Your Southern AZ COVID-19 AM Roundup for Friday, Sept. 4: You’re Running out of Time To Apply for Help from City of Tucson; Get a Flu Shot; Antibody Testing Expanded; County COVID Test Sites Open

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With 728 new cases today, the number of Arizona’s confirmed novel coronavirus cases topped 204,000 as of Friday, Sept. 4, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

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Pima County had seen 21,574 of the state’s 204,681 confirmed cases.

A total of 5,171 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 593 deaths in Pima County, according to the Sept. 3 report.

The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline from July peaks. ADHS reported that as of Sept. 3, 742 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13.

A total of 814 people visited emergency rooms on Sept. 3 with COVID symptoms, the lowest that number has been since June 4, when 725 COVID patients visited ERs. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7.

A total of 236 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care unit beds on Sept. 3, the lowest that number has been since April 8, when 155 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 antibody testing open to all

The FDA gave approval to the University of Arizona’s antibody test. As a result, the testing has now been opened to all Arizonans as the state attempts to get handle on how many people have been exposed to COVID-19 but were asymptomatic or otherwise did not get a test while they were ill.

To sign up for testing, visit https://covid19antibodytesting.arizona.edu/home.

Benchmarks met to allow schools to begin hybrid learning

Pima County yesterday reached benchmarks indicating that it has moved from “substantial” spread of the coronavirus to “moderate” spread, meaning local school districts can now consider hybrid learning that would allow some students to return to the classroom while others continue distance learning.

Pima County has had less than 100 cases per 100,000 individuals for two consecutive weeks; two straight weeks with the percentage of positive tests below 7 percent; and two consecutive weeks with the total of people visiting hospitals with COVID-like symptoms at less than 10 percent of the total number of people seeking medical attention.

Local school district boards will have to consider the new numbers before making decisions as to how to proceed following the Labor Day holiday.

Get Help From City of Tucson While You Can

Time is running out to get aid from the City of Tucson if you’ve experience 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,” 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.

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



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