Community health centers struggle to serve and survive during pandemic

  • Slug: BC-CNS Community Health Crisis, 1,000 words.
  • 3 photos, video available (thumbnails, captions below)

By Franco LaTona
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – On a sun-drenched afternoon, Ana Brito arrives for a doctor’s appointment at Desert Mission Health Center, greeting staff members in Spanish. Nestled on a quiet street in north central Phoenix, the clinic is a one-stop shop for some of the city’s most vulnerable.

Brito, 46, and her husband are uninsured, but the clinic provides medical and dental care at discounted rates. She doesn’t own a vehicle or drive, but the clinic is close enough that she can walk.

“I like the service,” she said, “and the people and staff are very friendly.” Continue reading “Community health centers struggle to serve and survive during pandemic”

Judge promises quick decision in latest Arizona GOP attack on election

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Ballot Audit,570
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By Allen H. Awfe
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – A Maricopa County judge said he would decide by Thursday morning whether to let the Arizona Republican Party proceed with its challenge to Maricopa County’s audit of ballots from this month’s election, an audit the party claims violated state law.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah Jr. appeared skeptical of GOP arguments that the county’s audit of ballots from its voting centers runs counter to state law, which requires an audit by precinct – even though the county did not have precinct-based voting this year. Continue reading “Judge promises quick decision in latest Arizona GOP attack on election”

In emotional Senate farewell, McSally thanks voters, wishes Kelly well

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By Mythili Gubbi
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – A sometimes emotional Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, gave her farewell address on the Senate floor Wednesday, saying that “serving and fighting for Arizona as a U.S. senator has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”

McSally also wished “all the best” to Sen.-elect Mark Kelly, the Democrat who unseated her in this month’s elections and could replace her in less than two weeks when the election results are due to be certified.

“It’s been a true honor Arizona. We are an extraordinary state with extraordinary people,” said McSally, whose voice caught more than once and who had to pause and collect herself before settling in to her roughly 14-minute speech. Continue reading “In emotional Senate farewell, McSally thanks voters, wishes Kelly well”

Coconino official backs bill to burn forest waste for renewable energy

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EDS: ADDS new grafs 4-5 and 15-16 to previous story to include late response from environmental opponents. No other changes.

By MacKenzie Belley
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Coconino County Supervisor Art Babbott urged senators Wednesday to pass a bill that would let limbs and trees left over from forest maintenance be burned for renewable energy.

Babbott, testifying before a Senate Energy and Natural Resources subcommittee, said the lack of a market for forest waste has been a bottleneck choking efforts to clear national forests of undergrowth and halt the growth of catastrophic wildfires. Continue reading “Coconino official backs bill to burn forest waste for renewable energy”

Ducey acts to reduce COVID risks from Thanksgiving travelers and winter visitors

  • Slug: BC-CNS Ducey COVID Update, 885 words.
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By Adianna Bermudez
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – With Thanksgiving and the arrival of winter visitors drawing near, Gov. Doug Ducey announced new efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 from travelers and assist Arizonans most affected by the disease.

“I know many in our state are asking: When will it end? The answer is: That’s not on the horizon. Arizona and our nation remain in a public health emergency,” Ducey said.

In a news conference Wednesday, Ducey and Dr. Cara Christ, the director of Arizona Department of Health Services, addressed holiday travel, the steep rise in Arizona’s caseload and the issues facing schools and hospitals in months to come. Christ also announced new Thanksgiving guidelines that encourage families to celebrate outside, reduce the size of gatherings, wear masks, maintain social distance and wash hands often – or celebrate virtually if relatives are immunocompromised or have recently been exposed to COVID-19. Continue reading “Ducey acts to reduce COVID risks from Thanksgiving travelers and winter visitors”

Carbon free energy required by 2050 under Arizona Corporation Commission proposal

  • Slug: BC-CNS Clean Energy Rules, 925 words.
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  • 1 sound clip by Mitchell Zimmermann here.

By Kyla Pearce
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – States across the Southwest have adopted clean energy plans that regulate utility companies and work toward carbon-free goals. After lagging for several years, Arizona is starting to catch up.

The Arizona Corporation Commission on Friday passed a proposal requiring utilities to be 100% free of carbon emissions by 2050 and meet particular benchmarks along the way.

According to the commission, carbon free requires the use of resources that do not generate carbon emissions “resulting from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, petroleum, natural gas, oil, shale, and bitumen.” Nuclear and hydroelectric generators are considered carbon free, as are wind and solar.

The 4-1 vote initiated the commission’s formal rulemaking process, which includes opportunities for customer comment and will provide the foundation for a final commission vote in 2021. Continue reading “Carbon free energy required by 2050 under Arizona Corporation Commission proposal”

Arizona comes up short on report on lung cancer screening, treatment

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Lung Losers,740
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By Josh Ortega
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona was in the bottom tier in three of six categories in a new American Lung Association report, which put the state dead-last for the number of patients who receive treatment after getting a diagnosis of lung cancer.

The 2020 “State of Lung Cancer” report released Tuesday also said Arizona ranked 46th among states for the number of patients who get surgery as a first course of treatment, and 44th for the number of people who get lung cancer screenings.

But the state was in the middle of the pack when it came to the early diagnosis of lung cancer and the five-year survival rate for people diagnosed with the disease. Continue reading “Arizona comes up short on report on lung cancer screening, treatment”

‘This is trauma’: Latino children face mental health struggles during pandemic

  • Slug: BC-CNS Latino Kids Mental Health, 1,415 words
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By Katherine Sypher
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – The halls at Manzanita Elementary School are emptier than they were a year ago. But school social worker Anthony Guillen says he’s far busier, as students struggle to deal with the increased stress and psychological toll brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a typical year at the north central Phoenix school, Guillen gets fewer than 100 referrals from teachers and parents concerned about their 600 children in grades K through 6. In just the first few months of this school year, he already has had 70.

“That’s a lot of referrals,” he said, “and a lot of them are for emotional needs.”

Many Manzanita students are Hispanic or Latino, and the school gets federal financial assistance as a Title 1 recipient, which means at least 40% of the students are from low-income families.

“They will be resilient,” Guillen said, “but right now it’s a hard time. … This is trauma.” Continue reading “‘This is trauma’: Latino children face mental health struggles during pandemic”

Ballot count complete, but Republicans press ahead with challenges

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Election Final,930
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By Olivia Munson
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Arizona elections officials finished counting the last of more than 3.4 million ballots over the weekend and are vowing to certify the results in the next two weeks, despite ongoing challenges from state Republicans.

In the final unofficial count, President Donald Trump narrowed the gap with President-elect Joe Biden, but still trailed by 10,457 votes, a slim margin of 49.39% to 49.09%. Continue reading “Ballot count complete, but Republicans press ahead with challenges”

Mount Graham red squirrel makes comeback, but not out of the woods yet

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Squirrel Comeback,730
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By Claire Chandler
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – An endangered squirrel that was driven to the brink of extinction by wildfire just three years ago in southern Arizona has seen its numbers more than triple following federal, state and local preservation efforts.

The Mount Graham red squirrel population was cut from 252 to just 33 squirrels in the wild after the Frye fire destroyed much of their habitat in 2017. But a survey released last month by state and federal agencies estimated there are now at least 109 squirrels on the mountain. Continue reading “Mount Graham red squirrel makes comeback, but not out of the woods yet”

‘Disruptive and cruel’: Native Americans worry as Supreme Court weighs repeal of health care act

  • Slug: BC-CNS Native Health ACA, 960 words.
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By Jake Lewis and Calah Schlabach
Cronkite News

PHOENIX – Native American leaders are keeping close watch on the Supreme Court battle over whether to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act, a move many say could devastate health care for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

“In our vulnerable populations, particularly in the time of COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on Native people, this is not where we need to be spending our energy,” said Stacy Bohlen, chief executive officer of the National Indian Health Board.

The Affordable Care Act, signed by President Barack Obama on March 23, 2010, expanded the number of Americans covered by private or public health insurance.

But the law, often referred to as Obamacare, also includes a number of provisions specific to Indian Country, including permanent reauthorization of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides ongoing funding for Native health programs, primarily through the Indian Health Service. Continue reading “‘Disruptive and cruel’: Native Americans worry as Supreme Court weighs repeal of health care act”

Pick one: California multisport athletes forced to choose, putting college recruitment at risk

  • Slug: BC-CNS California Multisport Choice, 1,065 words.
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EDS: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect name for the group Next College Student Athlete. The story below has been corrected, but clients who used earlier versions are asked to run the correction found here.

By Johnny Messiha
Cronkite News

ANAHEIM, California – Nicholas Mikhail has been a dual-threat in soccer and football throughout his high school career in Southern California. Entering his senior year in 2020, he was prepared to improve his chances of being recruited by college teams. The pandemic, however, had other plans.

After the California Interscholastic Federation postponed all seasons in July, Mikhail and many other multisport athletes were pressured to drop all but one sport due to the overlapping of their seasons. California fall sports will take place during winter, while winter and spring sports will take place concurrently next spring. Fall seasons will start in December at the earliest.

“It’s going to be tough with scheduling and practice,” Mikhail said. “A lot of sports are now at the same time, so kids that normally play in more than one season now have to make a decision as to what sport they are going to play.” Continue reading “Pick one: California multisport athletes forced to choose, putting college recruitment at risk”

Trump backers take their turn, crowding Washington streets in protest

  • Slug: BC-CNS-MAGA Marchers,1000
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EDS: A previous version of this story misspelled Michael Waldbillig’s name in grafs 20 and 28. The story below has been corrected, but clients who used earlier versions are asked to run the correction found here.

By MacKenzie Belley
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of people turned the streets of Washington into a sea of flags and banners Saturday, marching and chanting in support of an embattled President Donald Trump as his election chances falter.

The march went under a number of different names – Million MAGA March, Stop the Steal and March for Trump, among others – but they all had the same goal: To show support for the president and decry what they see as questionable election results. Continue reading “Trump backers take their turn, crowding Washington streets in protest”

As it drops one challenge, GOP files new suit over election returns

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Suit Spree,990
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By Allen H. Awfe
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The Arizona Republican Party filed a second legal challenge Thursday to Maricopa County’s election returns, even as attorneys for the party were conceding that an earlier suit would not make a difference in the presidential results.

With just 1,700 ballots left to count in Arizona as of Friday evening, President Donald Trump trailed President-elect Joe Biden by 10,016 votes, a gap that “had rendered unnecessary a judicial ruling” on the presidential race, an attorney for the Trump campaign told the court Friday.

But by that time, the party had already mounted a new challenge to the way Maricopa County conducts audits of its election returns. Continue reading “As it drops one challenge, GOP files new suit over election returns”

McSally concedes to Kelly, capping costly and high-profile Senate race

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Concession Decision,1160
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By Catherine Fusillo
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Sen. Martha McSally, R-Arizona, conceded Friday to Democratic challenger Mark Kelly, whose heavily funded campaign ousted the sitting Republican to give the state two Democratic senators for the first time in almost 70 years.

McSally’s concession came 10 days after polls closed, ending the most expensive race in state history, when it became clear that she could not close the gap with outstanding ballots that remained. Continue reading “McSally concedes to Kelly, capping costly and high-profile Senate race”

COVID-19 vaccine test subjects weighed risks, rolled up their sleeves

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Vaccine Volunteers,1060
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By Josh Ortega
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – With Santa Cruz County facing one of the highest rates of COVID-19 cases in the state, Tubac Fire Department Fire Chief Cheryl Horvath knew that a vaccine is what’s needed to bring an end to the pandemic.

But a vaccine requires human volunteers as test subjects.

Horvath had never taken part in a clinical research trial before and was a little concerned about the risk, but she said she wanted to do something that would help her community and also protect her firefighters. So after some research, she signed up. Continue reading “COVID-19 vaccine test subjects weighed risks, rolled up their sleeves”

Youth advocacy groups kept voters safe and informed on Election Day

  • Slug: BC-CNS Young Voters, 890 words.
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By Lauren Hernandez
Cronkite News

LOS ANGELES – Young people stepped up on two fronts this Election Day: volunteering to replace older poll workers who feared exposure to COVID-19 and pushing more of their peers – an age group with historically low turnout – to register and vote.

Across the Southwest, such organizations as Future Leaders of America, California Campus Vote Project and Arizona PIRG Students New Voters Project worked until the last minute to help students register to vote, answer questions and inform voters about initiatives on the ballot, including Proposition 15 in California.

For 18-year-old Yesenia Ramirez Garcia of Goleta, casting her first vote was a proud moment, as she is the first in her family to vote and the first to go to college. Identity and background affect Garcia’s political advocacy, she said, because her identity is political.

“When being queer is something that is debated, when being a person of color and your protections is something debated. It definitely impacts my background, it impacts who I’m going to pick,” Garcia said. Continue reading “Youth advocacy groups kept voters safe and informed on Election Day”

Trump’s voting irregularity claims get cold reception in court hearing

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Trump Hearing,940
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By Olivia Munson
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – Trump campaign lawyers dropped claims of voter fraud Thursday, telling a Maricopa County Superior Court judge instead that they were in court to point out “good faith errors” by election officials that could have affected the vote count.

“We are not alleging fraud in this lawsuit,” said Kory Langhofer, an attorney for the Trump campaign, in response to pointed questioning from Superior Court Judge Daniel Kiley. “We are not alleging that anyone is stealing the election.”

That is contrary to what Trump supporters have been saying during several days of protests in which they gathered outside the State Capitol and the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center around the rallying cry “Stop the Steal.” Continue reading “Trump’s voting irregularity claims get cold reception in court hearing”

Field of flags tries to make sense of staggering COVID-19 death toll

  • Slug: BC-CNS-COVID Memorial,600
  • 4 photos, graphic and video story available (thumbnails, captions below)

EDS: A previous version of this story misstated Suzanne Firstenberg’s work history in the eighth graf. Firstenberg was a hospice volunteer for 25 years. The story below has been corrected, but clients who used previous versions are asked to run the correction found here.

By Mythili Gubbi
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – The hardest part of Suzanne Firstenberg’s day is when she changes the numbers on the board – each number representing an American who has died as a result of COVID-19.

She climbs on a concrete ledge, pulls off a large poster with one number on it and replaces it with a higher number – 241,949 as of Thursday – on a billboard in front of a field of nearly as many little, white flags, each representing a victim of the pandemic.

It’s all part of Firstenberg’s exhibit, “In America: How could this happen…”, an installation that sprawls over the parade grounds at the D.C. Armory. Firstenberg said she was inspired to create the exhibit “to help people understand the number, to make sense of it.” Continue reading “Field of flags tries to make sense of staggering COVID-19 death toll”

Forecast calls for drier, warmer winter to follow ‘non-soon’ summer

  • Slug: BC-CNS-Dry Winter,510
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By Allen H. Awfe
Cronkite News

WASHINGTON – State and federal weather officials are predicting a warmer and drier than normal winter for Arizona, which would come on the heels of the driest monsoon ever recorded in the state.

The “non-soon” summer followed by a La Niña winter could spell trouble for water resources and wildfire conditions in a state already gripped by drought, the officials said. Continue reading “Forecast calls for drier, warmer winter to follow ‘non-soon’ summer”