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Southern Arizona Weekly COVID-19 Roundup

What happened this week

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THE LOCAL NUMBERS. The number of Arizona's confirmed novel coronavirus cases closed in on 194,000 as of Tuesday, Aug 18, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 19,976 of the state's 194,976 confirmed cases. A total of 4,529 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 534 in Pima County, according to the Aug. 17 report. The number of hospitalized COVID cases continues to decline. ADHS reported that as of Aug. 17, 1,167 COVID patients were hospitalized in the state, the lowest that number has been since June 6, when 1,079 people were hospitalized. That number peaked at 3,517 on July 13. A total of 960 people visited ERs on Aug. 17 with COVID symptoms. That number peaked at 2,008 on July 7. A total of 427 COVID-19 patients were in ICU beds on Aug. 10. The number in ICUs peaked at 970 on July 13.

THE NATIONAL NUMBERS. More 5.4 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed more than 170,000 people in the United States as of Tuesday, Aug. 18, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

WEAR A DAMN MASK. Following the passage of an ordinance on June 19 requiring people to wear masks when out in public, Pima County has seen a drop in the number of new positive COVID-19 tests. The number of cases dropped from a high of 2,368 new cases in the week ending July 4 to 1,408 in the week ending Aug. 1, according to a Pima County Health Department report. Fewer people are dying as well. Deaths related to COVID-19 peaked the week of July 4 with 51 people. The week ending Aug. 1, Pima County saw 25 deaths.

UNEMPLOYMENT EXTENDED FOR SOME OUT-OF-WORK ARIZONANS. Gov. Doug Ducey announced Friday, Aug. 14, that Arizona would accept the extra unemployment benefits being offered by the Trump administration. Trump signed an executive order funding the extra $300 in unemployment dollars after the federal government's payment of an extra $600 a week expired at the end of July. While Trump had initially called for states to provide $100 a week in unemployment benefits in order to qualify for the program, Ducey was able to cut some kind of deal with Trump so Arizona will not be required to do so. The extra $300 comes on top of Arizona's miserly $240-a-week unemployment benefit. Hundreds of thousands of gig workers and others involved in non-traditional jobs, who were eligible for the $600 a week under the expired federal program, will not be eligible for this program.

GET TESTED. The Pima County Health Department continues to offer free COVID-19 testing at three locations. Saliva tests are available at the Ellie Towne Flowing Wells Community Center, 1660 W. Ruthrauff Road, while nasal swab tests are available at the the Kino Event Center, 2805 E. Ajo Way, and the Udall Center, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. All three centers offer easy-to-schedule appointments—often with same-day availability—and you get results in less than 72 hours. Schedule an appointment at pima.gov/covid19testing.

PAC-12 CANCELS FALL SPORTS. The Pac-12 Conference unanimously voted last week to postpone all sports competitions through the rest of the year, with an eye toward pushing fall sports like football to the spring. The announcement, which was unveiled during a Zoom call by Commissioner Larry Scott, came hours after the Big Ten Conference announced a similar decision. Scott said the communal spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus was still too rampant to risk players' health. During a call with reporters, Scott discussed his desire for all fall athletes to maintain their current year of eligibility, while maintaining their scholarships as well. Scott addressed the realities of the virus, saying that holding events in a "bubble," where student-athletes are isolated from the rest of a given campus, was not realistic.

here's when you can go clubbing again. The Arizona Department of Health Services has outlined a new series of metrics that businesses such as movie theaters, nightclubs, gyms and other gathering places will have to pass in order to reopen. Representatives from some of the affected sectors have sued the state, saying they were unfairly forced to close by Gov. Doug Ducey. The new benchmarks define the spread of the coronavirus as minimal, moderate, and substantial. Substantial spread is defined as more than 100 COVID cases per 100,000 of population, a positive COVID test rate of greater than 10 percent and greater than 10 percent of emergency room visits related to COVID-like symptoms. Moderate spread is defined as between 10 and 100 cases of COVID cases per 100,000 of population, a positive COVID test rate of 5 to 10 percent, and between 5 and 10 percent of emergency room visits related to COVID-like symptoms. Minimal spread is defined as less than 10 cases per 100,000 population, a positive test rate of less than 5 percent, and less than 5 percent of emergency room visits related to COVID-like symptoms.

Bars and nightclubs that serve food must remain closed as long as the spread is substantial but can open 50 percent capacity once spread reaches moderate or minimal levels as long as they implement ADHS mitigation requirements. ■

—By Jim Nintzel with additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Christopher Boan and Tara Foulkrod

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