/ Modified aug 1, 2020 3:02 p.m.

News roundup: Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19, border wall construction, UA reopening plan

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Aug. 1

Cases: 177,002 | Deaths: 3,747 | Diagnostic tests: 948,650

On Saturday, Aug. 1, The state reported 2,992 more cases of COVID-19 and 53 deaths. The state was still working to increase testing, and Pima County said it was ramping up contact tracing. In his July 30 press conference, Gov. Doug Ducey called for Sonora Quest Laboratories, the largest testing lab in the state, to “step up its game” to address a backlog of tests.

Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19


U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva in a statement Saturday said he was self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.

The statement said the Southern Arizona Democrat wasn't experiencing any symptoms and that it wasn't clear how he was exposed to the novel coronavirus, though it went on to criticize Republican members of Congress who it said "routinely strut around the Capitol without a mask to selfishly make a political statement at the expense of their colleagues, staff, and their families."

Grijalva was in a hearing earlier in the week with Texas Rep. Louie Gohmert, who tested positive on Wednesday.

Learn more here.

Two-week average of COVID-19 cases in Arizona shows decline AP

PHOENIX — Arizona reported 2,992 new cases of the coronavirus and 53 more deaths Saturday. The average number of daily new cases over the past two weeks has declined by 18%.

The Arizona Department of Health Services has recorded 177,002 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The death toll stands at 3,747. In-patient hospitalizations and ventilators in use are on a slight downward trend.

Border wall construction heightens environmental concerns in sensitive habitats

The Buzz

Construction of President Trump's 30-foot-high border wall continues across southern Arizona, even amidst the pandemic. This week, The Buzz talks with local residents and law enforcement about the need for the new border wall.

The Buzz also spoke with environmental experts about what the border wall could mean for the future of the landscape and environment.

To hear this week's episode of The Buzz, click here.

University of Arizona preps for reentry amid pandemic risk Arizona 360

Former U.S. Surgeon General Richard Carmona, who now heads the campus’s Reentry Task Force, discusses how the university has spent the last few months preparing to offer in-person classes next month. Lorraine Rivera also hears from UA Athletic Director Dave Heeke about how the department intends to let sports continue while protecting student athletes from the virus.

We also hear from UA School of Journalism professor Celeste Gonzalez de Bustamante who’s part of the Coalition for Academic Justice. The group includes students, faculty and staff and has publicly criticized the university’s furlough plan.

Tony Paniagua reports on how international students are affected by additional mandates implemented by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Finally, Arizona Board of Regent Chair Larry Penley explains how the state’s public university system as a whole is adapting to challenges brought on by the pandemic.

For more and to see this week's episode, click here.

'Show me your papers': A decade after SB 1070


July 29 marked a decade since the controversial state law SB 1070 went into effect in Arizona.

Known as the "show me your papers" law, SB 1070 required state law enforcement to ask those deemed suspicious of being undocumented to present proof of legal immigration status during routine traffic stops. It also made it a misdemeanor crime to be caught without those papers.

It was the strictest anti-immigration legislation in the country at the time and a measure many worried would easily lead to racial profiling. The law was partially struck down by the Supreme Court just two years later, in 2012.

Learn more about the lasting effects of the law here.

Latino leaders urge better promotion of free virus tests


PHOENIX — Tens of thousands of coronavirus test kits that went unused during a 12-day testing blitz in Phoenix's hardest-hit Latino neighborhoods shows a failure to spread the word to a community that’s often distrustful of government.

Suspicion over uniformed National Guard members at the testing site and initial requirements to show IDs and pre-register also stopped many Latinos from getting a free test in the national COVID-19 hot spot. Community leaders say officials need to go beyond the obvious translations and press releases when communicating with Hispanic people.

That can include promoting events on popular social media accounts or doing live interviews on Spanish radio.

Learn more here.

Yuma County tribes use messaging, testing to beat back COVID-19 amid surge


The coronavirus pandemic poses a devastating threat to smaller tribes. That very real possibility is on minds of tribal and state leadership across the country. The small tribes in Yuma County say with consistent messaging and a prepared health facility they have so far avoided the worst of it.

The Quechan and Cocopah Indian tribes are in Yuma County where a surge of COVID-19 began in early June. The Arizona Republic reported during the week of June 7, 22% of tests in the county were returning positive, while 14% of tests were positive statewide. Charles Escalanti is a council member for Quechan Indian Tribe, which straddles the Arizona-California border in the Fort Yuma Reservation. In a June 19 interview, when numbers were on the rise, he said the disease could devastate the approximately 4,000 member tribe if it continued to spread.

Learn more here.

Road to Tucson's Mount Lemmon to reopen after large wildfire


The road to Mount Lemmon is scheduled to open to the public this weekend months ahead of schedule as crews repair the damage from a recent massive wildfire near Tucson. The Arizona Daily Star reports that Catalina Highway was expected to remain closed until Nov. 1 because of the lightning-caused Bighorn Fire that charred about 187 square miles before it was recently contained. Saturday’s opening will allow car access to Summerhaven and Ski Valley.

National forest areas on the mountain remain closed and that includes hiking trails and campgrounds. The Pima County Department of Transportation spent this week replacing more than 250 guardrail posts that were damaged in the wildfire.

Learn more here.

Mosquitoes at Lake Havasu test positive for West Nile virus


LAKE HAVASU CITY — Health officials are asking visitors to avoid a beach on the east side of Lake Havasu after mosquitoes gathered there tested positive for the West Nile virus.

Mohave County routinely collects and tests mosquitoes that have the potential for carrying the virus. Officials say mosquitoes around Body Beach, a half-mile stretch of shoreline, recently tested positive. They're asking visitors to stay away from the area, or wear insect repellent to reduce the risk of getting bitten. The lake that straddles the Arizona-Nevada border is a popular tourist spot.

Deadline extended for tribes to seek broadband licenses


FLAGSTAFF — Tribes have another month to apply for a band of wireless spectrum to establish or expand internet on their lands. The Federal Communications Commission had opened a priority filing window for tribes to access a mid-band spectrum that largely is unassigned across the western United States. The commission on Friday extended the deadline to Sept. 2.

Tribes had sought more time because of the coronavirus pandemic. They said tribes have struggled to gather the information needed to apply for the licenses once reserved for educational institutions. The FCC says setting the deadline further out would delay the granting of licenses to those who already have applied.

Phoenix hits 118 degrees; tops 1934's previous mark of 115


PHOENIX — It was a record-setting heat day for Phoenix. The National Weather Service says Phoenix reached a high of 118 degrees Thursday, topping the previous record of 115 set in 1934. It also marked the sixth-warmest day on record for the city.

Meteorologists say it was the first time the temperature had reached 118 degrees at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport since July 7, 2017. Thursday’s record high temperature came amid an excessive heat warning issued Tuesday by the weather service.

Learn more here.

Buffalo Exchange closes Colorado stores amid abuse case


DENVER — A vintage clothing retailer based in Tucson has cut ties with three of its Colorado stores after dozens of anonymous allegations of employee abuse surfaced on Instagram this week. Buffalo Exchange has stores in 19 states, with three locations in Denver and Boulder.

The Denver Post reported the Denver Police Department is investigating the allegations against franchise managing partner Patrick Todd Colletti of sexual assault and underage drug and alcohol abuse. No police reports related to the allegations were filed but Denver Police have opened an investigation. A person using Colletti’s name and number emailed the paper, but did not respond for further requests for comment.

Learn more here.

'The Time Is Here': Rocky Point Opens Beaches

Fronteras Desk

Visitors to the beach town of Rocky Point in neighboring Sonora, Mexico, will finally be able to get back in the water Saturday, Aug. 1, as the town reopens beaches for the first time in more than four months.

Puerto Peñasco, known as Rocky Point, has slowly been reopening over the past several months after shutting down completely in March because of the coronavirus. Now, Rocky Point Mayor Ernesto Munro says it’s finally time to reopen the town’s biggest attraction - its beaches. He also said cooperation is necessary in order for this to go well.

Checkpoints with temperature checks and sanitation tunnels previously installed at the entrance of the city are now at the town’s public beaches, Munro said. Once they pass the checkpoints, visitors will be required to social distance, stay with their groups of no more than 10 people, wear face coverings entering and exiting the beach and bring their own trash-bags.

Learn more here.

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