COVID-19 in Arizona: Immigration employees test positive, small-business evictions halted

PHOENIX – Three U.S. Customs and Border Patrol employees have tested positive for COVID-19 in Arizona, bringing the number of confirmed cases among CBP employees in the state to six as of Sunday, April 5.

Nationwide, there have been 160 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among CBP employees, according to the agency’s website. No deaths have been confirmed, nor has the agency revealed what positions the affected employees hold.

“CBP is taking every available precaution to minimize the risk of exposure to our workforce and to members of the public with whom we interact,” an agency spokesperson said in a statement to Nogales International.

The agency has drawn criticism from the Border Patrol’s employee union. In a tweet, the National Border Patrol Council wrote, “Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit us the physical fitness level of our agents has hit a low point” and local union leaders retweeted that with the hashtag #NoLeadership.

As of April 3, 13 people in the custody of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have tested positive for COVID-19, including one detainee being held in La Palma Correctional Facility in Eloy. CBP has not confirmed any cases of COVID-19 for anyone in its custody.

As of Tuesday, April 7, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 2,575 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and 73 deaths. As of April 7, the department said 33,375 tests for COVID-19 have been completed by public and private labs in Arizona and 30,991 tests were negative.

Small business and nonprofit evictions halted

Evictions of small businesses and nonprofits affected by the pandemic have been halted until May 31 under an executive order issued Monday by Gov. Doug Ducey. The order comes after Ducey’s action March 24 protecting residents from being evicted who are unable to work due to the coronavirus.

Yavapai County reports first COVID-19 related death

Yavapai County reported its first confirmed COVID-19 death Monday: a Verde Valley resident older than 65 who died April 4, according to Yavapai County Community Health Services. As of Tuesday, 1,232 county residents had been tested for COVID-19 and 57 cases were confirmed, health officials said. “This is a reminder to all of us to do what we can to protect our families, friends and communities by following the guidelines that are created to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and future tragedies like this,” Leslie Horton, county health services director, said in a press release.

MLB discusses starting season in Arizona

Major League Baseball and the player’s association discussed ideas to have all 30 teams play in empty ballparks this season in the Phoenix area, according to the Associated Press.

Talks are still in the early stages and baseball officials will study which options may be viable.
“I think players are willing to do what’s necessary because I think they understand the importance of baseball for their own livelihoods and for the interest of our country,” Scott Boras, a prominent baseball agent, told AP.

COVID-19 related deaths projected to peak

COVID-19 related deaths in Arizona are projected to peak April 23 at 17 deaths a day, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. It also projects May 28 as the first day Arizona will record zero COVID-19 related deaths. Jessica Rigler, assistant director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, told KTAR that the state is “making sure we continue to plan for the worst case scenario.”

Extended curfew for Navajo Nation

In the wake of 384 confirmed cases on the Navajo Nation Reservation, tribal leaders imposed a weekend curfew on Sunday, which orders residents to stay in their homes from 8 p.m. Fridays until 5 a.m. Mondays. The order, which exempts emergencies, does not apply to essential workers. The order expands the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. weekday curfew issued March 30.

3 out of 4 Arizona immigration courts remain open

Despite courthouse closures in many parts of the country, immigration courts in Phoenix, Eloy and Florence remain open. All hearings scheduled through May 1 for immigrants who are not in federal detention have been postponed, as well as cases under the Migrant Protection Protocols docket. Several professional associations have filed a complaint asking the Justice Department and immigration authorities to suspend all in-person hearings and provide remote communication opportunities and personal protective equipment for legal representatives to wear, according to Cronkite News.

PPE saved for long-term care facilities in Maricopa County

Due to statewide shortages confirmed by officials, county health officials said, personal protective equipment will be prioritized for long-term care facilities to protect its at-risk residents – a lesson learned from Washington state. In Maricopa County alone, there have been 77 confirmed COVID-19 cases in long-term care facilities and 13 deaths as of April 7, officials said.

“To put this into perspective, our health care and hospital systems use about 544,000 surgical masks per week,” said Marcy Flanagan, director of Maricopa County Department of Public Health, told ABC15 Arizona. “We received 263,000 surgical masks. As you can see, this amount will not even support our hospitals for a week.”

Border towns face economic insecurity

In San Luis, sales have dropped significantly due to entry-port closures implemented in March, according to the Yuma Sun. Some businesses have reported a 70% drop in sales.

“We have had to reduce hours of operation because there’s no reason to stay open if there are no customers,” said Tania Acosta, who oversees the Factory 2U clothing store in San Luis. “The majority of the customers come from Mexico.”

This decline in sales follows several years of decreased business due to several factors, including long wait times to cross the border, according to the Sun’s report.

Alcohol sales soar amidst social distancing advisories

Alcohol sales nationwide have surged as Americans respond to COVID-19, according to CNN Business. Data reports a 55% increase of alcohol purchases made in the final week in March compared with the same week the previous year, with the largest increase, at 106%, in ready-to-drink cocktails.

As demand for alcohol rises, the Navajo Nation is calling for a shutdown of liquor stores just beyond the reservation’s border, the Navajo Times reported. Tribal leaders accused the owners of allowing customers to gather in large groups and not abiding by national advisories.

How to help

The Greater Phoenix Chamber Foundation is piloting a donation program in which residents and businesses can donate unneeded laptop computers to students who don’t have such devices at home. According to the foundation, “this laptop drive, alongside Cox’s commitment to equip homes with wireless internet, will empower students to participate in virtual learning.” The foundation is donating the first 100 laptops to Phoenix Union High School District.

Social Justice Reporter, Phoenix
Health Reporter, Phoenix