Topics in This Issue:
- Welcome Dr. Theresa Cullen
- Social Isolation Zoom
- Reopening the State – Reopening the City
- Reopening the City Zoom Meeting - Business, Employee, and Customer Perspective
- Reopening the City Zoom Meeting – Health Care Worker, Caregiver and First Responder Perspective
- Zoom Housekeeping
- Be Kind
- Drive Thru for Tucson’s Front Line
- Main Gate Square Bonus Card
- Evictions – Rents are Due
- Weekly COVID-19 Statistic Update
- UA Testing and Texting
- Something Non-COVID-19 – our 2021 Election
- Local Tucson
- Roadwork Continues
Throughout last week on the national news there were a few stories about Dr. Lorna Breen. She’s the doctor back in New York who committed suicide.
Lorna was the Director of the Emergency Room work going on at the New York Presbyterian Allen Hospital. She was 49. She had contracted Coronavirus and after having suffered through it for about 10 days, out of a sense of obligation to her patients and her co-workers, she returned to work. Her own staff had to send her home. If you’d like to read her full story, here’s the link:
Her dad told an interviewer that she had described the strain of having patients die before they could even be taken out of the ambulance. Remember the blue light as a symbolic show of respect for the work being done by the doctors, nurses and first responders every day.
After last week’s newsletter I got a couple of emails from people upset over my comments regarding the people protesting the Stay at Home orders. Line up Lorna and her co-workers next to the protesters and guys like the one driving this car – and you decide who’s deserving of your respect.
I also received a note from Gina, the Volunteer Chair for the Southern Arizona Walk, Arizona Chapter of the America Foundation for Suicide Prevention. She wanted me to share some information on how people feeling the strains of these days can get some immediate help. I’m happy to do so.
First is the National Suicide Hotline: 1.800.273.8255. Alternatively, there’s a Crisis Text Line: 741741. Both are always up and running. Finally, use this link to reach the Foundation’s website:
I saw a story on CBS Sunday Morning last week in which they showed how sympathy cards are out of stock in many stores. When this all began it was toilet paper. Then school supplies. Then hair color products. Now we’re running out of sympathy cards. This is one of the more popular ones that’s now in limited supply:
It’s a very sad sign of the times.
Please do what you need to in order to stay connected, and well – in all the senses of that word.
And for the two of you who wrote upset at my “You can’t fix stupid” section (alongside the many who actually liked it, and wrote to tell me), I’ll share this update from Dr. Fauci. You decide based on the science he stands by:
Last week Pima County Administrator Huckleberry got tired of waiting for Fauci to become available. Instead, he filled the Pima County Health Director slot with an equally excellent candidate – Dr. Theresa Cullen.
Theresa has had a long career as a public health physician with extensive work in support of Indian Health Service and the Veteran’s Health Administration. Similar to Trump’s other doctor, Dr. Birx, Theresa holds the rank of Rear Admiral and was and Assistant U.S. Surgeon General. We will still have Bob England until June 1st, but I wanted to take this space to welcome Dr. Cullen to the area. She arrives at a tough time, from the public health perspective. I’m sure she’ll excel.
Last Thursday, we had an excellent response to the PCOA Social Isolation online forum. Participation varied throughout the 90-minute event from 75 – 100 people. Our guest presenters did an excellent job of responding to the many questions posed, and all of the feedback I’ve received has been positive.
Our panel included Dr. Lisa O’Neil from the UA, Sharon Glassberg from Jewish Family Services, Amanda Sokan, also from the UA, and Deb Seng and Lisa Reams from PCOA. Each brought a unique skill set to the conversation. And it was a conversation – not a one-direction presentation.
Why was the forum important? How about this from an opening line in an AARP study:
One in three U.S. adults 45 and older are lonely, according to a new survey by AARP Foundation.
And that was a study done pre-COVID-19 Stay at Home.
Or this line from a Health Resource and Services Administration article:
Loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, researchers warned in a recent webcast, and the problem is particularly acute among seniors, especially during holidays.
Our Zoom forum was titled Social Isolation. It’s different than loneliness. As several of the presenters pointed out, ‘isolation’ refers to lack of contact – physical separation – from others. Loneliness is the subjective emotion that may result. With a Stay at Home order in place, many of us are isolated, which may manifest itself in loneliness. And it may have much more serious impacts.
Here’s one table from some of Dr. O’Neil’s research. It shows how damaging this isolation we’re experiencing can be:
Who’s vulnerable? This graphic lists the groups who may fit that category. Read it slowly – I'm sure you can think of plenty of friends or loved ones who fit into most, if not all of the groupings.
Much of the conversation was focused on strategies and techniques we can use to help ourselves or others through these isolated times. Examples include things such as:
• Give up trying to be in control
• Reframe your thinking to embrace having free time to accomplish things
• Don't compare yourself to others
• Sing together with others on Zoom
• Tell family stories to your loved ones who may have some cognitive issues
• Think of things for which you’re grateful
• One of my favorites: intentionally create moments of sweetness
This is a critically important issue, especially right now. Reach out and connect with someone – you will both benefit. Check in on neighbors, friends, and loved ones. And if you feel a bit overwhelmed, I know the folks at PCOA can help with resources. Find them at www.pcoa.org.
The dueling Orders/Proclamations re-emerged last week. Both Ducey and Regina extended the Stay at Home until May 15th. There were nuances, but the impact is that we’re not reopening the City or the State in full for a little while longer, at the soonest.
The Governor’s Order will allow for some gradual business reopening, starting as soon as today, and expanding at the end of this week. Starting today the State is allowing businesses that have been closed under the previous Executive Order to begin offering curbside pick-up, window, or drive-up service. Then on Friday, they will be allowed to let customers into their stores, but they will have to follow social distancing and sanitation measures. The specifics are being worked out with the State Department of Health and will be released ahead of the 15th. If they have made those protocols public before the end of this week, I will get them into next week’s newsletter.
The City cannot impose rules that are more restrictive than what Ducey included in his Order. This statement from his Executive Order makes that pretty clear:
However, I mentioned some nuanced wording in what Regina issued last week. That is really along the lines of encouraging people to wear masks while out in public. I’ll have more on that whole topic in the Be Kind section below. Otherwise, Section 15 (above) of Ducey’s statement draws a line around what we can do locally.
Consistent with what has already been in place in Tucson, these operating changes are extended until May 15th:
• All service counters and lobbies within City buildings, including Ward offices and City Hall are closed. Note that I’ve already made that true at Ward 6 until June 1st, at the earliest.
• All evictions on City-owned public housing are suspended
• City recreation centers and aquatic facilities are closed
• Registration for summer activities, including leisure classes, swim lessons, therapeutic programs and youth and teen camps are postponed
• The Senior Meal Program will continue in the modified form that’s now in place. We at the Ward 6 office are grateful to the many Parks and PCOA workers who have stepped up to help keep getting food out to our seniors
• Tucson Water will continue to suspend water shutoffs
• Transit fares will continue to be free
• Tucson City Court limited hours and limited services will continue
• Los Reales landfill is suspending collection of Household Hazardous Waste, and is not accepting cash for dumping fees
• Park Tucson is continuing the free 15-minute parking for Take-Out orders along the Streetcar route
I want to give credit to the Governor for including a mention of concern over social connectedness in his Order. Above I wrote about the Social Isolation meeting we hosted. I think the bullet points in Ducey’s Order related to similar topics are worth sharing. We simply can’t stay sequestered, allowing ourselves no social contact or exercise. Here’s what he had embedded in the Executive Order:
The social connectedness parts of the Order should not sunset on May 15th.
Consistent with the idea of a gradual reopening, I’m hosting a Zoom meeting on the issue of ‘What does reopening the City look like?’ I want to hear your thoughts – from the perspective of a business operator, from the perspective of retail frontline workers, and from the perspective of you as a customer. Please join us on Monday, May 11th, from 5pm until 6:30pm. Here’s the Zoom invitation.
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 811 9875 4342
If you’re joining by phone, call 1.669.900.9128. It’ll prompt you for the meeting ID – press in 81198754342#
We cannot stay closed forever or the impact on the economy, and on people’s jobs and lives will in some cases be irreversible. And yet, there are health-related guidelines that have got to help govern what a reopening looks like. You’ve heard about testing, contact tracing, assuring we have sufficient hospital beds, decreasing trends of infections and PPE. None of that becomes obsolete when reopening begins. But the Governor has already loosened some restrictions – I want to hear your thoughts on what you’ll be comfortable with locally so I can interject some of that into the upcoming public conversation we’ll be having on this topic.
Any decision we make with respect to reopening the City will have a direct impact on the people taking care of our sick loved ones, and our first responders out on the streets. We can invite everyone into bars and restaurants but doing so while ignoring the concerns our health care neighbors bring to the table is simply wrong. With that in mind, I’m hosting a second Reopening the City Zoom meeting the day after we do the business one. If you are involved in health care, assisted living facility work, work as an in-home caregiver, or similar work, or you’re a first responder, please join us on Tuesday, May 12th from 5pm – 6:30pm and share your thoughts. Here’s the Zoom invitation:
Join Zoom Meeting
Meeting ID: 830 0978 9160
If you’re joining this one by phone, call 184.108.40.20682. You’ll be prompted for a passcode – press in 83009789160#.
We have people working in the health care industry who are self-quarantining and missing their families. That level of sacrifice certainly is deserving of a seat at the table when we discuss what reopening the City looks like.
Last Friday, I sent in a Study Session request, co-signed by Nikki Lee and Paul Durham, that’s aimed at kick starting that conversation. Here’s the text of the request:
Everyone sitting around our Council table has heard from constituents. I hope to hear from many of you next Monday and Tuesday during our Zooms. And I invite you to sit in on both of them so you hear the varying perspectives, too. When framing what a reopening looks like, we need to have that public and collaborative conversation. The issue is too important to too many people for it to be handled any other way.
During the Zooms we’ll have one speaker with an open mic at a time. We’ll be asking you to sign in on the Chat function if you want to share some thoughts and I’ll call on those people in order. Just use your first name if you want to maintain some level of anonymity. If you will be calling in, you can text to 979.1620 and we’ll add you to the speaker wait list. We’ll make a decision when we see how many people are signed into the meetings as to how long statements can be. I’m guessing we’ll be limiting them to 2-3 minutes, so if you’re participating it’ll be important for you to have some thoughts prepared ahead of time so you have an opportunity to lay them out before your time ends.
The focus we need to hear is what role the City might be able to play in helping the reopening along. That might look very different for different kinds of businesses. And the concerns customers have will also be unique based on whether you’re say, house hunting, or wanting to go out to eat. The point is that we can’t think of everything, so we want to hear from you.
And what reopening looks like will be seen through a very different lens when viewed by our health care workers. In-home work, or institutional work will all be impacted by how we reopen doors to commerce. Again, we can’t think of everything, so we want to hear from you.
These are truly unique times, calling for unique ways for us to share our thoughts and ideas with each other. Even if you just want to listen in, please sign onto these Zooms. The information is critical input as we begin the reopening conversation at the Mayor and Council level.
Ok, I mentioned that I would have more to say on masks. I’ve bragged on my sister-in-law for the one’s she has sewn. Last week I wrote about Mending Souls. This week I have got another local hero who’s investing her time and effort into preserving the health of community members.
This is a small portion of the over 300 masks Jan Vasilius has created and distributed throughout the City. As you can see, she has raided several of her closets and has come up with a variety of textures, colors, and has sewed an array of shapes and sizes of masks. Every person who has received one of her masks understands the Kindness that’s behind Jan’s efforts.
And to highlight the importance of masks, friend Don emailed this graphic to me last week. It displays the importance of wearing a mask – both from the perspective of you being an infected person, and if you’re healthy. The best outcome is if both people are wearing a mask. It’s Kind and it's courteous to others.
This Be Kind is to Ward 6 restaurant owner Doug. His FEAST Restaurant is one of the groups that’s reaching out to local hospitals, largely passing along donations you bring in. You can donate a meal, cash, ‘a cookie’ - whatever you bring in, Doug will match and pass along the full gift to health care workers. So far TMC and various wards over at Banner have benefitted. Next on their list is Diamond Children’s Medical Center and El Rio Healthcare. This is another example of how you are partnering with local restaurants to take care of the people whose job it is to take care of us. You can reach Doug at 326.9363.
Hill Bailey and her partners in the Tucson Front Line project are almost to their $45K goal. They’re now at 402 donors and have collected over $38K. All of it goes to buying food at local restaurants which is delivered to hospital workers, police and fire fighters. Last week they had orders to Brother John’s BBQ, Baja Café, Home Plate, Sapphire Catering, Gourmet Girls and Nobel Hops. All of that food ends up showing our appreciation for the work being done in health care settings and by our first responders throughout the region. The Calzones from Home Plate Marana went to the Drexel Heights fire fighters. And Baja Cafe is sending snickerdoodle pancakes up to the Northwest Fire District. Here’s the link to join the work: https://tinyurl.com/s8jkrk4.
Some lady last week felt I shouldn’t have joked about hoping to see overweight nurses at the end of this. We need to lighten up – how about this. Well-fed health care workers and first responders. Maybe she’ll even get involved this week in a positive way.
Joining 4th Avenue Merchants and Downtown Tucson Partnership this week is the Main Gate Square Bonus Gift Card in support of restaurants, shops and other businesses. It’s like the Cards on the Avenue and downtown – you buy one for $25, the Marshall Foundation tops it off with another $10, and there you go - $35 for the price of $25. More support for our local businesses. Here’s a link to get ahold of one of these: Main Gate Square gift cards
Thanks to the folks at Marshall for stepping up in support of the businesses.
In the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard input on the issue of evictions from some landlords, and from people who work in social services. Both sets of groups wanted me to help push out the word that while rents are due, everyone is encouraged to reach out to your landlord if you’re having trouble making the full payment. Everyone has on-going expenses, so connect and have a conversation about what you are able to pay.
Under the CARES Act, there are a variety of federally subsidized housing programs that right now protect tenants in the case of nonpayment. That protection runs through July 25th. But it’s not a rent-waiver. In Arizona, tenants still will have an obligation to pay their rent. All of the advice I’ve heard and read suggest the first thing you should do if you’re having trouble making rent is to talk to your landlord about payment options. Don’t just blow it off and hope they don’t notice.
Under the Governor’s Executive Order you cannot be evicted if any of the following apply:
• You're required to be quarantined based on a diagnosis of COVID-19
• You’re ordered by your doctor to self-quarantine based on symptoms
• You’re required to be quarantined based on someone else in your home being diagnosed with COVID-19
• You can demonstrate you have a health condition as defined by the CDC that places you in a high-risk category
• You’ve suffered a significant loss of income resulting from COVID-19: job loss, obligation to be absent from work to care for a home-bound school-aged child, closure of your place of business...those sorts of things.
Understand, though that the Executive Order does not prevent evictions for non-COVID-19 related breaches of your lease. If you have questions, you can call the Pima County housing folks at 724.3704, or check them out at http://pima.gov/EndingPoverty.
Here’s the current day by day tracking data for Pima County. Thanks again to Jan Lesher for allowing me to pester her for the data. I find watching the trends to be interesting. The trend line is one of the CDC factors guiding when it’s ok to loosen up the Stay at Home restrictions.
This week, if you look at the ‘Pima County Change from Previous Day’ column, it shows that we appear to have hit a plateau. Every day last week the number of new cases went up by around 26 people per day. Compared to earlier in the month, that’s a good trend. But it is not the 14 consecutive days of reduced numbers called for by the CDC. We’ve made progress – we're not yet in a safe place to eliminate social distance and other CDC guidelines.
And here are the Statewide numbers from the Arizona Department of Health. This is from last week’s newsletter:
And here it is as of Sunday night:
Last week’s summary line had these data:
And here it is from Sunday night:
You can track the State data at www.azdhs.gov.
This link takes you to the Pima County Health set of COVID-19 guidelines.
Throughout the week we get calls from people wanting to know how to report social distancing/large gathering violations. You can use this link for that purpose:
Late last week, the UA began their pilot program of antibody testing. Several of us from the office have taken the test, and I know members from the health care and first responder community who were also involved. In total this round of testing will include about 4,500 people. In addition to working out the kinks of the testing process, the UA is ultimately looking to see how widespread throughout the community the infection rate has been. The reality is that they won’t be able to know anything close to that as long as we’re only testing 1% of the population. There are already plans to ramp up the testing outreach once the pilot is reviewed.
The UA is also gathering data on who’s sick so they can track where the virus is spreading around the region. They’re using a two-way texting system to gather that data. The program will involve asking participants to send in a weekly update on how members of their household are doing. Only one person per household needs to sign up. The program is called AZCOVIDTXT. Through this link you can learn more about the program, and if you’re interested, sign up as a participant: https://bit.ly/35cnsBb.
Take a breath – nothing more in today’s newsletter about Coronavirus.
Last week, we filed a court action to have a State law overturned. It’s yet another situation where the State adopted a law that’s intended to tell us how and when to conduct our elections. I’ve written about it before – now it’s up to the court to decide.
The State wants us to conduct our local elections in even-numbered years. Our Charter calls for them in odd-numbered years. The new State law gave a grace period before kicking in. That grace period gave us the chance to see whether our odd-numbered year election in 2019 met a voter turnout threshold called out in the new law. It didn’t, so now we’re in an odd position. We’ve already called for the 2021 election. If we go through with it, we’re subject to challenge because it runs counter to the State law. If we skip it and wait until 2022, we’re subject to challenge because that would run counter to our Charter. We’ve asked the court to figure it out.
The law (ARS 16-204(F)(4), 16-204.01 and 16-204.02) also tells us when we can place tax questions on the ballot. You’ve seen Prop 407, Prop 202, Prop 203 and Prop 101 on odd-numbered year ballots. The value in running our local stuff the way we do is that it’s not buried in long Statewide election ballots. This way we have the ability to focus discussions on local issues throughout the runup to the election. If we go to even-numbered year elections, we’re at the end of the ballot. The State would say that voter turnout is improved by going to even-numbered year ballots. They demonstrated that. Now, it’s up to the court to decide whether that’s more important than our Charter, and our rationale for staying with our process.
I asked for this item to be moved along so we have answers sooner than later. If we are told our Charter prevails, that means we will be having three City Council seats on the 2021 ballot (Wards 3, 5 and 6). For everyone involved, knowing when to gear up for that effort is important information. I’m hopeful our request for a permanent injunction is answered sometime this summer.
My Local Tucson item this week is the community call to the movement that had its birth in tragedy. Beyond flowed from the January 8th Safeway shooting. Now it’s an annual series of events that encourage staying connected. It’s a particularly important topic during this COVID-19 Stay at Home period.
The Beyond folks are asking each of us to let them know how we’re coping. They’re exploring this question: “How do we stay socially connected and support one another when our personal well-being requires us to remain physically distant from one another?” They’re gathering responses to that question through this 5-minute survey:
Social distancing and Stay at Home run counter to the spirit of Beyond. And yet, they’re committed to tooling their program in ways that continue to help build resiliency throughout the community. Take their survey. It’s an investment in an important program.
As most of us are hunkered down due to COVID-19, there’s still Prop 101 pavement preservation work going on all across town. If you’re out and about, please watch for these projects:
May 1st through May 9th:
The Broadway/Houghton/Old Spanish Trail area; also 22nd Street and Houghton
May 4th through May 14th:
Speedway from Alvernon to Rosemont
May 7th they’ll be doing crack sealing on University Blvd from 4th Ave to Park, and on 4th Ave from University to the 4th Avenue underpass.
Council Member, Ward 6