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Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

The news and events that made the week

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THE LOCAL NUMBERS SKYROCKET. The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Arizona skyrocketed this week, topping 39,000 as of Tuesday, June 16, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 4,329 of the state's 39,097 confirmed cases. On June 1, the statewide total number of confirmed cases was 20,123. A total of 1,219 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 226 in Pima County, according to the June 16 report. In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 20,775. Arizona hospitals continued to see record numbers of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. The Arizona Department of Health Services reports that as of June 15, 1,506 Arizonans were hospitalized and 502 people were in ICU units. The report shows a record 956 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 15.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS. Nationwide, more than 2.1 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed more than 115,000 people in the United States as of Monday, June 15, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

DUCEY: NOTHING TO WORRY ABOUT. As local and national media focused on Arizona's rising number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Gov. Doug Ducey pushed back against reports that the state's hospitals were nearing capacity. In a contentious June 11 conference, Ducey acknowledged that the state's growing number of positive tests showed the state was no longer in compliance with the CDC gating criteria that he used to justify lifting the state's stay-at-home order but said the idea of asking Arizona residents to stay home was not under discussion. Ducey said Arizonans needed to understand the virus would be part of their lives for the foreseeable future. "This virus is not going away," Ducey said. "There is not a cure for this virus. There is not a vaccine for this virus. So this virus is something we need to learn to live with. And we need to make sure we are protecting the most vulnerable in our society. Those are folks in a certain age bracket with underlying health conditions and at-risk conditions and we're going to continue to do that every single day until there is a vaccine." Ducey, who has rarely been seen with a mask or face covering and whose administration has neglected to include the advice in various health advisories it has sent out, said he did wear them while shopping when he cannot physically distance from others by at least 6 feet. He advised Arizonans to wear them if they felt comfortable doing so.

TUCSON OFFICIALS: THERE'S PLENTY TO WORRY ABOUT, INCLUDING DUCEY'S STRONGARM TACTICS. Tucson officials continued to ask Gov. Doug Ducey to give them the authority to set their own regulations to reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19. Under his executive order, Ducey has prohibited local jurisdictions from setting standards tougher than state regulations. On Friday, June 12, Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik wrote an open letter to Ducey asking him for "an immediate rescinding of your executive order that prohibits local governments from implementing our own politics for managing this health epidemic," although Kozachik conceded in the letter that he recognized there was "a snowball's chance of this being acted on favorably." On Monday, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero urged Ducey to remove the restrictions that prevent Tucson from acting. "For example, I believe that face masks should be mandatory in areas of the state with high community transmission for indoor spaces where social distancing is not feasible," Romero said. "Gov. Ducey needs to untie the hands of local governments and allow us to make decisions that are in the best interest of our communities and account for local conditions."

BIGHORN BLAZE: The Bighorn Fire in the Santa Catalina Mountains grew to more than 15,800 acres as hotshot crews and aircraft continued to battle the blaze as of Tuesday, June 16. The fire was 30 percent contained as of press time, and an evacuation was ordered for the areas of Mt. Lemmon and Mt. Bigelow, including Summerhaven. Over the weekend, fire crews made good progress stopping the fire on western and northern edges in Oro Valley and Catalina. Various neighborhoods in Catalina and the Catalina Foothills were evacuated over the last week, but all residents were allowed to return home as of press time. However, residents in those areas as well as Oro Valley residents living east of Oracle Road and north of Magee Road to the state park were warned to be "set" to evacuate. Catalina State Park has been closed and firefighters have established a nearby restricted area.

— Jim Nintzel with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Tara Foulkrod and Logan Burtch-Buus.

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