Coronavirus Update in Arizona (Updated)

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News is breaking fast on the coronavirus pandemic in Arizona:

Arizona governor declares emergency as virus cases hit 9:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Wednesday declared a public health emergency because of the risk of increased transmission of coronavirus in the state. But he fell short of ordering large events to be cancelled. [This is happening on its own, in any event.]

Ducey said at an afternoon news conference that his emergency declaration and a separate executive order were being issued to ensure the state has the resources to fight the outbreak and the most vulnerable populations — mainly the elderly or those with serious health issues — are protected.

“While Arizona is not currently facing the number of case we’ve seen in some other states, we are anticipating additional positive cases and we’re not taking any chances,” Ducey said. “This is about public health and saving lives, especially those of our elderly and most vulnerable.”

While Gov. Ducey downplayed the extent of the spread of the virus in Arizona, his Health chief said expect thousands of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Arizona:

Arizona can expect to have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of confirmed cases of COVID-19 this year, the state’s top health official said Monday.

“And that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Cara Christ said at a press briefing Monday afternoon.

She said that, just like the flu, there are going to be people with mild symptoms who will not seek medical care — and not be tested for the virus.

“So we know there’s a lot more people who don’t seek healthcare with respiratory symptoms and are still in the community,” Christ said.

And they are still potentially contagious.

What that means, she said, is “act like everyone has it.”“

Stay away from crowds, if possible,” she said. “And have a plan if you get sick to call your health care provider and identify who else can care for you if your caregiver becomes ill.”

Democratic lawmakers want Governor Doug Ducey to order a special legislative session to address coronavirus in Arizona. Dems want special legislative session to address coronavirus:

Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson, a surgeon, told Arizona Mirror that members of the Democratic caucus met on Tuesday with Ducey’s office and the Arizona Department of Health Service’s Director Dr. Cara Christ to discuss COVID-19 in the state. During that meeting, he said Democrats voiced their desire to have a special legislative session to address its spread.

Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptack told Arizona Mirror that the governor doesn’t believe a special session is necessary “at this time.”

Back to the AP:

Arizona State University will move all classes online when students return from spring break on March 16, ASU spokeswoman Nikai Salcido said. More: ASU goes online-only for 2 weeks in response to coronavirus. University of Arizona President Robert Robbins announced late Wednesday that the start of post-spring break classes will be delayed for two days to March 18 and held online when possible. More: University of Arizona delays return to classes over coronavirus concerns. Northern Arizona University President Rita Cheng said in a series of tweets that the university remains open for now. The Flagstaff school has its spring break next week and may move to online courses when students return if needed.

UPDATE: On Thursday, NAU, CCC to move to online classes after spring break due to COVID-19 concerns on Monday, March 23, after the end of spring break.

The PAc-12 Basketball Tournament currently being played in Las Vegas will prohibit fans from attending beginning today. Vegas crowd roars in Wildcats’ Pac-12 Tourney win, will be silent starting Thursday. Other college sports are following suit. UA baseball, softball games against Oregon State will be limited to ‘essential’ personnel, following Pac-12 lead.

UPDATE: On Thursday, “The Pac-12 Conference has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the Pac-12 Men’s Basketball Tournament and all Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 Championship events, effective immediately, until further notice.” Pac-12 statement on men’s basketball tournament, Pac-12 sport competitions and Pac-12 championship events. (Will spring sports athletes be able to “red shirt” for another year of college eligibility?) UPDATE: Good news, NCAA says spring sports athletes can retain extra year of eligibility.

UPDATE: Arizona officials on Thursday said they were not recommending widespread closures for K-12 schools. Final decisions on whether to close are up to individual districts and schools. She said officials should consult with local county health officials to make a final decision on closure. Check with your local school district. No ‘widespread school closures,’ Arizona health officials recommend.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez also declared a state of emergency on Wednesday, according to the Navajo Times.

Federal officials announced Wednesday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide $11.2 million to Arizona to support the state’s efforts to respond to the virus.

The steps Ducey took Wednesday are designed to limit the spread of the disease and boost the state’s response. They include waiving licencing requirements for health facilities that need to expand treatment options and giving health officials the ability to procure needed medical supplies.

The executive order is aimed at protecting those most at risk by requiring nursing homes to implement new rules for visitors. It also requires insurers to cover 100 percent of virus testing costs and for them to cover out-of-network costs of testing and telemedicine.

The licensing part could help hospitals quickly add beds if they are needed, health services Director Dr. Cara Christ said.

The state has a limited ability to do testing for the COVID-19 virus. But two big private labs in the state, Lab Corp and Sonora Quest, are now doing tests. The samples are taken at doctor’s offices on a physician’s order if a patient meets CDC guidelines.

Mayo Clinic also was working to start coronavirus testing, Christ said.

Coronavirus fears forced cancellation of the Tucson Festival of Books this weekend.

The Arizona Renaissance Festival near Gold Canyon apparently is continuing with its activities. No public announcement has been made. UPDATE: On Thursday, it announced “The Festival plans to be open and proceed as scheduled.  We continue to monitor conditions and will provide updates via our website should circumstances change. ”

The Chandler Chamber Ostrich Festival “is aware of the spread of COVID-19, and we are taking extra precautions to prevent the spread of the transmission. In addition, due to weather conditions the festival will delay its opening until 2 p.m on Friday, March 13. Please visit ​OstrichFestival.com​ for Friday’s updated schedule of events.

Sunday’s Democratic presidential candidate debate in Phoenix will not have a live audience. No live audience for Phoenix presidential debate as a coronavirus precaution, DNC says.

UPDATE: The Phoenix debate has been moved to Washington, D.C. over coroavirus concerns.

Sanders and Biden campaigns have cancelled events over coronavirus, and even Donald Trump has cancelled Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin campaign events as coronavirus spreads.

Laurie Garrett writes at Foreign Policy writes, It’s Time to Cancel the U.S. Presidential Campaign:

Let’s get serious, America. It’s time to ask, during a time of plague, whether—and if so, in what form—democracy can continue as usual. The answer is likely to be disappointing. For the first time in the country’s history, the United States must contemplate canceling the Democratic and Republican national conventions and campaign rallies, and give serious consideration to arranging ways of organizing election day that don’t require in-person voting.

[T]he dangers of the election campaign aren’t just a matter of [ long voting lines]. American democracy is built one handshake at a time, along with selfie poses, baby kisses and photogenic hugs. Democrat front-runners former Vice President Joseph Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are inveterate shakers and huggers, making contact with more would-be voters in an hour than most people might in a month of social encounters. A candidate’s hands can be a vector, taking the virus from one eager citizen to the next, and the next, and so on.

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Yet the political system should note that such sacrifices are not unprecedented. On Nov. 5, 1918, the United States held midterm elections for congressional seats during World War I. The Spanish influenza was raging across the United States, claiming huge death tolls in most of the nation’s large cities and striking terror across the country. Politicians abandoned most campaigning rituals, such as rallies and speaking tours. (Because it was not a presidential election year, the convention-cancellation question wasn’t raised in 1918.) Voter turnout was merely 40 percent, well below the usual for the era. Yet no one thought to question the legitimacy of the outcome.

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What would a U.S. presidential election look like without crowded polling stations, boisterous mass rallies, raucous conventions, and their days of side parties, glad-handing, and baby-kissing? It’s time we found out, but for now the presidential campaigns are standing in the way. The Trump campaign so far insists that no changes in either rallies or the Republican convention will be made, regardless of the epidemic. [This changed on Wednesday.] Many of his supporters, including members of the American Christian Union, continue to attend very large evangelical gatherings and believe that the arrival of COVID-19 is biblically predicted, and their faith will protect them. Some are marketing what look like rock-band tour T-shirts saying, “COVID-19 Media Hype Pandemic World Tour 2020. Mainstream Media: Keeping you scared with propaganda since 1987.”

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Actual voting can, and should, proceed with heavy emphasis on mailed ballots. To the extent that in-person polling is unavoidable, great attention should be paid to social distancing—keeping all citizens three feet apart from each other in line and inside the voting area. Get-out-the-vote campaigns—whether through door-knocking or canvassing shopping malls—should also entail proper social distancing. (The same is true of the U.S. Census, which is a vital component of future congressional mapping, and is set to commence on April 1.)

Local campaign events are also being cancelled this week. You should check with event organizers before heading off to an event that may have been cancelled out of an abundance of caution to prevent community spread of the coronavirus.

UPDATE: The 50th anniversary of  Fourth Ave. Street Fair to continue despite coronavirus the weekend of March 20-22.

There are several county fairs coming up soon, and Spring Fling at the University of Arizona. No decision has been made on these events.