/ Modified jul 10, 2020 5:54 p.m.

Pandemic hits small town, elections ramp up, USMCA enacted

Plus, Pima County Health Department director on the current strain hospitals face.

As Arizona’s COVID-19 caseload surpassed 100,000 this week, the small town of Guadalupe is taking steps to lower its positive case rate. At less than a square mile in between the cities of Phoenix and Tempe, at one point the town of 6,000 had a case rate four times the rest of Maricopa County. It has since decreased by about half, according to town manager Jeff Kulaga.

Tony Paniagua traveled to Guadalupe to speak to town leaders about efforts to prevent the disease from spreading further in their community. He also heard from a man who recently recovered from COVID-19, along with multiple family members in his household.

Increasing cases and hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have Pima County’s public health director concerned that the situation has thrust the region into crisis.

“I call it a stable crisis. But we are definitely in crisis, and I have no qualms about using that word,” Pima County Health Department director Dr. Theresa Cullen said. “We need people to be aware that many of the hospitals on a daily basis are shifting patients.”

Cullen said that patients continue to receive adequate care when they’re transported and that the county benefits from its close proximity to Maricopa County, where more ICU beds are available. She said two disaster management teams recently arrived in Pima County to support intensive care services at two hospitals, along with a shipment of ventilators with another one on the way. Cullen said she welcomes the additional resources but is reserving optimism that it will have an immediate impact.

“I’m not hopeful right now, to be frank. If you ask me am I hopeful a month from now? Yes,” Cullen said. “Right now, the numbers we’ve seen the last few days do not show a stabilizing factor yet.”

“Our early weeks we had 200 to 250, on average, cases a week. Now we have over 2,000. So, people just need to be cognizant of the impact that puts on our hospital resources.”

Cullen called on individuals in the community to do their part by wearing a mask, avoid leaving home and practice social distancing.

Amid a pandemic, a recession and ongoing civil unrest, Arizona’s primary election is less than a month away. An already hectic 2020 presents a lot for voters to consider. To unpack the issues that may influence their decisions, Lorraine Rivera got analysis from Tucson Sentinel editor Dylan Smith and Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun editor Dan Shearer. Their discussion touched upon the public health and economic concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as how calls to defund the police are being received by some candidates and the public.

After years of negotiations, the new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement took effect and replaced the 26-year-old NAFTA. Each year, Arizona exports billions of dollars’ worth of goods to Mexico and Canada. We learned more about how the deal impacts that relationship from Canadian Consul General of Los Angeles Zaib Shaikh.

According to Shaikh, Canada is Arizona’s No. 1 foreign direct investor with about 500 Canadian companies that employ 23,000 people. “And in Tucson alone, you’ve got something like 5,000 Arizonans who go to work every day for Canadian companies,” Shaikh said. He also said the deal affords U.S. dairy producers more access to the Canadian market.

“The idea of greater access to the Canadian market was something that was a key on the negotiating table between the two countries, and so it’s a win-win as we look at it,” Shaikh said.

As the USMCA rolls out, in Arizona much of the focus will be on how it impacts trade at its ports of entry. Mexico remains the state’s largest importer of goods and trade supports thousands of jobs on both sides of the border. As we heard from international trade adviser Luis Ramirez, while the pandemic caused some disruptions, investors remain optimistic about the region.

In spring, the vast majority of Nogales, Sonora’s manufacturing workforce were sent home, according to Ramirez. “Gradually, that has been coming back. As manufacturing facilities are implementing most protocols, we’re seeing tremendous excitement with the reopening of the current manufacturing sector,” Ramirez said.

According to Ramirez, manufacturers in northern Mexico are seeing an increased interest from investors, with Canadian companies also paying more attention to the region.

“You’re now starting to see Canadian companies invest in Arizona to then start looking at the Mexican market,” Ramirez said. “It truly is their leveraging of what USMCA has to offer through Arizona.”

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