Steve K's Newsletter 03/23/20

Topics in this Issue:

While tens of millions of people sacrifice to starve the virus, these images of spring break parties going on across the country are nothing less than examples of self-centeredness, ignorance, and ______ (fill in your adjective). Meet the “It’s all about Me” generation. I wonder how many of them had parents who photoshopped pictures of them as athletes so they could get into college. 
Sorry – had to get it off my chest before getting onto how others are adjusting to the current health crisis.


On Friday, I sent out this note:


Well, I’m happy to report that the list of stores doing something similar has expanded. Some of you read my note and alerted me to these other stores:

Whole Foods and Safeway have set aside a ‘Senior’s Hour.’ So has Walmart. Use this link to see the message from Safeway:
https://www.facebook.com/notes/safeway/a-message-from-vivek-sankaran-continuing-to-serve-you/10158397728834407/
 And Walmart’s is going into effect on the 24th. Here’s their link:
https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/03/18/latest-walmart-store-changes-to-support-associates-and-customers
Whole Foods is using the hour prior to their regular store opening for Seniors. If the store opens at say 9 am, it’s Seniors Only from 8 am until 9 am. They sent out this statement:

“We are setting aside this time to help these customers, who national health authorities have identified as among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, feel more comfortable shopping our stores and helping to ensure they are able to get the items they need in a less crowded environment.”

A.J.’s is from 5 am until 6 am on Wednesdays, and Basha’s is daily from 6 am until 7 am. Those are both for people 65 years and up.

Thanks to those of you who read my note and got me this added information. Also, thanks to all of the stores who are putting these policies into place. 

Last week, Banner UMC sent out an update on their visitation policies. I’ll have more on that below, but they included a list of things people might want to consider having on hand, in case the COVID-19 response lingers for an extended period. This is a graphic from their message – maybe something you’d like to clip and perhaps include in your planning.

I spoke to a friend last week who has removed his elderly mother from an assisted living center because the new policies they put into place effectively left the residents alone in their rooms for extended periods of time. Everyone is concerned with this virus, but social isolation has consequences too. The Pima Council on Aging (PCOA) has multiple volunteer opportunities for people. 


Those range from companionship to event planning, Medicare consulting, advocacy in long term care facilities, personal budgeting and a whole lot more. In the past week I’ve been in touch with multiple non-profits, all of whom are suffering from loss of volunteers. It’s understandable – most volunteers are in the ‘vulnerable’ category. If you can carve out some time, I know PCOA and others would truly appreciate the Kindness. Here’s the PCOA website link.
https://www.pcoa.org/how-you-can-help/volunteer/

Following our Mayor and Council meeting last Tuesday night, my bride and I went to the grocery store. I took this photo – a bit surreal, but it’s how things are these days.

If our goal is to minimize crowds in public spaces, one way is to coordinate shopping with your neighbors. Gather lists, send one person and rotate the chore. Given the run on supplies we are seeing, you may not end up with everything that’s on your list, but one person shopping for five reduces the crowd by that same amount. Neighbors being Kind to neighbors – and to those you run across in the store who may be doing the same thing.

And this Be Kind is also this week’s Local Tucson – because it’s so Tucson.


While I was sitting at the dais engaging in the discussion of COVID-19, I received a text from a person I know who’s active in operating homeless outreach in the community. The text said that Shamrock is not delivering groceries to shelters at this time. I suspect the photo shown above is the reason – running out of stock. Earlier in the day, the Mayor had issued a Proclamation that temporarily ends dine-in service at restaurants. What’s the connection? We now have restaurants who can only serve take-out meals. We have shelters who are no longer getting groceries delivered. I reached out to some Fourth Ave restaurants to see if they would like to partner with the shelters and provide take-out meals, since Shamrock can’t meet the demand. To their great credit, each one jumped at the chance. This Be Kind is to Epic Café and Brooklyn Pizza for stepping up and working together with our homeless population through the shelter operations. Another group of Fourth Ave and Sixth Ave businesses has also stepped up. Maybe we can save some jobs, and provide food for the needy in the same process.

In order to help businesses along Main Gate, Fourth Ave, downtown and at the Mercado, Park Tucson has instituted some free meal pick-up policies. Look for these signs scattered around that shopping corridor:


We at the Ward 6 office appreciate the willingness of our Park Tucson partners to do their part in assisting businesses during these tough times.

I would add that the County Administrator’s office has also stepped towards this ‘shelter food’ need. Within an hour after my call to them last Wednesday, they had worked on a plan to provide up to 300 sack lunches per day to shelters. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that won’t make the media (too much to cover), but you should know there are an awful lot of very Kind people investing an awful lot of time meeting the needs of the less fortunate during this virus response.

In San Diego a group of citizens is forming a ‘volunteer registry’ to meet the needs of other residents. The target group is those who are in the ‘vulnerable category’. That could be dog walking, shopping, companionship phone calls, and other daily life things that others right now may not be able to do for themselves. If you have some time, and the desire to be a part of a Tucson registry, send me your contact information, along with an idea of the types of things you would be willing to do. You can also call us at 791.4601 if you’d like to offer to get involved. With that, my staff and I will try to match you up with some options. Thanks very much for giving it some thought.


We’re going to get through this mess, and it’ll happen by bonding together and doing it in support of one another. And yes, our friends at the zoo had to shut down to the public while we work through the COVID-19 issue together.

Foster A Best Friend

Both the Humane Society (327.6088) and PACC (724.5900) have some ready companionship if you’ve found yourself having to avoid the rest of us humans for a while. Fostering a dog or cat is a great help to the people running the shelters. They’re seeing a drop in volunteers which is placing an added strain on staff and is resulting in less ‘face time’ for the critters. If you cannot adopt because you’re not home regularly enough, but now find that at least as we work through the COVID-19 thing together you’re having to spend more time self-separating from the public, the love and companionship you’ll experience by fostering may be a great way to help you through the isolation. It’ll be appreciated by both the people running the shelters and by your newly found four-legged pal. 

Here’s a link to a New York Times article on this topic. It’s a nationwide need. 

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/us/coronavirus-foster-pets.html?smid=em-share

Below I’ll share the entirety of Regina’s Emergency Proclamation. I may have taken a slightly different approach, and yet I understand the basis for the measures that were taken. There are two approaches we’re seeing play out in different jurisdictions. One is along the lines of what Tucson (and Pima County joined us on Thursday) is doing; retrench on multiple fronts and give the virus little, if any opportunities to spread. The other is to give guidelines based on the best advice coming from health experts and allow people to adapt their own circumstances. For example, instead of shutting down in-store dining opportunities, allow businesses to remove enough tables so the social distancing being recommended can be followed. I totally get the rationale with both. In the past week, many jurisdictions have seen their own policies evolve with the changing conditions on the ground. I’m committed to working within the guidelines contained in the Proclamation. 
According to our Charter, the Mayor has the legal right to do what was done. What we cannot do at a time like this is fight over it and tear apart our ability to conduct the work of the people. I’m committed to not becoming this guy - 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1v0jB3OswM

As Ghandi said – now's the time for some unity.

With that said, here’s the Proclamation. For you ‘skimmers’, Section 2 and Section 3 are where the restrictions and what’s allowed are listed.


           
          
         You can use this link to see what’s happening, up to date, on both a worldwide, and domestic basis. 
https://ncov2019.live/

I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon. Here are the totals. Click the link and see how they have changed in one day:

We are all in this together – we'll make it work by working together.

COVID-19 Public Policy Responses

You have likely seen several changes in how we are conducting business since the COVID-19 response has widened. Here, I’m going to share some you may not have seen in the news.

Public Transit

Last weekend, we began offering free fares on all of our public transit. That includes Sun Tran, Sun Van and the streetcar. At this time, the policy is in effect until the end of the month. It will be re-evaluated at that time. Riders will enter and exit at the rear door of the vehicle in order to protect our drivers from excess contact. We are asking that you try to limit your trips to essential  business only and to adhere to the six feet social distance guidelines while riding so we all can do our part in mitigating the COVID-19 spread in the community.

We are taking some added steps to ensure riding our public transit is safe and sanitary. The buses are having their interiors disinfected with a fogging machine on a daily basis. Wipes and spray disinfectant are given to all drivers, and we are boarding passengers through the rear to minimize direct contact with drivers. You will now see a yellow line six foot from the driver to protect their own health. 

We have seen a 40% drop in ridership on Sun Van, our service to the disabled community. We will be modifying transport schedules in order to minimize contact between passengers. It’s the social separation thing. We’re doing the same daily disinfectant operation on these coaches as we are with the buses, and operators will have the same cleaning supplies as the bus drivers will have.

With the virtual shut down of the UA campus, the streetcar will return to summer hours. Here is the schedule you will see posted on the Sun Link website. Note the message at the bottom of the schedule though. That’s what we’ve implemented.


Sun Link ridership has dropped by about 50% since the COVID-19 issue hit both the City and campus. The cars will still receive the same disinfectant treatment as our other public transit vehicles will, and operators will be outfitted with the same cleaning gear as the others.

Everything is fluid. Staff is monitoring ridership so we can balance the need to give people on our transit vehicles the proper space while riding and along with the need to ensure we’re being efficient with our budget. There will be a drop in sales tax revenue. That is one of the main sources for City revenue. None of the decisions related to City services, transit included, happens in a vacuum.

If you want to get any more information about any of these transit policies, please check with www.suntran.com

City Cashier’s

Another change you’ll see is access to City cashier’s for making in-person payments. You may get utility bills, or you may need to pay business licenses or permit fees. We have temporarily shut down the cashier counters and for now will only be taking those payments either on-line, or by mail. You may pay your utility bills through this link: http;//bit.ly/PayBill2. If you prefer to mail it, send it to City of Tucson: (Attn: name of department), P.O. Box 27210, Tucson, AZ 85726-7210.

Homeless Services

If you’ve been in the hospital, or know someone who has, you’re probably familiar with the practice of being discharged to go home while you’re still working through some recovery issues. That practice frees up a needed bed, and gets you to some familiar surroundings so you can recover in greater comfort. That works if you have a home to go to. What if you’re homeless? That’s just one of the issues my office and I are sorting through with the City Manager and multiple homeless service providers. None of this is easy in the best of times. COVID-19 has simply added yet another level of complexity.
Last week, I participated in a conference call that included multiple local homeless shelter providers. The calls are organized by Old Pueblo Community Services (OPCS) and happen pretty much daily. Their purpose is for shelters to share information, needs, and to try to come up with solutions. Both City and County people are also on the calls. Between that call and numerous other phone and email contacts we’ve had with the angels who run these shelters, several needs have been identified. You may be able to help fill some of them.

One issue that Pima County Health is helping with is providing clarity to the shelters on what they are to do if a client shows up with some flu-like symptoms. It’s not in the shelter operator DNA to turn people away. Yet, there are other clients who don’t need to be exposed. Do they transport? To where (next item)? Do they quarantine everyone, or separate the one client? Please understand that in a homeless shelter, separating the person may mean having them on a cot, ten feet away from others. So the protocols are a big deal that our Health authority needs to provide.

Capacity is another issue. Even without the COVID-19 issue, shelters lacked the necessary number of beds to provide for the homeless. Now, that issue is escalated. We have a 10% occupancy rate at many motels around town. I’ve asked if we can offer to buy up the rooms in one, for say 90 days, and use them for the over-capacity. As with much of this, the answer lies in funding. This is another homeless-related issue that’s being actively discussed.

Shamrock is one of the grocery suppliers for shelters. They also supply retail grocery stores. I mentioned this item in Be Kind. Scroll back up to the photo of the empty shelves and you’ll see that Shamrock already cannot keep up with the Safeway’s of the City. They’ve cut back on food deliveries to shelters. Last week I put some of the shelters together with some of our local restaurants to work on take-out only deals where the shelter would place an order, for say, ten pizza’s, come get them and take them back to the shelter. Something to save some jobs and feed the needy. The County is helping with some sack lunches being provided through the prison system. It’s another area where we are pulling together to address the needs in a very unique time.

Most shelters are supported by hundreds of volunteers. Many of the volunteers also find themselves in the ‘vulnerable’ to infection category. As a result, shelters are seeing a significant drop in their volunteer numbers. I’ve asked our City Manager if we might offer City workers who now have time on their hands if they’d be willing to volunteer some of their time helping fill some of the now vacant volunteer functions. The County could do the same. In the Be Kind section I mentioned a Volunteer Registry. If you’ve got the time and willingness, this is a need you might consider filling.

One way you might be able to volunteer from the comforts of your own home is by sewing. All of the shelters are out of face masks needed by staff when interacting with some of their clients. You may have seen the media reports about large numbers of those masks being sent to hospitals, but homeless shelters are not receiving any of them. If you can sew, check out this link, and if you make up some batches of the masks, let us know and we will help get them distributed to some of the shelters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgHrnS6n4iA

Transportation between shelters is another gap in services. This is for moving clients around when one shelter reaches capacity. It may also develop into transporting sick clients to the central location we identified for housing people who need to be separated from the general population in the shelters. I have asked the City Manager to look into dedicating one or two Sun Van’s for this purpose. As I mentioned, our ridership is down 40%. The issue is working out logistics, and getting a few drivers interested in being the on-call go-to for such a program. It’s another active part of the homeless discussion.

We have a really compassionate community. I’m certain that by working together on these, and other issues related to our homeless population, we will help that group through this COVID-19 mess. It’s hard enough for those of us who still have a home to return to each night. Read through the list of issues, and if you can plug any of the gaps, please let me know.

Hospital Visits

Above I mentioned some changes Banner UMC has made for patient visitation in their hospital. Sadly, they’re not alone in having had to implement changes. I know that each time I’ve been hospitalized, seeing my bride and others was something I looked forward to. I cannot imagine having gone through the time with my mom last year and knowing she was alone in the care facility. These rule changes are hard on everyone involved. Please get creative in how you maintain contact with your friends and loved ones who are hospitalized.

Below are the statements issued by four of our local health care providers. Each has similar policies in place. 

TUSD Meals

Beginning today, all children, 18 years of age, and under, will be eligible for a free Grab-and-Go meal through TUSD. They are setting up 113 different locations at school bus bays and existing bus stops around town and meals will be distributed between 10 am and 1 pm. There are no eligibility requirements for the kids, but each child receiving the food must be present. You can’t send mom or dad to pick up a batch of meals and leave the kids at home during this process. That’s not a TUSD rule, that's from the Federal Meal Program folks.

At each designated site, meals will be provided for ten minutes +/- depending on the size of the group assembled. This will be done Monday through Friday, until further notice is sent out by the District. 

They will adhere to a schedule as best they can. So don’t get discouraged if you’re there at the appointed time and you have to wait for a bit. For example, here’s the schedule for a midtown route:

   


They have set up similar schedules for bus routes all over town. Use this link to find the one that works best for your family. We at Ward 6 are happy to partner with our friends at TUSD in getting this word out.
To view all routes, see the Schedule for All Grab-And-Go Routes .

Business Assistance

Earlier I mentioned how I got some Fourth and Sixth Ave restaurants in touch with homeless shelters to provide take-out food. That’s just one very small example of how many of us connected with the City are trying to keep businesses afloat during this tough time. Our excellent staff in Economic Development has put together a site at which members of the business community can look through a wide variety of assistance options. They have some Small Business Administration information, a site linked to the Tucson Metro Chamber, the Arizona Department of Economic Security, SCORE, and a lot more. Although none of this is a magic bullet that will solve the challenges our business community is suffering from right now, you may find some nuggets on this site that will help you through it. The link for the information is www.connecttucson.com. Staff is updating it regularly, so check back from time to time. 

Escooters

Quick, can you name three things that are wrong in this picture? 

No helmet – riding on a sidewalk – riding in heels. A fourth one – riding during the COVID-19 crisis. We have bars shut down, hospitals not allowing visitors, empty grocery shelves, free food being given all over TUSD, the zoo closed to the public and we’re not concerned with transmitting COVID-19 by e-scooter?

I haven’t been shy in voicing my opposition to the e-scooter program in general, but I’m just a little surprised that in the midst of everyone working hard to contain community spread, my colleagues on the Mayor and Council continue to let people scoot around downtown and Fourth Ave evidently thinking these things are immune from being a source of COVID-19 transmission. 

I got these two statements from Bird and Razor:


That’s all nice, but the plain reality is that there is no way they can disinfect each scooter after each ride. And they don’t pretend to be trying. The program should be ended overall, but certainly it needs to be stopped until the COVID-19 spread is contained. We’ll see if Mayor and Council step up and do the right thing.

Phone Bank Thanks

Last Monday evening, about a dozen of us gathered at the Pima County emergency operations center and conducted a phone bank. Thanks to KVOA for working with me on setting it up and being on site covering the event. During their 5 pm, 5:30 pm and 6 pm newscasts, they were running a trailer with the call-in number on the screen. They also did a few live remotes from inside the center, showing real-time how the event was going.

In addition to Nikki Lee and Paul Durham, we had Diana and Ann from my staff, Sarah from Paul’s staff, and people who represented service providers from throughout the community. The most sought-after person on the calls was Dr. Bob England from the Pima County Health Department. He found himself both answering phones and giving us information so we could return calls and answer the questions callers had asked. Included in addition to Dr. Bob were Gabe Trujillo (TUSD), Julie Katsel (UA), Mark Clark (PCOA), Julia Strange (TMC), Steve Spade (Sun Tran), Michael McDonald (Community Food Bank), and Peg Hutchison (Primavera). In the 90 minutes we were at the phones, there were over 300 calls.

The staff from Pima County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) were great. They allowed us full access to the phone system and remained on site with us throughout the event. John Vorhees is their director. Between him, his staff, and the collaboration Jan Lesher provided, the event went off without a hitch. Most importantly, over 300 people had questions answered. It demonstrated that with all of the websites people are creating as information sources during the Coronavirus outbreak, people often simply want to hear a voice at the other end of the line. Some of the questions were: can it be transmitted to/from my dog?; what are the symptoms?; I’m 70 and afraid to leave the house. How do I get food?; I work in a mortuary. Can I catch it from a corpse?; my symptoms are (lots of these – fill in the blank.) Should I go to the E.R? Questions about school, food, medication, transportation, and lots of people just scared and wanting reassurance that the protocols they’re following are appropriate. 

The whole COVID-19 issue evolves by the hour. We’ll reassess how, when and where to perhaps do another phone bank. I’m grateful to everyone who had a hand in making this first one so successful.

Please Don’t Forget Our Community Food Bank

I mentioned that Michael McDonald from the Community Food Bank was one of the people involved in the phone bank. That organization is really strapped for both donations and volunteer assistance. With people losing their jobs, schools shut down and grocery stores’ empty shelves, the strain on Michael’s people will only grow. 
If you can help them meet their needs – which are the needs of the community – please consider donations. You can call them at 622.0525, or look at their website at: www.communityfoodbank.org

During the Coronavirus outbreak, they’re switching their operation to a drive-up model, limiting person to person contact, but still getting people taken care of. They do emergency food boxes, provide food for seniors, and through the Gabby Giffords Resource Center, they help people with things such as applying for SNAP benefits, TANF (temporary cash assistance,) and getting signed up for health care. I hope you can help them out in some fashion.

Sincerely,

Steve Kozachik
Council Member, Ward 6
ward6@tucsonaz.gov