COVID-19 in Arizona: Ducey ‘cautiously optimistic’ about reopening next month, single-day death toll hits a record 21

PHOENIX – With Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina starting to reopen businesses, Arizona approaches next week’s end of the governor’s stay-at-home order with no clear indication of whether it will be extended.

But on Monday – after protesters at the Capitol called for the state to reopen – Gov. Doug Ducey told KVOA he is “cautiously optimistic” Arizona could reopen next month.

“The date April 30 is there for a reason,” he said. “We’re going to know a lot more a week from today.”

Also Tuesday, Arizona health officials announced 21 new deaths – a new peak in the number of lives lost in a single day. The previous record was 14 on April 11.

Ducey said reopening the state would take place in phases.

“We want to make sure we don’t backslide,” he said. “We never really hit that peak that everyone has been concerned about.”

The governor noted some noticeable progress within the state and said there will be “more opportunities for us to pump more oxygen back into this economy and methodically reopen.”

Cronkite News readers have weighed in on whether it’s time to reopen:

The monthlong stay-at-home order was implemented March 31.

As of Tuesday, April 21, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 5,251 cases of COVID-19 and 208 deaths in the state. It said 55,152 tests for COVID-19 have been completed as of Tuesday in public and private labs in Arizona, and 8% of tests have come back positive for the virus.

Navajos cited for curfew and traffic violations

Almost 180 citations were issued during Navajo Nation’s second 57-hour weekend curfew, which was imposed in response to an outbreak that as of Monday has killed 45 members and infected 1,321. From last Friday evening to Monday morning, 108 of the 179 citations issued were curfew violations, according to a Navajo Police Department press release, with 71 traffic violations.

“Unfortunately, we have several Navajo police officers who have contracted the virus,” President Jonathan Nez said in the press release. “They are working hard to protect us, and we don’t have enough police force to be patrolling all of our communities 24/7. The bottom line is that people to hold themselves and others accountable for staying home and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”

Arizona Department of Health Services website is updated

State health officials updated their website Monday to include details about hospitalizations and other information on COVID-19. Users can also find how many facilities have had at least one case of COVID-19, using the congregate settings data. The names of the facilities are not revealed on the website, but they do include categories for workplaces, dialysis clinics, assisted living, prisons/jails/detention centers, and others, according to KVOA.

Banner Health furloughs and cuts pay for 3,000

Banner Health announced Monday that 3,000 employees will face short-term furloughs and pay cuts in response to COVID-19. Banner Health is Arizona’s largest private employer with about 43,000 employees in the state, according to azcentral.com. The company pledged to allow workers to keep health benefits “paid in full by Banner,” in a statement to azentral.com. “For many team members, this may just be two weeks long as we anticipate work may increase in many areas in the coming weeks.”

Banner expands use of telehealth for COVID-19

Banner Health has expanded COVID-19 services to include Banner Telehealth, a way for patients to visit with medical providers via live video. The service is offered to patients with COVID-19 related symptoms as well as patients needing regular health care visits, a Banner press release said. Banner Telehealth, which was expected to roll out months from now, launched Tuesday.

COVID-19 forces dairy farmers to adjust practices

Videos of dairy farmers dumping thousands of gallons of milk clutter the internet and show the desperation the industry faces with schools and restaurants closed. The United Dairymen of Arizona, along with other cooperatives, has helped farmers handle the excess milk. “We have about 12 million pounds of milk a day and we’re dumping about a million a day,” Keith Murfield, CEO of the United Dairymen of Arizona, told Cronkite News. The milk, however, is not being dumped on the ground. Some are run through digesters that convert it into such products as gas and electricity in some places. Other excess milk is fed to the cows and young livestock.

How to help

As college students across the country are forced to move out of their dormitories, some students who have aged out of the foster care system may find themselves displaced with nowhere to live. Together We Rise seeks donations to help these students secure stable housing amid the uncertainty of COVID-19. To donate to the emergency assistance for college youth fund, click the link here.

Hannah Foote

News Reporter, Los Angeles

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