Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab.

The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Arizona continued to skyrocket, topping 74,000 as of Monday, June 29, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Pima County had seen 7,568 of the state’s 74,533 confirmed cases. On the previous Monday, June 22, the state had 54,586 cases. A total of 1,588 Arizonans had died after contracting COVID-19, including 268 in Pima County, according to the June 29 report. Arizona hospitals continued to see a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. ADHS reported that as of June 28, a record number of 2,721 Arizonans were hospitalized and a record 679 people were in ICU units. The report shows 992 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptoms on June 28. 

Nationwide, more than 2.5 million people had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, which had killed nearly 126,000 people in the United States as of Monday, June 29, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University.

• Banner Health Chief Clinical Officer Marjorie Bessel announced over the weekend that the hospital network, which treats about half of Arizona's hospitalized COVID patients, was reaching its limit as it activated its surge plan and balanced its load of patients among its facilities. Banner is calling in additional health care workers from around the country.

• In a press conference last week, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey warned the worst days of the outbreak still lay ahead.

“I don’t want there to be any illusion or sugar-coated expectations," Ducey said. "We expect that our numbers will be worse next week and the week following in terms of cases and hospitalizations."

Ducey noted the greatest growth was among people ages 20 to 44, who generally do not face the worst symptoms of the disease but are capable of transmitting it to parents, grandparents, and others who do. 

• Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman last week announced new funding for Arizona schools to support the reopening of schools in August. Ducey resolved a major challenge that schools were facing: Funding is based on how many students physically attend schools and with some families turning to online learning to avoid infection in the classroom, those numbers are likely to fall. Ducey, rather than call a special session of lawmakers to change the law, instead issued an executive order providing $200 million to Arizona schools to prevent the funding cuts and support remote learning. The package also includes $40 million to improve broadband lines in rural Arizona, where internet connections can be spotty; $20 million for high-need schools; $6 million for the Arizona Teacher Academy to help with a teacher shortage; $1 million in micro-grants for innovative learning programs; $1 million to purchase vehicles for the Arizona School for the Deaf and Blind; $700 for leadership development; and $500,000 for tutoring programs. The Arizona Department of Education is providing an additional $25 million from the federal CARES Act for additional assistance to schools.

• As the number of cases spread, some local restaurants, such DOWNTOWN Kitchen and Cocktails, BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs, Beyond Bread and Little Anthony's Diner, have closed their dining rooms and are returning to takeout service. “I love my customers and I love my staff, and I’m concerned,” Little Anthony's owner Tony Terry said. “It was an easy decision until things calm down and we get a handle on it. I really think every responsible business owner in Tucson should do the same thing."

• While Marana is going forward with its Fourth of July fireworks display (but without a large gathering), Oro Valley and Tucson canceled their usual displays. Tucson City Manager Mike Ortega said he hoped the show atop “A” Mountain could be rescheduled “when we can all safely come together, to celebrate coming out of this time of crisis and our return to a new normal for our society."

Major League Baseball announced it would start playing a 60-game season on July 23, with players reporting for training next week. Among the changes: Both leagues will adopt the designated hitter and in extra-innings game, teams will be granted a runner on second base at the start of each half-inning. Players will be tested for COVID-19 every other day and some players will sit in the stands or another area. Players will also be required to wear masks in the dugout. Also not allowed: Fist bumps, high fives, fans in the stands.

• The tri-state area of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, announced this week that visitors from Arizona and eight other states with skyrocketing COVID-19 infections would have to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Earlier this year, Arizona required people from those northwestern states to do a similar quarantine here while they had high numbers of coronavirus patients.

Additional reporting from Kathleen B. Kunz, Austin Counts, Jeff Gardner, Tara Foulkrod and Jim Nintzel.

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