/ Modified aug 4, 2020 4:39 p.m.

News roundup: Primary election underway in AZ, UA group wants to unionize

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Aug. 4.

Cases 180,505 | Deaths 3,845 | Diagnostic tests 971,244.

On Tuesday, Aug. 4, the state reported 1,008 new cases of novel coronavirus and 66 additional deaths. Out of concern for public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some polling places have put sanitary measures in place, like mask requirements and distanced voting booths.

Arizona primary election is here


Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Pima County has a mask ordinance in place so voters must wear a mask. Poll workers will give a mask to people without one. They will also have hand sanitizer and disinfectant spray to help keep voting areas clean.

Nearly 90,000 Pima County residents voted early. People who still have an early ballot can drop it off at any polling location. Ballots must be received by the county today, not postmarked today. The first results from today’s election should be announced around 8 p.m.

Pima County voters can locate their nearest polling place here.

Counties navigate restrictions on tribal land for primary


FLAGSTAFF — The coronavirus is forcing changes to the way people will vote in Tuesday's primary election in Arizona. On tribal land, election officials are navigating closures, curfews and other restrictions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Arizona's largest county has moved early and in-person voting outside in some instances on the Navajo Nation to maintain social distancing.

Another tribe deep in the Grand Canyon that has no confirmed coronavirus cases has shortened the hours for voting to limit the interaction among tribal members. A county in eastern Arizona is using a ticketing system to let voters cast ballots curbside or inside.

Learn more here.

UA group critical of university's pandemic response wants a union


The Coalition for Academic Justice at UArizona (CAJUA) said Tuesday morning that they plan to form a union at the University of Arizona.

The announcement came as a result of dissatisfaction with the university’s plans for furloughs and layoffs as well as the reopening plan.

“I am unhappy, I’m disappointed with the decision-making that’s been happening, even prior to the current leadership. This has been going on for decades and it's time that we wake up, step in and push back on this,” said Gonzalez de Bustamante.

The group is in the process of collecting commitments from faculty, staff and graduate students to form the union.

Learn more here.

Report predicts state homelessness to rise with the unemployment rate


A recent report out of the University of Arizona estimates that the rate of homelessness could rise up to 29% if Arizona's unemployment rate increases another 10 percentage points during the pandemic.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports Arizona's unemployment rate has bounced from 4.5% at the beginning of the year to 10% in June. The UA report looking at homelessness in Arizona during the pandemic predicted if that number rose to 15%, the authors expect the rate of homelessness across the state to increase by 16%. If the unemployment rate increases to 20%, they conservatively predict a 29% increase in the rate of homelessness.

Keith Bentele, an author on the paper, said the likelihood homelessness will make these jumps depends on how governments at the local and federal level respond to housing insecurity.

Learn more here.

Man dies in TPD custody Tuesday morning


Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus announced a 29-year-old man died in police custody early Tuesday morning. The man, identified as Jesus Gilberto Gutierrez, was found unconscious from an apparent drug overdose after breaking into the backyard of a Tucson resident. Officers tried unsuccessfully to revive him. Magnus says they acted appropriately and shared a video of the incident to be “transparent.”

Police gave the man two doses of Narcan and administered CPR, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The department has been under scrutiny since June, when Mayor Regina Romero announced police waited two months to disclose the in-custody death of a man in April.

Magnus says separate administrative and criminal investigations are underway into the death.

Tucson moves ahead with public Wi-Fi


Four Tucson neighborhoods where broadband access is rare could soon get free, public Wi-Fi from the city.

The City Council on July 21 approved a plan to spend more than $4 million from the federal CARES Act to set up public internet access serving neighborhoods where most families don't have broadband. Council members supported the idea of using money from the coronavirus relief bill to help out people who are working and learning from home in the midst of a pandemic.

Council members were divided on whether or not to move forward with the expansion, out of concern the plan had not been fully fleshed out.

Learn more here.

Eller faculty warned UA purchase of for-profit university would be ‘catastrophic’


The University of Arizona’s acquisition of a for-profit university would cause “irreparable damage” to the university’s reputation, risk lawsuits and harm relationships with donors and faculty, according to a letter faculty at the Eller College of Management sent to university leaders in June.

The UA announced Monday a deal to acquire Ashford University, an online for-profit university with over 35,000 students. The venture is intended to bolster UA’s online offerings and would create a new nonprofit dubbed University of Arizona Global Campus. The letter, sent to the Arizona Board of Regents, UA President Robert Robbins, and other administrators June 19 and obtained by Arizona Public Media, resulted from a faculty review of Ashford’s assets.

Learn more here.

Tortoise regains some protections, as agency agrees to revisit endangered status


Under an agreement approved by a federal court this week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will restore the Sonoran Desert tortoise to the candidate list for the Endangered Species Act and take 18 months to evaluate the species status and issue a new decision on its eligibility for such federal protection.

Last fall, Western Watersheds Project and WildEarth Guardians filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service for their 2015 decision not to list the Sonoran Desert tortoise under the ESA.

Learn more here.

Pence to visit Arizona next week with stops in Tucson, Mesa


Vice President Mike Pence plans to visit Arizona next Tuesday with scheduled stops in two cities before returning to Washington that evening. The White House announced Tuesday that Pence will visit Tucson to accept the endorsement of the Arizona Association of Police and then go to Mesa to participate in the Latter-day Saints for Trump Coalition rollout in Mesa. No additional details were released.

Trump visited Arizona last month for a meeting with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and public health officials. Bill Clinton in 1996 was the last Democratic presidential nominee to win Arizona but the state is regarded as competitive in this year’s presidential race.

Learn more here.

Arizona reports 1,008 additional COVID cases, 66 more deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona health officials report 1,008 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 66 more deaths from the coronavirus outbreak as the state saw slight increases in several hospitalization metrics. The state Department of Health Services on Tuesday reported that the newly reported cases and deaths raised the confirmed case total to 180,505 and the death toll to 3,845.

Data on COVID-19 hospitalizations and COVID-19-related use of intensive care beds and ventilators rose slightly Monday after trending downward since mid-July while the number of COVID-19-related emergency room visits dropped slightly.

Learn more here.

Navajo Nation reports 36 more COVID-19 cases, 1 more death


WINDOW ROCK — Navajo Nation health officials have reported 36 more cases of COVID-19 and one additional death. That brings the total number of people infected to 9,139 and the known death toll to 462 as of Monday night. Tribal health officials say 82,148 people have been tested for the coronavirus and 6,743 have recovered.

The vast majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover. For some people it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some people who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness and death.

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