Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Wednesday, Sept. 2: UA Keeps Reentry Plan on Pause; Apply for City Help While You Still Can; Get a Flu Shot; County Test Sites Open

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The number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 203,000 as of Wednesday, Sept. 2, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.


Pima County had seen 21,294 of the state’s 202,861 confirmed cases.


A total of 5,044 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 576 deaths in Pima County, according to the Sept. 2 report.


The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Sept. 1, 752 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13.


A total of 871 people visited ERs on Sept. 1 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.


A total of 248 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Sept. 1, the lowest that number has been since April 9, when 248 people were in ICU. The number of COVID patients in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.


In Pima County, the week-by-week counting of cases peaked the week ending July 4 with 2,398 cases, according to an Aug. 26 report from the Pima County Health Department. Those numbers have dropped with Pima County requiring the wearing of masks in public but they have bumped upward recent weeks, with 804 cases in the week ending Aug. 8 and 930 cases in the week ending Aug. 15. (Not all recent cases may have been reported.)


Deaths in Pima County are down from a peak of 54 in the week ending July 4 to 35 for the week ending Aug. 8 and 15 for the week ending Aug. 15.


Hospitalization peaked the week ending July 18 with 247 COVID patients admitted to Pima County hospitals. For the week ending Aug. 15, 63 COVID patients were admitted to Pima County hospitals.


UA keeps reentry plan on pause


The University of Arizona administration announced they will continue to delay their staged reopening plan and remain in Stage 1 of the reopening (essential in-person classes only) during the third week of instruction, which begins Monday, 7.


Stage 2 was originally set to begin on Aug. 31 and would have allowed small classes to resume in person, bringing another 9,000 people to campus.


Out of more than 11,300 antigen tests performed in the university community between July 31 and Aug. 31, the UA has uncovered 103 positive COVID-19 cases.


The university is using far more antigen tests—which are less expensive and produce rapid results—than traditional PCR tests, which can take 48 hours or longer to produce results. There has been controversy over the effectiveness of antigen testing. During the same time period, the university conducted 442 PCR and reported two positive COVID-19 results.


At a press conference yesterday, UA President Robert C. Robbins said the university was working with the Tucson Police Department and the Tucson City Council ward offices to respond to reports of parties in neighborhoods around the university.


“We encourage everyone: Please do not have large gatherings,” Robbins said. “We know that is ripe for transmission of this deadly virus.”


For more information, visit covid19.arizona.edu/updates.


Get Help From City of Tucson While You Can


Time is running out to get aid from the City of Tucson if you’ve experienced a COVID-related hardship.


The City of Tucson has allocated $4.5 million of federal CARES Act funding for an emergency rent and utility assistance program available to city residents, but the city will soon stop accepting applications.


To be eligible for the financial assistance, participating renters must have been financially impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the household income cannot exceed $68,400.


Visit www.tucsonaz.gov/hcd/rent-help to complete an application. If you need assistance or are unable to complete the application online, call (520) 837-5364 or email covidemergencyassistance@tucsonaz.gov.


The city is also setting aside $3 million of CARES Act funding to be distributed to local workers and families that have been negatively impacted by the crisis. Applications are due by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9.


The grant program, named the “We Are One | Somos Unos Resiliency Fund” will focus on individuals and households that have not received any state or federal COVID-19 relief money and whose income does not reach Pima County’s self-sufficiency standard.


The self-sufficiency standard measures how much money an individual or family needs to earn to be able to meet their basic needs with no public or private financial assistance. In 2018, the self-sufficiency standard for a single adult in Pima County was $9.66 per hour or $1,700 per month. For a household with two adults and two young children, the standard was $13.22 per hour for both adults, or $4,711 per month.


The city is partnering with the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona, who will administer the grants.


In addition, the city’s We Are One | Somos Unos Resiliency Fund recently received a $1.25 million donation to provide financial relief for Tucson’s immigrant communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.


The donations, from the Open Society Foundations and an anonymous donor, will provide funds to immigrants living in the City of Tucson and the City of South Tucson. These are people who have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 but are often excluded from federal aid.


The $1.25 million will be disbursed through grants to those who were not eligible to receive federal CARES Act stimulus checks earlier this year, and who face additional barriers to financial assistance programs, according to a city press release.


The Sunnyside Foundation has been designated as the administrator of the funds. Details on how to receive aid can be found at www.sunnysidefoundation.org.


“Entire families in our community are being evicted from their homes, losing jobs, and having to decide between buying groceries or paying utility bills,” said Sunnyside Foundation Executive Director Kerri Lopez-Howell in a press release. “We are honored to steward these resources and eager to work alongside grassroots community leaders, organizers, and advocates to ensure that those most impacted receive these dollars.”


Ducey: Get a Flu Shot


Gov. Doug Ducey and public health experts are asking Arizonans to get a flu shot to help keep hospital capacity low and available for those with COVID.


The governor said the Arizona Department of Health Services will be implementing an aggressive plan of action during this flu season by distributing the vaccination for free to all Arizonans through doctor’s offices, pharmacies, local health departments and community healthcare centers statewide.


“We don’t want cost to be something that gets in the way of this,” Gov. Ducey said during Monday’s press conference. “If you are uninsured or underinsured we want you to get a flu shot and it’s the best thing you can do to add more help to our situation in Arizona.”


Gov. Ducey said the overlap with COVID produces greater challenges than a typical flu season and preventing the flu is more important than ever. More than 4,000 people were hospitalized with flu symptoms in Arizona last year and roughly 700 people die from the illness each year, according to the governor.


The state will reimburse Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System providers offering free flu shots to AHCCCS members, while giving AHCCCS members a $10 gift card for their troubles after they've been vaccinated, said Gov. Ducey. The governor announced he is also allowing certified pharmacists the ability to administer the vaccine to AHCCCS-enrolled children.


“These actions have led to a 50 percent increase of flu shot administration rates in other states,” Gov. Ducey said. “We’re confident they’ll make a big difference in Arizona as well.”


Certain COVID-19 testing sites will also offer flu shots to those getting tested for coronavirus in starting in September, said Gov. Ducey. The Arizona Department of Health Services will expand online resources to help the public find free vaccine distribution locations as well as help businesses set up their own flu shot clinics for employees, according to the governor.


“I want to emphasize Arizona’s most important partner in this fight is you, the people of Arizona” Gov. Ducey said. “You’ve made a big difference in where we are today and you could make a huge difference in where we’ll be tomorrow going forward.”


Get tested: Pima County has several testing centers


Pima County has three free testing centers with easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—with results in 48 to 72 hours.


You’ll have a nasal swab test at the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The center at the northside Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, involves a saliva test designed by ASU.


Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.


The centers are also tied into Pima County’s developing contact tracing operation, which aims to be able to identify potential clusters and warn people if they have been in contact with someone who is COVID-positive.


If you’re interested in a test to determine if you’ve already had COVID-19, the UA has expanded a free COVID-19 antibody testing program to include 15 new categories of essential workers considered at high risk for exposure. The antibody test, developed by researchers at UA Health Sciences, determines who has been exposed to and developed an immune response against COVID-19.


In addition to healthcare workers and first responders, the test program is now open to educators, childcare workers, agriculture, grocery and foodservice workers, hospitality employees, solid-waste collection workers, transportation services workers and members of the National Guard. More information and registration for the test is available 

https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/




—with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner and Tara Foulkrod

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