COVID-19 in Arizona: Navajo Nation sees a spike in cases

  • Slug: BC-CNS Arizona COVID Update, 655 words.
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By Abigail Vaerewyck
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Despite promising trends last week, the Navajo Department of Health reported a spike in COVID-19 cases Monday, with 98 new cases and five additional deaths.

As of Sunday, the total number of deaths on the Navajo Nation reservation was 246. Officials said 5,348 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, and they estimated 1,840 people have recovered.

“During this difficult time, we ask our citizens to practice preventive measures to minimize COVID-19 exposure,” Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said in a statement. In addition to urging tribal members to disinfect items that come into their homes, wear masks and use hand sanitizer, Lizer said, “Remember to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and allow elders and others at high risk of severe illness to move up in shopping lines to lessen their exposure of COVID-19.” Continue reading “COVID-19 in Arizona: Navajo Nation sees a spike in cases”

Mayors glad to get COVID-19 relief funding, wish it had arrived sooner

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Mayors CARES,760
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By Blake Freas
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Mayors around the state said they welcome the $441 million in COVID-19 relief funding released by the state this week – they just wish they could have welcomed it sooner.

“The fact that this has taken so long, it’s sad,” said Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans, one of several local leaders who said this week that they wish the money had come directly from the federal government and had not been filtered through the state. Continue reading “Mayors glad to get COVID-19 relief funding, wish it had arrived sooner”

COVID-19 in Arizona: 790 new cases breaks record for second straight day

  • Slug: BC-CNS Arizona COVID Update, 715 words.
  • Graphic here.

By Brett Bavcevic
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – In the days since Gov. Doug Ducey announced the reopening of Arizona schools this fall and youth sports this summer, the Arizona Department of Health Services has reported 2,173 new cases of COVID-19, with Friday and Saturday setting successive single-day records of 702 and 790 cases, respectively.

The state has issued guidance on safely reopening youth sports and activities, much of it relying on parents to take the appropriate steps to assure the health of young children, teachers and coaches who could be exposed to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“Our approach is going to remain calm and steady, we’re going to take urgent action when it comes to public health,” Ducey said Thursday. Ducey lifted Arizona’s statewide stay-at-home order on May 15.

“We would recommend to every Arizonan to take precautions,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services. “If you start to develop symptoms, stay home.” Continue reading “COVID-19 in Arizona: 790 new cases breaks record for second straight day”

Bills seek to limit puberty blockers, other medical treatment for transgender youth

  • Slug: BC-CNS Anti-Trans Bills, 1,160 words.
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  • 1 video by Madison LaBerge of Cronkite News here. (Caption: In what advocates call an unprecedented attack on transgender people, bills proposed in state legislatures aim to restrict medical treatment to transgender youth and potentially criminalize doctors who provide it.)

By Gabrielle Zabat
Cronkite News

TUCSON – For 17-year-old Fran Howard, receiving medical care has not always been easy. Howard identifies as nonbinary gender queer and uses they/them pronouns.

Years ago, Howard began seeking treatment to help transition but found it difficult to find a doctor who respected the decision and Howard’s medical needs.

“I felt like I had to prove my identity,” Howard said. “Just being in a trans body … and existing in the world is already so difficult, and going to the doctor is just this whole super invasive experience.”

Legislation cropping up in statehouses across the U.S. could make that experience even more difficult.

In at least a dozen states, including South Dakota, Florida and Ohio, bills were introduced this year to make it harder for transgender minors to get medical treatment such as puberty blockers and other hormone therapies. Continue reading “Bills seek to limit puberty blockers, other medical treatment for transgender youth”

Preliminary OK for Little Colorado dam proposals worries plan’s critics

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By Ellie Borst
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Federal regulators have given a Phoenix company the green light to study a hydropower project for the Little Colorado River, what opponents fear is a first step toward “destroying incredibly rare, beautiful, sacred resources.”

The OK last week from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission came despite a slew of concerns about the project’s potential impact on endangered species, tribal lands and environmental, cultural and public sites. Continue reading “Preliminary OK for Little Colorado dam proposals worries plan’s critics”

Temperature checks, no high fives: AIA announces guidelines for high school athletes to return to sports

  • Slug: Sports-AIA Sports Resume, 770 words.
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By Derrick Smith and Jackson Lautaret

Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Eliminating high fives, coaching in groups of 10 people or less and administering regular temperature checks are among the recommendations the Arizona Interscholastic Association is endorsing for high school athletes as they begin practice for the fall sports season.

The AIA, the state’s governing body for high school sports, is following guidelines produced by the national Sports Medicine Advisory Committee for a state that is in phase one, which is the case with Arizona. The association also offered guidelines for when the state moves into phase two and three.

“Our priority through this is for the safety and well-being of all our state’s student-athletes and those that support them,” said David Hines, executive director of the AIA. “We are not guaranteed to have a fall season. We are preparing to be ready on time, but it will all depend on how this situation develops as the summer goes on. We just ask that schools, coaches, players and parents consider and utilize the guidelines until we get back to normal.” Continue reading “Temperature checks, no high fives: AIA announces guidelines for high school athletes to return to sports”

Navajo COVID curve flattens, but leaders fear post-holiday spike in cases

  • Slug: BC-CNS Navajo COVID, 560 words.
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By Bree Florence
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – After weeks of grim news as the pandemic tore through the Navajo Nation, the curve of positive COVID-19 cases has begun to flatten, President Jonathan Nez said Thursday.

The rate of hospitalizations peaked April 25, Nez reported during a town hall on Facebook Live, nearly a month ahead of the mid-May date projected to be the peak by the Navajo Area Indian Health Service projection rate.

“We did what it took, working together, all of us,” Nez said. “You stayed home, and that’s what brought these numbers – and the curve flattened.”

For weeks, the Navajo Nation has issued curfews and weekend-long lockdowns in an attempt to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. An eighth curfew has been called for this weekend. Continue reading “Navajo COVID curve flattens, but leaders fear post-holiday spike in cases”

Cities, counties to get $441 million in direct COVID-19 relief funds

  • Slug: BC-CNS-CARES Cities,700
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By Blake Freas
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona cities and counties will get access to nearly $600 million in COVID-19 relief funding, part of the more than $1.8 billion awarded two months ago to Arizona under the federal CARES Act.

Larger jurisdictions received their funds directly from the federal government, but Gov. Doug Ducey said Wednesday that the remaining cities and counties in the state will get $441 million directly, based on population. They will also have access to another $150 million in emergency relief funds. Continue reading “Cities, counties to get $441 million in direct COVID-19 relief funds”

Despite slight dip, Phoenix still ranks high for solar power in cities

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By Ellie Borst
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Phoenix dipped slightly in a national ranking of solar power capacity, even as the total amount of power generated and the power per person increased from last year, according to a national report released Wednesday.

The “Shining Cities” report by Environment America said Phoenix’s 272.4 megawatts of solar capacity was fourth-highest in the nation last year, down one place from the year before, while the 164 watts per capita was good for eighth place, a drop of two spots.

Still, the city ranked again as a “solar star” for its overall capacity, which Mayor Kate Gallego called a testament to the city’s dedication to solar power. Continue reading “Despite slight dip, Phoenix still ranks high for solar power in cities”

Pac-12 OKs in-person workouts, tries to solve puzzle of COVID-19 state rules

  • Slug: Sports-Pac-12 Football Preparation, 800 words.
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By Mike McQuade
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Although the Pac-12 has suggested an on-time start to the college football season is possible, the conference still must wait to see how the six states where the teams are located are handling the pandemic.

The league said in a statement Tuesday that it will allow voluntary in-person athletic workouts for all sports beginning June 15, “subject to the decision of each individual campus and where permissible by relevant governmental entities.”

The states in the conference – Arizona, California, Oregon, Utah, Colorado and Washington – have moved at different paces while they reopen.

Continue reading “Pac-12 OKs in-person workouts, tries to solve puzzle of COVID-19 state rules”

Amid conflict over Salt River horses, a controversial fence is finished

  • Slug: BC-CNS Salt River Horses, 1,010 words.
  • 4 photos and captions below.
  • 1 video here.

By Jennifer Alvarez
Cronkite News

UPDATE: Since this report first aired in February, the fencing project was completed, according to Tonto National Forest officials.

MESA – Gently, Simone Netherlands blew air into the horse’s nose.

“It’s just kind of a way of saying ‘Hi’ to horses,” she said. “Have you ever seen that in the wild where they blow into each other’s nose? It’s just like a greeting.”

Except these horses no longer can live in the wild. This facility run by Salt River Wild Horse Management Group is their new forever home.

Netherlands, who is president of the nonprofit, has fought to protect hundreds of feral horses like these for years – working to help pass a state law making it illegal to harass the horses and raising funds to feed the herd, fight disease and provide birth control.

The latest battle involved a fence. More specifically, Netherlands and her group tried to stop officials with the Tonto National Forest from installing a pipe rail fence along the lower Salt River, which separates the forest from the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. Continue reading “Amid conflict over Salt River horses, a controversial fence is finished”

COVID-19 can’t stop Muslims from celebrating Eid – with some tweaks

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Distanced Eid,750
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By Farah Eltohamy
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Mahleej Zara woke up worried Sunday that celebrations for the end of Ramadan would be dampened by COVID-19 restrictions – but that was before the “car parade” let the Islamic Community Center in Tempe celebrate together while remaining safely distanced.

It was just one of the changes that Arizona Muslims made this year for Eid al-Fitr, which ends the month of fasting of Ramadan. Other mosques held car parades for the holiday, encouraged prayers online or at home or, in one instance, allowed worshipers in the mosque who wore masks and prayed a safe distance from one another. Continue reading “COVID-19 can’t stop Muslims from celebrating Eid – with some tweaks”

As holiday crowds packed tourist spots, fears rose of COVID-19 spread

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By Lisa Diethelm
Cronkite News

Memorial Day weekend crowds that one official said were “off the charts” at Arizona vacation spots have health experts worried that tourist behavior could lead to an increase of COVID-19 of cases.

With the state’s stay-at-home orders largely lifted this month, tourists flocked to sites like Lake Havasu, Scottsdale and Lake Pleasant, according to news reports. At Lake Havasu, one official said, “The lake was full, the river was full. Every activity we had, there were people involved in.”

While it was legal, it may not have been wise, according to one health official, who said the “behavior over the holiday weekend will increase transmission of the virus.” Continue reading “As holiday crowds packed tourist spots, fears rose of COVID-19 spread”

Remote control: Even away from players, Pac-12 football coaches try to stay on track for season

  • Slug: Sports-Pac-12 Football Coaches, 900 words.
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By Christian Babcock
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Teaching, mentoring, planning.

Just because Pac-12 football coaches have to practice social distancing with their players, their work hasn’t stopped. The needs of their players still have to be met.

On a Zoom webinar, UCLA’s Chip Kelly, Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith and Arizona State’s Herm Edwards dished on how they’re handling the unusual challenges the COVID-19 pandemic presents. Continue reading “Remote control: Even away from players, Pac-12 football coaches try to stay on track for season”

Veterans cemeteries go virtual for Memorial Day services this year

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Virtual Memorials,540
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By Ellie Borst
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Organizers said they worked hard to make sure Memorial Day ceremonies at Arizona veterans’ cemeteries this year stay true to tradition, with guest speakers, a moment of remembrance and the singing of the National Anthem.

Except that the audience for this year’s ceremony will not be graveside but will be watching online.

In a bow to COVID-19 health concerns, the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services will be going online with the annual Memorial Day ceremony and related events at the state’s three military cemeteries. Continue reading “Veterans cemeteries go virtual for Memorial Day services this year”

Tribe aims to improve dental health by bringing smiles to the dental visit

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Apache Dental,700
  • 3 photos, video story available (thumbnails, captions below)

By Madison LaBerge
Cronkite News

SAN CARLOS – As she looked at the Disney characters decorating the walls of the San Carlos Apache Healthcare Dental Clinic and at the smiling, laughing children watching dental health demonstrations, Suzanne Haney thought back to what a trip to the dentist used to be.

“Back then, it was so different, it was in the ‘70s you know, the treatment wasn’t great,” said Haney, a grandmother and primary caretaker for three children under age 8. “It made you afraid to come to the dentist.”

That was just one of the challenges facing health care officials on the San Carlos Apache reservation as they struggled to improve dental health of tribe members. Continue reading “Tribe aims to improve dental health by bringing smiles to the dental visit”

Report: Treasury formula for COVID-19 funding shortchanges some tribes

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Treasury Tribes,770
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By Lisa Diethelm
Cronkite News

Arizona tribes were among those who could get too much – or too little – COVID-19 relief funding under a Treasury Department funding formula that is based on “probably not the best numbers,” according to the author of a new report.

The policy brief from the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development and the University of Arizona’s Native Nations Institute criticized the formula used to allocate the first $4.8 billion of relief to tribes under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Treasury and the Interior Department said in a May 5 statement that they used a formula aimed at ensuring that every tribe gets at least $100,000, with larger tribes getting more based on population. Continue reading “Report: Treasury formula for COVID-19 funding shortchanges some tribes”

Softball community faces its toughest opponent yet: COVID-19

  • Slug: Sports-Softball Coronavirus, 2,200 words.
  • Four photos available.

By Lauren Serrato
Special for Cronkite News

PHOENIX – About this time eight years ago, Justyce McClain, a 15-year-old softball standout at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in north Phoenix, sealed her path to higher education with a verbal commitment to attend McNeese State University in Louisiana on a full-ride athletic scholarship.

Her sister, Syd Williams, who’s 12, aspires to follow in Justyce’s footsteps. But starting this season, an NCAA rule change prohibits recruiters from contacting prospects until they’re juniors in high school.

That actually lifted a big weight off the shoulders of Syd and her parents, who were happy their younger daughter would be able to play without any additional pressure. Continue reading “Softball community faces its toughest opponent yet: COVID-19”

Limited Memorial Day reopening of Grand Canyon ‘premature,’ say critics

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Canyon Holiday,750
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By Ellie Borst
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The Grand Canyon will reopen on a limited basis for Memorial Day weekend, a move critics call “premature” during the COVID-19 pandemic and “tone-deaf” in the face of startling infection rates in the neighboring Navajo Nation.

The opening, from Friday to Monday, is just the second at the park, which was completely closed to visitors on April 1 to stem the spread of the virus. The park also opened for four days last weekend on a limited basis. Continue reading “Limited Memorial Day reopening of Grand Canyon ‘premature,’ say critics”

Holidays, on ice: COVID-19 upends Memorial Day weekend travel plans

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By Lisa Diethelm
Cronkite News

The travel forecast for this Memorial Day weekend is fuzzy – just another victim of the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the first time in 20 years, AAA has canceled its Memorial Day travel forecast as COVID-19 has affected the way it collects data for its survey. Experts say the traffic is not likely to be anywhere near the 43 million Americans who traveled for the holiday last year, but after that it’s anybody’s guess.

“I think people just don’t know. I think people in the industry don’t know either,” said Eileen Ogintz, a family travel columnist. “It is just hard to gauge what is going to happen.” Continue reading “Holidays, on ice: COVID-19 upends Memorial Day weekend travel plans”