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The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona surpassed 18K as of Thursday, May 28, with an additional 702 new cases reported yesterday, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. 

Pima County had 2,234 of the state's 18,465 confirmed cases.

The coronavirus had killed 885 people statewide, including 185 in Pima County, according to the report.

In Maricopa County, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had risen to 9,112.

Because symptoms can take as long as two weeks to appear after exposure to the virus (while some people can remain entirely asymptomatic), health officials continue to urge the public to avoid unnecessary trips and gatherings of more than 10 people, especially if you have underlying health conditions, and have advised people to cover their faces with masks in public.

• Two weeks after Gov. Doug Ducey lifted Arizona's stay-at-home order, Arizona hospitals are seeing a rise in the number of people hospitalized with COVID symptoms, as well as more people visiting emergency rooms. Today's Arizona Department of Health Services report shows that through yesterday, 931 Arizonans were hospitalized, a drop of 14 from yesterday's record 945. A record number of 667 people arrived at emergency rooms with COVID-like symptom on May 28, according to the report.

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• There's a big partisan divide on whether the state is reopening too quickly, but most Arizonans are ready to get the hell out of their houses, according to a poll out yesterday. Roughly 41 percent of voters surveyed by political consulting firm HighGround say the state is moving "too fast" to reopen and get back to business. But roughly 39 percent say the reopening pace is "just about right." Another 19 percent say they don't know.

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Despite that split, the poll found most Arizonans are ready to resume at least some of their normal activities. Three-fourths of those surveyed say they are at least probably ready to get back to hosting friends and family, 74 percent say they are probably ready to gather in groups of 10 or fewer, about two-thirds are probably ready to go shopping and nearly 60 percent are probably ready to go back to restaurants. More details here.

• Gov. Doug Ducey announced yesterday during a press conference that he expects Arizona schools to reopen in the fall. Ducey said he was working with Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, who will release details about the reopening on Monday, June 1. Arizona schools closed to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in mid-March, while students were out on spring break. Teachers delivered the final quarter's lessons online.

 

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• As Pima County emerges from the state's stay-at-home order, many establishments have reopened and more are planning to in the weeks to come as local elected officials attempt to enact emergency regulations or otherwise advise people how to safely avoid COVID-19 infection.

Dr. Bob England, Pima County's Interim Health Director, said the next few weeks will show healthcare experts two things: The degree to which our population has developed an immunity to COVID-19 and the seasonality of the disease. He said if the virus behaves really seasonally and cases continue to drop since Arizona’s stay-home order was lifted May 15, that’s good news in the short run. However, he said there could be bad news later in the year.

“But in the long run, that may mean we’re in for it in the winter because if it comes back with a vengeance during the time we have other respiratory viruses and flus circulating, that could be a real mess for all of us,” England said earlier this week in a YouTube briefing.

England said now was the time to prepare, both as residents and healthcare providers, for any potential resurgence. England added that if COVID-19 behaves like other coronaviruses, and if our immune system behaves as it does with other illnesses caused by coronaviruses, “then maybe we’ve got a couple of years worth of protection to look forward to. That means this may be an every winter phenomenon.”

• Pima County Justice Court is set to start hearing eviction cases next week, with 500 on the docket. Evictions had been delayed as a result of the spread COVID-19 and the subsequent economic meltdown, but as the moratorium nears its end and Arizona hits triple-digit temperatures, hundreds of people in Pima County are now facing losing their home.

• The Tucson City Council approved a strategic plan this week to distribute $95.7 million from the federal CARES Act. Among the provisions, according to a city press release, the plan includes $22 million in community aid including forgivable grants for small business and non-profits, rental and utility assistance, funds for distance learning and wifi access, domestic violence prevention, childcare and food delivery for seniors; $38 million in funding for the continuity of city operations and services, including meeting the payroll needs of our first responders; and $33 million in reserves for Mayor and Council to assess future needs and allocate funds.

• The Arizona Attorney General's Office dismissed a complaint against the Pima County Board of Supervisors over regulations for restaurants on a legal technicality. The complaint had been filed by Sen. Vince Leach and Reps. Mark Finchem and Bret Roberts after supervisors voted 3-2 to create new rules related to the “best practices” strategies developed by the county’s Back To Business Task Force. But the Board of Supervisors later voted 3-2 to revise the rules, repealing the original proclamation that was basis of the complaint. That rendered the complain moot, according to the AG's Office. Some of the most significant revisions include removal of the $500 civil penalty, allowing bartop seating as long as six-foot distancing requirements are met and nixing 50 percent occupancy guidelines if physical distancing allows for higher occupancy. The GOP lawmakers could file a new complaint based on the new revised rules.

• Tucson City Court will begin hearing more cases on Monday, June 1. The court has been closed since March except to hear a limited number of cases. As the court reopens, all staff and visitors will be required to wear a face mask, maintain social distance to the extent possible, and undergo a temperature check. Anyone who has a fever of more than 100.4 or above having their hearing rescheduled. Access to the courtrooms will be restricted to court staff, defendants, parties, witnesses, victims, treatment providers, ADA assistants and attorneys who wear masks or face coverings. The public should arrive a half-hour before their scheduled hearing time to navigate the new restrictions.

Other City of Tucson buildings remain closed to public access through June 8. When city buildings reopen, visitors will be required to wear masks and may need to undergo a temperature check before being allowed in. City employees can continue to telecommute, especially those with underlying health conditions or those who have children who need care. The city is continuing its moratorium on disconnecting water service and the moratorium on evictions at city-owned properties through June 30.

• COVID-19 symptoms typically occur two to 14 days after exposure, and include headache, fever, cough, shortness of breath or a loss of taste and smell, according to the CDC. However, some cases of the virus are entirely asymptomatic. Practices to avoid infection include social distancing (of at least six feet), washing your hands, avoiding unnecessary trips and not touching your face. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever, cough or difficulty breathing, speak with a healthcare provider for medical advice.

According to the CDC, people who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to recover at home. Stay at home and avoid public transportation, but stay in touch with your doctor. If you do leave your home, wear a facemask and clean your hands often. If you develop more severe symptoms (persistent pain or pressure in the chest, confusion, bluish lips) get medical attention immediately. Your local health authorities will give instructions on checking your symptoms and reporting information.

Have you caught COVID-19? Are you feeling ill? Is your small business struggling to make it? Have you lost your job as a result of the outbreak? Are you struggling to manage your kids while schools are closed? Tell us your COVID-19 stories. Send an email or photo to jimn@tucsonlocalmedia.com.

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