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May 20, 2020

Arizona coronavirus news in brief, May 20

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona: "Dreamers" on the front lines, UA return to campus, state reopening.

Arizona COVID-19 map, June 5

Cases: 24,332 | Deaths: 1,012 | Tests: 370,255*
Click on a county to see totals and daily increases reported by the state. Daily changes don't necessarily reflect the previous 24 hours. Health experts say case data significantly underrepresents the actual spread of the virus due to limited testing. *Test numbers combine serology and PCR tests.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: ADHS, county health departments, Census 2018 Quick Facts

Select regional and national coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic as of Wednesday, May 20. For more coverage, visit our resource page.

Supreme Court decision nears with thousands of DACA recipients on the front lines

AZPM Feature, May 20

The Supreme Court could soon rule to end the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which gave temporary legal protection and work permits to young undocumented immigrants. With that, the fate of some 650,000 so-called "Dreamers" is on the line, at the same time thousands of them are on the front lines of the pandemic.

Find the full story here.

Professor, former surgeon general to run incident command center for UA return

AZPM, May 20

University of Arizona President Robert Robbins on Wednesday said a full slate of face-to-face classes, with instructors and students in the same classroom, is unlikely to occur in the coming academic year.

"There are going to be, particularly, faculty members who fit the guidelines of CDC and WHO guidelines that are going to be at risk," Robbins said. He added that the hybrid model, with students, instructors, or both attending classes remotely, will be used at least through the 2020-21 year, and possibly longer, depending on the development of an effective vaccine against COVID-19.

Robbins was flanked at the news conference by Dr. Richard Carmona, former U.S. Surgeon General and currently a distinguished professor at the UA College of Public Health. Carmona says he has set up an incident command center to coordinate the reopening the UA campus.

Learn more here.

Gov. Ducey: Arizona continuing phased-in return

AZPM, May 20

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in a Wednesday briefing painted a picture of a calm transition as the state reopens, saying the state is still in "Phase One" of that return.

Ducey again emphasized the trends he has been citing in his initial moves to lift restrictions on the state's businesses, including 14-day downward trajectories in influenza- and COVID-like illnesses and a decrease in the percent of cases to tests.

Little more than a week after restaurants were allowed to resume dine-in services, Ducey said Arizonans were using common sense and that the state's "plan is working." Health officials have emphasized that any change in the spread of the virus, based on the lifting of restrictions, won't become evident until weeks later.

The governor and state health director also fielded questions about its response in the state's long-term care facilities.

Learn more here.

New college grads face uncertain job market

AZPM, May 20

Now that school is out, college graduates are discovering the unknowns of COVID-19 include the job market.

University of Arizona career development official Abra McAndrew says the market is complicated, but not impossible to navigate. She suggests graduates make flexibility a priority as they continue their initial job search.

“This may mean they need to look to match their skills to industries that they had not considered before, and they may need to be more flexible with geography in terms of where they might find an opportunity," she said. “This recession is different from the 2008-2009 recession because some of the job losses we have been experiencing, we don’t know if they are permanent.”

McAndrew advises graduates should not think failure to get a job right away reflects on themselves. She says the sudden onset of a shattered economy could also mean a rapid return to employment opportunities, unlike previous recessions in which the job market didn’t improve for months.

Pima County supervisors to revise controversial restaurant rules

AZPM, May 20

Pima County supervisors will revisit a list of business regulations they approved last week, after hearing from an assortment of unhappy business people on Tuesday. The new rules are geared toward reopening the economy safely.

Tuesday morning was the first time in months that audience members were allowed to address the Board of Supervisors in person. Many vented their anger over regulations the board passed less than a week earlier.

Learn more here.

Arizona paid over $500M in unemployment benefits last week

AP, May 20

PHOENIX — Arizona paid $519 million in jobless benefits last week as the Department of Economic Security caught up with weeks of overdue benefits.

Thousands of applicants are unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Arizona Republic reported that the department began reviewing applications and making payments to self-employed people, contractors and others who don’t normally qualify for assistance. They got it through a program called Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Department officials say more than half a billion dollars was paid to 468,000 people. That surpassed the prior week’s $160 million in payments. About 40,000 applications still face processing.

Navajo Nation casinos remain closed amid COVID-19 pandemic

AP, May 20

FARMINGTON, N.M. — The Navajo Nation's casinos in New Mexico and Arizona are staying closed until at least next month amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The decision is in line with the tribe's partial government closure and stay-at-home order that expires June 7. The tribe has three casinos in New Mexico near Farmington, Shiprock and Gallup, and one in Arizona east of Flagstaff. The casinos have been closed since mid-March.

Casino officials say employees still are receiving paychecks and have access to mental health and other services. A large Navajo Nation farm in northwestern New Mexico also says it will keep an on-site store open with reduced hours.

Read more here.

Phoenix airport to implement mandatory face mask policy soon

AP, May 20

PHOENIX — Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is implementing a mandatory face mask policy starting June 1 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Airport officials announced Wednesday that employees and all visitors to Sky Harbor facilities will be required to have their noses and mouths covered while in the terminals, at the rental car center, the PHX Sky Train and airport buses. Sky Harbor officials say travelers are being asked to bring their own masks although some stores at the city-run airport currently are selling them.

They say face masks can be a homemade cloth mask or even a bandanna with the only requirement is that it covers the face and nose. Sky Harbor officials say its “vigilant sanitation efforts” and “thorough 24-hour cleaning schedule” will remain in place.

Phoenix Council OKs $3M in coronavirus funds for refugees

AP, May 20

PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix City Council has approved $3 million in federal relief funds for the area’s refugees caught up in the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic after being resettled here with U.S. government approval.

Council members Tuesday approved Mayor Kate Gallego’s proposal for the funding to help people who came to the U.S. fleeing violence or persecution in their home countries only to lose their new jobs in food service, hospitality and other industries disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

U.S. lawmakers added $350 million to the State Department’s budget for migration and refugee assistance in coronavirus aid approved earlier this year.

Sonoran factories prepare for possible June 1 reopening

Fronteras Desk, May 19

Many of Sonora’s numerous export manufacturing plants are preparing for a possible reopening on June 1.

The Mexican government expanded its definition of essential businesses to include mining, construction and the manufacture of transportation equipment, according to a recent decree. Many Sonoran plants specialize in auto parts and similar products. Josh Rubin, with Nogales, Sonora factory shelter firm Javid LLC, is hoping many of the city’s dozens of plants qualify.

Learn more here.

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