/ Modified nov 13, 2020 4:20 p.m.

News roundup: Zoning rules shape Tucson, takeaways from the election

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Nov. 13.

Cases 269,577 | Deaths 6,257

On Friday, Nov. 13, the state reported 3,015 new cases of COVID-19 and 17 additional deaths. Pima County health officials described rising virus cases as “alarming" as the holiday season approaches.

A look at how zoning shapes Tucson development

The Buzz

City zoning policy sets the groundwork for what development looks like, and can often be contentious, with developers and residents having different goals for their neighborhoods.

This week, The Buzz invites guests to discuss some key aspects of Tucson zoning policy and how those decisions impact affordability, neighborhood character, and gentrification, as well as how the public can be a part of the process.

Listen to the full episode here.

Election analysis, recreational marijuana legalized, honoring veterans

Arizona 360

This week, Arizona 360 analyzes the results of the general election and whether Arizona proved to be a swing state. Lorraine Rivera discusses the results with the chairs of the Arizona Republicans and Arizona Democrats, Kelli Ward and Felecia Rotellini. She and KVOI 1030 AM’s Tipping Point host Zach Yentzer and the Green Valley News/Sahuarita Sun’s Dan Shearer also go over local results in Pima County.

Tony Paniagua also reports on what it will look like as the voter-approved measure to legalize recreational marijuana takes effect in Arizona.

Watch the full episode here.

Pima County seeing 'alarming' rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations


The Pima County Health Department is seeing COVID-19 cases and hospital visits rising at an "alarming rate," and wants the public to take steps to slow the spread of the virus as we head into the holiday season.

According to a county press release, cases have been on the rise for the last three weeks, with just over 2,000 cases reported from the first week of November. The number of COVID-19 hospital admissions has also spiked to its highest one-week total since the large spike in cases over the summer.

“We are very concerned, especially with holidays like Thanksgiving upon us,” said Dr. Theresa Cullen, Health Department Director, in the release. “This is starting to look like the beginning of the huge spike that we saw over the summer.”

Learn more here.

Pima County, state preparing COVID-19 vaccine plans


Pfizer's announcement earlier this month of a promising COVID-19 vaccine candidate that could soon be available is bringing new focus on plans to distribute the drug.

“We don’t have all the details hammered out yet, and as you can imagine there are a lot of unknowns,” said Crystal Rambaud, Pima County vaccine and preventable disease manager.

In mid-October, Arizona sent very preliminary plans to the Centers for Disease Control regarding how the state intends to distribute the vaccine when it becomes available. Arizona’s plan prioritizes health care workers at all levels and then moves to other essential workers.

Learn more here.

TUSD: Hybrid classes won't start until virus transmission is ‘moderate’


The Tucson Unified School District will not resume in-person classes until Pima County is securely in a state of moderate transmission or safer, the district superintendent said this week.

Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo elaborated on TUSD’s decision not to begin hybrid classes this semester at a Thursday evening press conference.

“Hybrid learning is delayed for the duration of the first semester,” Trujillo said. “We are setting our sights on Jan. 4, but that’s a big 'if.' That is if Pima County, as a county, is in a state of moderate spread of the virus or better.”

Learn more here.

Child care scholarships available for Tucson and South Tucson families


Families in Tucson and South Tucson who are struggling to pay for child care due to a COVID-related event may qualify for a short-term scholarship to cover those expenses.

Tucson mayor and council approved the use of $500,000 of the city's federal CARES Act funds to create scholarships for these struggling families. Peg Harmon, the CEO of Catholic Community Services of Southern Arizona, said they'll be in charge of dispersing the funds, and she said they'll begin as soon as the city transfers the money.

Harmon said families who have experienced the loss of a job, illness or a furlough are candidates for the scholarship. She said the funds can cover past-due child care bills, registration fees and ongoing tuition for children 12 or younger till the end of December 2020.

Learn more here.

McSally concedes to Kelly in Arizona Senate race


Martha McSally conceded to Mark Kelly Friday, saying she cannot win the race for U.S. Senate in Arizona.

In a statement from her campaign McSally said: “With nearly all the votes counted, I called Mark Kelly this morning to congratulate him on winning his race. I also offered support in his transition to ensure Arizonans are best served during this time. I wish him all the best.”

As of Friday afternoon, McSally trailed Kelly by 79,000 votes with fewer than 7,000 votes remaining to be counted.

Learn more here.

Senate proposes budget with almost $2B in border wall funding


A prospective budget released by the U.S. Senate this week gives almost $2 billion toward the construction of the Trump administration’s border wall.

The move has angered environmental groups that are already entangled in legal battles against current wall spending.

Now the Trump administration is barreling toward completing 450 miles of new border wall by the end of 2020. But Joe Biden has pledged to immediately halt construction when he enters office next year.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation Builds More Broadband Towers

Fronteras Desk

Navajo leaders met in Chinle this week to celebrate the Navajo Tribal Utility Authority’s plans to build more than a hundred broadband towers across the tribal nation. NTUA’s Velena Tsosie spoke to the group.

“This is what our community needs,” Tsosie said. “It’s fulfillment for our children our future. It’s long term, it’s going to stay here. And we’re only going to get better with this technology in our communities.”

The tribe is spending $47 million of its CARES Act dollars on these towers.

The FCC estimates more than a third of people living on tribal lands don’t have access to high-speed internet.

Joe Biden Inherits Trump's Border Wall –– And Its Lawsuits

Fronteras Desk

In downtown Nogales, the Trump administration draped the existing border wall in coils of gleaming razor wire two years ago. Nogales, Arizona, Mayor Art Garino isn’t optimistic that the incoming Biden administration will take it down.

"You know how the government is. Once they put something up, it very seldom comes down" he said, laughing.

Construction on the border wall has raced across Arizona’s desert all year. Since Trump took office, 400 miles of new border wall has gone up. A new report showing the status of the border wall was recently produced by Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The report shows that since Trump took office, the U.S. has built 348 miles of fencing and another 52 miles of secondary border wall.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 143 new COVID-19 cases, but no deaths


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials have reported 143 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no additional deaths. The latest figures released Thursday night bring the total number of known cases to 12,971 with 596 known deaths. Tribal health officials say 135,864 people have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started and 7,902 have recovered.

The Navajo Nation Department of Health has warned residents of the “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19 in 34 communities on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Nation will have a 56-hour weekend curfew beginning Friday night. Tribal officials already have urged residents to wear face masks, practice social distancing and limit gatherings to less than five people.

Learn more here.

Arizona school districts' responses vary to growing outbreak


PHOENIX — Arizona has reported over 3,000 additional known COVID-19 cases as the deepening coronavirus outbreak prompted varying responses by school districts across the state. Some districts are returning to online instruction from partial in-school instruction and others are keeping their keeping their schools open. The additional 3,015 cases and 17 deaths reported Friday by state Department of Health Services increased the state’s totals to 269,577 cases and 6,257 deaths.

The state has provided school districts with voluntary benchmarks to consider when deciding whether to reopen or reclose schools. The benchmarks were updated Thursday and show worsening conditions in many areas recently.

Learn more here.

Proposed $3.3B gasoline plant in Southern Arizona halted


CASA GRANDE — The city manager of a small southern Arizona city says construction of a proposed gasoline plant that would have generated more than 2,000 jobs has been halted after the company planning the project reprioritized its projects. The Casa Grande Dispatch reports that Houston-based Nacero announced plans in March for a $3.3 billion plant in the city of Casa Grande to convert natural gas to gasoline. But Casa Grande City Manager Larry Rains says the company lowered the Casa Grande location on its list of priorities. The company also told city officials it would withdraw a draft agreement with the city and release property owners from a land transaction.

Learn more here.

Republicans face court setbacks, Trump law firm steps down


PHILADELPHIA — Republicans suffered setbacks to court challenges over the presidential election in three battleground states on Friday as a national law firm that came under fire for its work for President Trump’s campaign withdrew from a major Pennsylvania case. The legal blows began when a federal appeals court rejected an effort to block about 9,300 mail ballots that arrived after Election Day in Pennsylvania. The judges noted the “unprecedented challenges” facing the nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, a Michigan judge found no evidence of fraud in refusing to stop the certification of Detroit-area election results.

And campaign lawyers in metro Phoenix sought to withdraw their bid to manually inspect ballots.

learn more here.

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