Friday, July 10, 2020
Pet of the Week
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Ward 3 Events
Did You Know?
This week’s newsletter has a lot of COVID-19 related updates but I made sure we also included one nice highlight on a local organization, the Friends of the Marty Birdman Center, that is working to provide school supplies to kids returning to Nash and Keeling Elementary schools—please read on to learn how you can assist. They, like all of the families they hope to help out, are having to adapt significantly and attempt to predict what will be needed and how to deliver it at a time of great uncertainty. I hope you’ll join me with appreciation of their steadfast commitment to support young children in their neighborhoods.
Related to the many COVID-19 updates that you’ll find below, I do want to offer a special invitation to you and your neighbors to join me and Mayor Romero on Saturday, July 18 from 7-10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Donna Liggins Center in Mansfield Park for a drive-thru mask giveaway. We wear our masks to protect our neighbors-- #MaskUpTucson.
Finally, I know this is a very tough time for all of us. The challenges we face are multi-faceted and the burdens are not equally distributed among the population.
I am deeply saddened by the premature death of Mr. Damien Alvarado who died while in the custody of Tucson Police Department on March 22, 2020. I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his family and friends who are mourning.
As an organization, the City of Tucson seeks to improve the quality life of all Tucsonans. Premature deaths of our residents indicate that something needs to be fixed in our society. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to both diagnose the problems as well as to work toward implementing meaningful solutions together with Tucson residents.
That is why I advocated for the City of Tucson to adopt a community safety framework and I adjusted budget allocations to support that effort. I am committed to overhauling our existing oversight and accountability processes above-and-beyond the recent requirement that TPD notify the public on in-custody deaths within 72 hours. I believe that together we must and can do better.
Friends of Marty Birdman
The Friends of Marty Birdman is a staunch bunch. The Friends refuse to allow the COVID-19 virus get in the way of its annual back-to-school backpack giveaway.
While the virus has upended much in our lives and forced us to make major changes, the Friends group is gearing up to collect 100 backpacks, stuff them with classroom supplies and deliver them to Nash and Keeling elementary schools, and Amphi Middle School, all in Ward 3, when the public schools re-open.
It is probably what the late Marty Birdman would have wanted the group to do.
“He was a big supporter of the schools,” said Ed Birdman, son of Marty, who died in 2005.
Marty, who was a homebuilder and owner of Bimsco Hardware store on North Stone Avenue for 25-plus years before selling it. Marty lived in the Keeling neighborhood for many years. But it was in the 90s, when he was in his 70s, that Marty made his mark. When a truck killed a little boy who was playing on the street in nearby Balboa Heights, Marty, who cared deeply about his community, organized a successful effort to build the Balboa Heights Park and community center. Later the center was named after Marty Birdman.
“He was very surprised,” Ed said about his father when he learned that the center would carry his name.
To carry on Marty’s mission, his family and friends created the group, Friends of Marty Birdman. It is a small group but one with a big heart. For the past several years, the Friends have collected and distributed backpacks. But the pandemic came and initially gave the Friends a pause.
It did not last long. Recently the group decided to conduct its backpack package because the kids probably need the help more than before. The pandemic has hurt many families in the area. People have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced.
The Friends will get together late this month and fill the backpacks at the Marty Birdman Center at 2526 N. Castro Ave. They will wear masks and limit the number of volunteers to 10, in keeping in compliance with safe health practices. The backpacks will later be delivered to the schools.
But this is where you come in, Ward 3 friends. The Marty Birdman group needs your help with donations of school supplies and personal hygiene products, and, yes, backpacks. The group is a non-profit and can accept your financial donations. You can contact the group at FriendsofMartyBirdman@yahoo.com.
Ed believed his dad was committed to helping others because his father and uncle, at a young age, worked to help their parents make ends meet. In addition, Marty continued his commitment as an active volunteer for the Seniors Helping Seniors Program. For his community efforts, Marty received the Jefferson Award in 1996.
“He was very optimistic,” Ed said.
COVID-19 – Public Health Infrastructure in Pima County
We’ve all seen the news that the volume of COVID-19 positive cases is growing exponentially. I find this deeply disturbing and I know many Tucsonans join me in wanting to both flatten the curve and ensure access to medical care for all who become ill.
You also likely heard that for a time on Sunday, July 5 there were no available ICU beds in Pima County. On Tuesday, during the update to Mayor and Council by Dr. Teresa Cullen of the Pima County Health Department, we learned that the number of ICU beds had increased, slightly. As of Tuesday, 11 ICU beds were available in Pima County including five made available at the VA hospital.
With available ICU beds low, we see similar limits on available staff. In response, Pima County Health Department brought in two disaster medical teams this month. The first arrived June 28 to support TMC Hospital and allow them to open more ICU and surge beds. Another team arrived on July 5 to support Northwest Hospital. These teams are each in Tucson for two weeks and are ICU strike teams comprised of four ICU nurses and a respiratory therapist. The local hospitals are also working to increase their staffing right now.
Dr. Cullen also informed us that as of Tuesday, the entire fill rate for ICU beds in Arizona was 90% with 53% of those being used to treat COVID-19 positive patients.
The City of Tucson is working with the State of Arizona and the Army Corps of Engineers to prepare the TCC for a potential alternative care site. This will be helpful but only to the extent that we can reduce exposure to the virus.
We have few recent developments that can help us to reduce exposure. The first is the requirement to use face coverings followed by the closure of bars and other establishments where mitigating exposure is just very challenging. Then the Pima County Health Department is bringing on an additional 150 contact tracers. This is a critical step to identify exposure quickly and limit further spread through quarantine.
And a very exciting, new development is Pima County’s efforts to expand large-scale, by-appointment testing with a 48-hour turn-around for results. This operation will be based at Kino Event Center. I understand this will go live in the next week. Having easy access to testing with a quick turn-around with results is critical to limit exposure. I will be very pleased and relieved to see this implemented successfully.
COVID-19 and Governor Ducey
We also know that we need more testing, tracing and access to quarantine for individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Each of these three approaches are recommended by epidemiologist and public health experts to control the virus.
On Wednesday, the Mayors of Tucson, Tempe, Tolleson, Phoenix and Flagstaff sent a letter to Governor Ducey. The authors urge the Governor to take statewide action to reduce the outbreak. You can read it here.
I share this letter for two reasons. First, it lays out a path for more systematic control of COVID-19 for Arizonans. Second, I share this so that you know that City of Tucson leadership continues to advocate on behalf of the public health needs of our residents. If you have not reached out to Governor Ducey to encourage him to take further actions, I hope you will.
Last week with the passage of S. 4116, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan forgiveness for small business program was extended through to August 8.
The program was enacted in March as part of the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. So far, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved more than 4.8 million loans totaling $520.6 billion, according to the SBA. There was a total of $134.5 billion remaining in the program as of Saturday.
Locally, businesses can apply for the program through a variety of SBA lenders found here.
COVID-19 Stimulus Package
Mitch McConnell has finally given a timeframe for consideration of the next COVID-19 stimulus package. The Senate will finally take up the next coronavirus package when it returns from the two-week July 4 recess, with the goal of completing negotiations before they depart for their August recess.
The provisions being discussed focus on several key items, including:
• Additional Paycheck Protection Program assistance for small businesses
• Benefits for the unemployed including an incentive to return to work
• Stimulus checks for individuals
• Aid for state and local governments
• Liability limits for employers
• Infrastructure funding
The Senate will return to work just five days before the federal moratorium on evictions ends and just 11 days before unemployment benefits expire on July 31.
I know it could become very challenging for Tucsonans. The City of Tucson is moving quickly to fund local efforts, using the Cares Act dollars, to provide additional safeguards for impacted families. I’ll be sure to provide a lengthy newsletter review later this month.
Additional Federal relief funds are critical to getting our residents through this pandemic. While the existing Cares Act funds will be very helpful to support Tucsonans through this tough economic time, those funds are limited and will likely be expended very quickly. Only by providing additional funds either directly to low-income residents or to local governments to fund resiliency programs will we have enough dollars to help get all of our residents through this safely.
COVID-19 and Individuals Experiencing Homelessness
As you know, the City of Tucson has been providing hotel rooms to individuals who are symptomatic or COVID-19 positive and those who are medically vulnerable. Currently there are 290 people at the hotels for individuals who are medically vulnerable and there are 78 who are in the hotel for positive or symptomatic individuals.
The goal has and is to transition all of these individuals into stable housing either through a section 8 voucher or public housing. This is an effort that I believe provides a path for what a larger rapid rehousing effort in the City of Tucson could look like. As the City of Tucson works to bring on a Housing First Director, I know my office will be working closely with her or him and our team at Housing and Community Development to try and move toward being able to provide housing to anyone on the street.
As regular readers know, Mayor and Council adopted the tentative budget on Tuesday. This merely sets the cap on the budget expenditures. We still must adopt the final budget on July 21. There will also be a public hearing at that meeting.
If you have not done so already, I recommend that you check out the participatory budgeting tool. This tool allows you to tell us how you would allocate funds to different departments.
As always, please take care of yourself and others over the coming week.
Pet of the Week
Spooky is a very affectionate, sweet boy! He loves to perch up on your shoulder just to be as close as possible to you and will nuzzle you. Spooky came to us as a temporary boarding unfortunately they were unable to reclaim him due to housing reasons so they relinquished him to us so he is able to have a better life. While his stay with us he became a medical case and was in the sick unit for a while. We found out during that time that he is a shy/timid boy until he gets to know you. Once he does, he is all love! Spooky can get startled very easily so we recommend children 12+ due to his demeanor. Learn more here.
Ward 3 Neighborhood Association/Coalition Meetings
Alvernon Grant Initiative
6pm – 7pm
If you are Interested in Participating in the July, Zoom meeting, please email email@example.com BY MONDAY, JULY 13. The link will be sent to you on Tuesday, July 14 by noon, along with the agenda. It helps if you would jot a few notes in your email as to what you are reporting - in case you do not end up attending.
Council Member Durham and Mayor Romero Mask Giveaway
Saturday, July 18
Parking lot of the Donna Liggins Center for a drive-thru mask giveaway.
We wear our masks to protect our neighbors #MaskUpTucson
Did You Know?
How to wear a mask
Tax Day July 15
Tax Day was postponed from April 15 this year to July 15 this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that means it’s right around the corner. While the VITA program through the United Way used to provide services for individuals making less than $66,000/year they were forced to suspend their in person service for the remainder of the season.
But that doesn’t mean that you can’t do your taxes for free. The United Way of Tucson is teaming up with Code for America to provide online assistance at getyourrefund.org. With this program you can upload documents through an app from any device.
Don’t have the internet? Pio Decimo, located at 848 S 7th Ave is also offering low income tax services by appointment. You can call (520) 622-2801 x 7118 to find out more about how this program can assist you.
Red Cross Testing for COVID-19 Antibodies
The American Red Cross began testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies on Tuesday. The antibody testing is offered throughout the summer or longer based on financial donations.
This will provide donors the insight into whether they have been exposed to the coronavirus within 7-10 days after the donation by checking their Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org.
Antibody testing will indicate if the donor’s immune system has produced antibodies to this coronavirus, regardless of whether they developed symptoms. A positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity.
There continues to be an urgent need for blood donations as hospitals resume surgeries and treatments that require blood products.
Donation appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device.
For questions regarding antibody testing contact Colin Williams, Regional Communications Officer (480) 243-4956 or Courtney Slanaker, Executive Director, Southern Arizona Chapter (520) 419-1157.
Council Member Paul Durham is on Social Media!
Ward 3 has Facebook and Twitter pages so you can keep up with our Council Member and stay in touch with what's happening in Tucson and around the Ward.
Find us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMPaulDurham/
Follow us on Twitter: @CMPaul_Durham