003, that shortens the time to cure missing signatures on ballots, and another, Senate Bill 1485, which potentially purges thousands from the permanent early voter list.

The statement says the Navajo Nation opposes another bill, Senate Bill 1713, which would require individuals to provide a birth date and either a voter ID number or driver’s license number to vote by mail.

Learn more here.

Vetoed Arizona sex education bill coming back with changes


PHOENIX — A contentious sex education bill that was vetoed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey last month is being revived.

The sponsor says she's keeping increased parental notifications she calls “the heart” of the proposal. Stripped out are provisions that specifically targeted discussion of LGBTQ issues.

Republican Sen. Nancy Barto says she worked with Ducey's staff to identify and remove parts he considered problematic. Those include a provision preventing young students from being taught how to avoid or report sexual abuse.

The revised bill still bans sex education classes before 5th grade and requires schools to get parental permission before teaching about historic events that involve sexuality.

Learn more here.

More forests in Arizona impose fire, smoking restrictions


PHOENIX — Three more national forests in Arizona have imposed campfire and smoking restrictions aimed at preventing human-caused wildfires.

The Coconino, Kaibab and Tonto national forests on Wednesday issued coordinated statements announcing that they were imposing restrictions effective Friday. The Apache-Sitgreaves and Prescott forests previously put restrictions in place.

The Coronado National Forest in southeastern Arizona hasn’t yet issued similar restrictions so far.

Also, additional crews and heavy equipment have been assigned to a still-growing wildfire that has burned 8.6 square miles of brush and grass on and near the Prescott forest. Crews have cleared containment lines around 15% of the fire’s perimeter.

Learn more here.

ASU trying to determine cause of fire on roof of building


TEMPE — Arizona State University officials say they’re still trying to determine what caused construction materials on the roof of a new academic building to catch fire.

Dozens of firefighters from Tempe, Scottsdale, Mesa, Phoenix and Chandler fought the blaze Tuesday night, and ASU officials later said there was limited damage to the mid-rise building and no injuries.

The building will house classrooms, a conference center and research labs for biological sciences, engineering, life sciences and sustainability. The $194 million building is scheduled to open in the fall.

Learn more here.

Number of children traveling alone at border eases in April


SAN DIEGO — The number of unaccompanied children encountered on the U.S. border with Mexico in April eased from an all-time high a month earlier, while more adults are coming without families.

Authorities encountered nearly 17,200 children traveling alone, down 9% from March but still far above the previous high in May 2019. Family encounters were also down.

Overall, Border Patrol encounters topped 173,000, the highest level since April 2000. The numbers aren’t directly comparable because many are expelled from the country under federal pandemic-related powers. Being expelled carries no legal consequences, so many people try to cross multiple times.

Learn more here.

Vaccinations Begin For Educators In Sonora

Fronteras Desk

Vaccinations for educators in Sonora, Arizona’s neighbor to the south, are now underway.

More than 70,000 of them will receive the single-dose CanSino vaccine over the next couple of days, according to a release from the Mexican Institute of Social Security.

Two of those doses went to Hermosillo teachers Erick Pasten and his girlfriend. The private school where both of them teach has been all online for more than a year, something that he says has been a challenge for him.

Learn more here.

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