June 26, 2020

Wildfire season, mask ordinances, SCOTUS rulings

Plus, President Trump made his third visit to Arizona in 2020.

Arizona’s wildfire season is off to an active start with one of the most notable fires, the Bighorn Fire, continuing to spread in the Santa Catalina Mountains. University of Arizona professor and fire ecology expert Don Falk discussed factors that are making it difficult for crews to contain, as well as how wildfires alter the landscape after they’re put out.

“Because of the changes in climate over the last 100 years as well as the accumulation of fuels from the absence of fire, when a fire does happen we get a big one,” Falk said. “And it can take a long time for an ecosystem like that to put itself back together.”

This week Arizona set a new daily record for COVID-19 cases, confirming nearly 3,600 positive cases Tuesday. Arizona’s upward trajectory in cases comes as more municipalities adopt mask ordinances. While Pima County now requires masks in public, Marana Mayor Ed Honea explained why he has no plans to enforce the policy in town.

“I think mandating wearing a mask is not going to guarantee you that everybody is going to wear one. I think asking people to try to be on their best behavior and be cautious and careful of the health of others works better,” Honea said.

Honea clarified that he supports wearing masks in public and encourages residents to do so. He said he requires town employees to wear a mask while in the office.

A surge of COVID-19 cases led the city of Nogales to require face coverings in public. Mayor Arturo Garino told Lorraine Rivera spikes occurred around holidays and graduations in May, leading him to believe people gathering in large groups failed to wear masks or maintain social distancing. While breaking the ordinance is considered a misdemeanor, Garino said it’s unlikely a person would be cited.

“I spoke to the police chief and the city manager and I said I didn’t want to go with citations. I wanted to go with education first,” Garino said. “As a matter of fact, police officers carry masks with them in case they find someone that is in need of a mask and they cannot social distance.”

Garino said businesses have reported that the vast majority of customers wear masks. The city has more than 1,500 confirmed cases and 14 deaths out of a population of about 20,000.

“Everybody probably in Nogales, for the size of the community, probably knows somebody that’s being hospitalized right now,” Garino said.

With Arizona’s unemployment rate nearing 13%, restaurants are one of the state’s hardest-hit industries during the pandemic. We learned more about the economic impact from Steve Chucri, president of the Arizona Restaurant Association and a Maricopa County supervisor.

“What we saw is Arizona restaurants losing roughly $29 million a day during the peak of this virus. The month of April we lost $815 million. And keep in mind, annually, we’re almost a $14 billion industry,” Chucri said.

Chucri said restaurants employ more than 230,000 people in Arizona and between 75-80% were laid off or furloughed at some point during the pandemic. He praised restaurants that have been able to innovate during the pandemic and remain open.

Recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that upheld DACA and expanded the 1964 Civil Rights Act to protect LGBTQ employees stunned many who expected the court’s conservative majority to decide in unison against both. Tony Paniagua heard from Arizonans directly impacted by the rulings to get their reaction and learn what the court’s actions mean for their future.

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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