COVID-19 in Arizona: Elective surgeries to resume, despite projected peak in mid-May

Despite health officials’ projections that Arizona won’t see its peak in cases until the middle of next month, Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Wednesday lifting restrictions on health facilities conducting elective surgeries as of May 1. Ducey signed the order after saying that hospitals have reported an increased availability of personal protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and gowns, and bed capacity. If health care facilities show that they meet the preparedness criteria, surgeries may resume, prioritized based on urgency.

However, Arizona’s new projection models indicate the state might not see its peak until May 22 or later, Dr. Cara Christ of the Arizona Department of Health Services said in a blog post Wednesday. The model shows that peak resource utilization won’t happen until around June 11, assuming Arizona’s stay-at-home order is not renewed and lifted after April 30, the date indicated in the executive order. Earlier this week, Ducey said more data is needed to inform his decision about lifting the stay-at-home order.

“While most of the models show that we currently have the capacity to meet the health care demands for Arizona, it is the responsibility of public health to plan for the worst-case scenario,” Christ said.

The criteria require surgical facilities to test patients for COVID-19 before operations, possess more than a 14 day supply of PPE, enhance cleaning processes and have adequate amounts of staffing and beds. In addition, approval from the Department of Health Services is required before resuming surgeries.

As of April 23, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 5,769 cases of COVID-19 and 249 deaths in the state. It said 58,697 tests for COVID-19 have been completed as of Wednesday in public and private labs in Arizona, and 9% of tests have come back positive for the virus.

Navajo Nation takes fight for relief funds to court

The Navajo Nation is suing the federal government regarding COVID-19 funding, joining a lawsuit with 10 other tribes.

“Our nation is slowly seeing the benefit of three COVID-19 bills passed by Congress, but it’s not arriving fast enough,” Navajo President Jonathan Nez said in a statement.

As of Wednesday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 76 new COVID-19 cases and one new death. In total, there are 1,206 positive cases and 48 deaths on the reservation.

Congress allocated $8 billion to help tribes through the Coronavirus Relief Fund, but Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin came under fire by tribal leaders this week for allegedly intending to fund Alaska Native Corps., a for-profit corporation owned by many non-Native shareholders. The 12 regional Alaska Native Corps. generated more than $10.5 billion in revenue in 2018, according to Nez’ statement.

“Allocating funds from the Coronavirus Relief Fund to the Alaska Native Corporations will severely impact the Navajo Nation’s ability to fight COVID-19, and will impact every other tribe as well,” Nez said.

More than a month ago, Navajo leaders announced that $4 million in tribal funds would be spent on resources needed to fight the spread and care for those who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19.

Tribal leaders on Tuesday issued an executive order extending lockdown orders until April 27. Despite closures of schools and government offices, as well as weekend curfews and travel restrictions, “the COVID-19 virus continues to spread throughout the Navajo Nation at an alarming rate,” the order states, adding that schools will remain closed for the rest of the semester and the lockdown could be extended if necessary.

State senator, five family members have contracted COVID-19

Sen. Lupe Contreras, D-Avondale, confirmed Tuesday that he, his wife, mother and three other family members have tested positive for COVID-19. “The reality of what is happening to my family is not fake. It’s real,” Contreras, who also is the Senate minority whip, told AZFamily. Contreras is the first state lawmaker in Arizona to publicly acknowledge contracting the disease.

Downtown Phoenix bar raises $16,000 to stay open

Lost Leaf, a popular art bar in Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, has raised about $16,000 to help keep their business running after the coronavirus prompted the shutdown of bars and restaurants. Lost Leaf was able to raise the money in its first two weeks of crowdfunding. The owners were hesitant to turn to GoFundMe as a solution but realized it would be necessary to stay afloat, according to the Arizona Republic.

Prescott Valley residents organizing a car cruise to boost spirits

An “organized cruise” is planned for 10 a.m. Saturday so locals can leave their homes safely to see some vintage cars. The Daily Courier reports the Cool Car COVID Cruise will take place near the town’s Granville and Viewpoint neighborhoods. The organizers invite any interested drivers to join, so long as they follow regular traffic rules. “Please make sure to leave enough space between cars and if it gets connected in any one place, feel free to alter your route,” organizer Keith Cross said. “We need to keep the roads passable and safe.”

Arizonans frustrated with unemployment check delays

Many unemployed Arizonans are growing impatient waiting for unemployment benefits from the Arizona Department of Economic Security, ABC15 reported. The DES has become hard to get a hold of due to increased unemployment and workers in need of that support are frustrated with the delayed action.

Fewer than 500 Arizona small businesses have received federal disaster loans

Before the Small Business Administration ran out of money, 460 state businesses were approved for Economic Injury Disaster Loans. These loans, which initially were up to $2 million, were capped at $15,000 each, AZFamily reported. In total, it said, businesses in Arizona received almost $97 million.

Nonprofit and Chandler church step up to help the homeless

Valley Unitarian Universalist church is helping those experiencing homelessness by giving them food, housing and hot showers through the I-HELP program. Before the novel coronavirus outbreak, several churches were part of this program, but Valley Unitarian has become the sole site to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the vulnerable homeless population, Cronkite News reported.

How to help: Animal rescues in need of donations

Animal shelters across the Valley have been slammed with a large influx of animals whose owners have lost their jobs and no longer can afford to take care of their pets, ABC15 reported. Owners also are urged to have a plan in place in case their pets test positive for COVID-19, as it recently was reported that animals can transfer the disease to humans. Visit All About Animals or PACC911 for more details.

Sarah Donahue

Health Reporter, Los Angeles

Caroline Yu

Sustainability Reporter, Los Angeles

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