June 30, 2020 / Modified jun 30, 2020 4:55 p.m.

Daily News Roundup: Bighorn Fire, hospitals, unemployment

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, June 30.

Arizona COVID-19 one-week snapshot, July 3

This map looks at the changes in reported Arizona COVID-19 data over a one-week period. In the last week, Arizona reported 25,400 new cases (38% increase), 253 more deaths (16% increase) and 504 additional hospitalizations. The state reported a daily average of 3,628.57 cases and 36.14 deaths. Choose a Layerlayer and click on a county to learn more.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: ADHS, county health departments, Census 2018 Quick Facts. Test numbers combine diagnostic and antibody tests. Percent positive is calculated using daily reported cases and daily reported tests. Daily reports may not reflect recent data, the state says.

COVID-19, June 30 — Cases: 79,215 | Deaths: 1,632 | Tests: 701,834*

The state reported 4,682 new cases on June 30. While that constitutes a new daily record, in an email the Arizona Department of Health Services said the jump was due to a laboratory not reporting on time the day before. Because of that, ADHS said more than half of Tuesday's case numbers would have been reported the day before. Tuesday saw 44 more reported deaths.

On Monday, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an order closing bars, movie theaters, and limiting some gatherings and pools, among other measures. Case numbers and hospitalizations continue their rise, and the governor acknowledged the situation is going to worsen in coming days.

Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said the country is "going in the wrong direction" and could soon see more than 100,000 cases a day.

More Bighorn Fire evacuations


The Bighorn Fire burning in the Santa Catalina Mountains is prompting more evacuations. The Pima County Sheriff's Department said an area near Mt. Lemmon was being evacuated this morning.

The area includes the southeastern Catalina area around Redington Road, also Lower Catalina Highway/Lower Mt. Lemmon Communities from Organization Ridge Road to South Willow Canyon . Authorities did not immediately say how many homes were in the area.

The fire sparked by lightning more than three weeks ago has now burned across nearly 180 square miles. More than 1,000 firefighters and support crew are working the fire with the help of dozens of engines, several bulldozers and a fleet of helicopters.

Learn more here.

Hospitals directed to activate 'crisis standards of care'


Arizona hospitals were directed by the state Monday to activate their "crisis standards of care" as hospitals across the state near capacity.

Dr. Cara Christ, the head of the Arizona Department of Health Services, says even if there are enough beds part of the concern is enough doctors and nurses.

"We have made a request for some federal medical assistance to come out and give some relief to our hospitals."

Part of the surge plan for hospitals includes stopping nonemergency surgeries. The state is also getting ready to reopen the shuttered St. Luke’s hospital in Phoenix as a COVID-19 facility. Christ says the state is getting ready to sign an employment contract with an outside company to make sure that facility has enough staff when it opens.

Ducey gives full endorsement to mask wearing, no statewide mandate


Gov. Doug Ducey is imploring residents to use face masks to help slow the spread of coronavirus.

Ducey had never discouraged the use of masks, but until Monday he had never given their usage a full-throated endorsement. The change is the latest sign that Ducey, similar to some other Republican governors nationwide, is being forced to set political considerations aside amid surging cases in the Grand Canyon state.

On Monday, Ducey ordered the closing of bars, nightclubs and water parks while also pushing back the start date of public schools. While many cities have implemented mask requirements, the governor has not issued a statewide rule.

READ MORE: Analysis: Virus surge forces Arizona gov’s hand on masks

Research: Isolation plus heat could be deadly combo


Warmer days and nights as a result of climate change put older adults at risk. A research brief compiled by Climate Central states summer heat combined with social isolation as a result of the pandemic could be a deadly combination.

Jennifer Vanos is an assistant professor at ASU's school of sustainability. She says older adults are more susceptible to the effects of heat. But our bodies are also capable of adapting.

"Everyone is able to acclimatize to the heat to a certain extent each season. It depends a lot how much you expose yourself to the heat," Vanos said.

Vanos says the key is to do it safely. Take an early walk before it gets too hot. Drink water and don't stay out too long.

So as we hunker down at home, remember to check on older family members, friends and neighbors who may be isolated by the pandemic to ensure they're staying hydrated and safe when the temperatures rise.

Overall Arizona weekly unemployment shows slight drop


First-time unemployment claims fell for the week ending June 27 by nearly 30,000, marking the first drop in first-time claims in nearly a month.

Last week, 186,000 Arizona residents filed first-time unemployment claims. The number of self-employed people filing those claims dropped for the first time while regular unemployment claims showed a slight rise. The self-employed could not file unemployment claims in Arizona until May 16 due to a change in federal law.

To see the numbers, click here.

Sonoran hospitals in Nogales, Guaymas reach saturation

Fronteras Desk

Hospitals in two major Sonoran cities have reached their limits as COVID-19 cases continue to mount.

In the border city of Nogales and coastal Guaymas, there is no more bed space for infected patients, Sonoran Health Secretary Enrique Clausen said over the weekend.

“It’s urgent to take measures of extreme confinement,” he said.

He called on the two major cities to focus efforts on reducing vehicular mobility and access to public spaces. He asked residents to remain in their homes for two weeks.

For more and to see a map of cases in Sonora, click here

Judge orders release of children in some ICE detention centers


A federal judge has ordered Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release all children held in family detention centers in Pennsylvania and Texas for more than 20 days.

Central California U.S. District Court Judge Dolly M. Gee said Friday ICE must release the children by July 17, citing the rise in coronavirus cases and the Trump administration’s failure to follow guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control for the virus.

Yvette Borja — a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona — hopes the decision will focus attention on outstanding detention suits in Arizona because similar conditions have been noted in ICE facilities here.

"The decision pointed to the rising number of cases in the counties where these facilities were," Borja said.

Borja says as COVID-19 cases in Eloy Detention Center and La Palma have ballooned over the last month, so have cases in Pinal County, where both facilities are located. The county is reporting more than 3,300 cases as of today.

Navajos concerned with COVID-19 spikes in surrounding areas


WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation has extended the closure of tribal government offices and ordered residents to stay home for another three weeks.

Tribal officials say they are concerned with spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases off the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Arizona again shut down bars, nightclubs and gyms amid a surge of coronavirus cases. New Mexico has paused plans for reopening more of the state's economy.

Navajo Nation health officials reported 63 additional cases of coronavirus, with no new deaths. That puts the total of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation at 7,532 as of Monday. The death toll remains at 363.

Read more here.

Community blood drive offers COVID-19 antibody test


Blood donors are needed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and Tucsonans can get an antibody test at the same time.

A community blood drive is being set up by national blood service provider Vitalant Wednesday. All donations will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies. Vitalant spokeswoman Sue Thew reminds that an antibody test is not the same as a COVID-19 test, but it can still yield some important information.

"People want to know right now what their antibody status is," she said. "No only does it tell somebody if they might have been previously exposed to COVID-19 but it will also tell them whether or not they may be a potential convalescent plasma donor in the future."

Health experts say many people who get COVID-19 are asymptomatic and do not know if they have had the virus. Thew says an antibody test can ensure the donor's blood is safe for those who are still recovering from coronavirus infection.

Appointments are recommended for entry to the blood drive, and social distancing measures will be followed. Vitalant hopes to get 300 donors to participate.

Extreme fire danger leads to Tonto National Forest closures


PHOENIX — Authorities say many sections of the Tonto National Forest will be closed starting at 6 a.m. Thursday because of extreme fire danger due to dry conditions.

The closures will remain in effect until July 30 unless rescinded or extended. Taiga Rohrer, Tonto’s fire management officer, says new fire starts have become increasingly difficult to control and the closure is the best option to deal with the fire danger conditions.

Authorities say wildfires have burned more than 350 square miles of the forest already this year, caused by vehicle fires, sparks from tow chains or flat tires. They say hot temperatures following a wet winter has produced an abundance of dry brush and grass in the forest.

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