Topics in This Issue:
- Social Isolation
- Business Zoom
- Lending Assistance for Spanish Speaking Business Owners
- Personal Protective Equipment
- City Budget
- COVID-19 Unintended Impacts
- Vote By Mail
- Tucson Water Reopening Recommendation
- Be Kind
- Weekly COVID-19 Statistic Update
- PCOA/UA LGBT Survey
- TEP Power Line Project
- Local Tucson
Below I’ll have more to say on the rate of testing that’s being done, not only in Arizona, but nationwide. It’s a small number, not nearly sufficient to direct a policy indicating we’ve achieved ‘herd immunity’, or that we’re ready to reopen things as ‘normal.’ Because so few people have been tested, I’m going to share with you my test results so you can see the kind of guidance the medical folks share with people when they receive their results.
There are two kinds of tests. One is a viral test. That shows you whether or not you have the virus. The other is an antibody test. That’s the one I had. It tells you if you’ve had the virus in the past. I’m Negative. Here’s what they sent with my results. It explains what the results mean, and what to continue to look for. Bottom line – if you test negative, “you are at risk for COVID-19 infection.”
As I was making some calls to invite people from the health care industry into the “What does reopening the City look like? - Health Care Perspective” Zoom meeting, many of them shared stories of what they’re experiencing behind the public scenes. With the restrictions on visitation that are in place in most health institutions, our doctors, nurses and technicians are now ‘family’ for their patients, too. One of our Parks Video folks, Lety Bazurto did all of the editing on this short piece that is intended to honor those workers and to honor the families and friends who have lost loved ones during COVID-19, and at other times. I think she did a great job.
Here’s the information on joining the Zoom. It will be an emotional meeting.
This Zoom starts at 5pm.
Join Tuesday's Zoom meeting: Meeting ID: 830 0978 9160, Password: 387214
Join Tuesday's meeting by phone: (253) 215-8782, Passcode: 83009789160#
While I’m reflecting on emotional issues, Maddy Bynes was kind enough to send me this link to last week’s PCOA Social Isolation Zoom meeting. It’s the entire 90-minute exchange, full of all the great information offered by the experts who joined us, and the wonderful questions we fielded from all of you who took part. Take it in bits and pieces. There’s some good stuff throughout.
This final Zoom invitation – tonight we’re hosting Part 1 of the “What does it look like to reopen the City” exchange. This one will be from the perspective of the business community, their workers and hopefully we’ll get some good input from customers. Ducey can issue Executive Orders that allow businesses to fling open their doors, but without safety and sanitation precautions, most people I know aren’t going inside. During this Zoom I hope to hear from businesses about the sorts of protocols they’ve got in mind for when that reopening is allowed.
This Zoom starts at 5pm.
Join Monday's Zoom meeting: Meeting ID: 811 9875 4342, Password: 864184
Join Monday's meeting by phone: (669) 900-9128, Passcode: 81198754342#
The County is hosting Back to Business (B2B) meetings in which they’ve invited multiple business operators to have a roundtable on exactly what I’m hoping to elicit during today’s Business Zoom. Here’s a graphic that shows some of the input they’ve gathered from a survey they sent out in coordination with the B2B meetings. These responses are specific to restaurants.
I was surprised to see that only just over half of the restaurants are prepared to have staff wear masks and gloves, and just over half are ready to ask patrons to wear a mask while they’re waiting to be seated, and those waiting areas must follow social distance guidelines. Those restaurant managers are hearing from a very different set of voices than I am. The vast majority of people I’ve asked about this expect masks and social distance to be a necessary part of reopening restaurants. And the 17% who say ‘no protective measures are necessary’ are most certainly flying in a different orbit than me.
My bride and I had to go to a Verizon on Saturday. Not a single employee was wearing a mask. All of their customers were. On the other end of the spectrum, this is the line I waited in outside of Whole Foods last weekend.
Similar to what Trader Joe’s is doing, they were metering everyone into the store to assure it wasn’t overly packed. They had this sign at the entry:
Every customer inside except for one woman that I saw was outfitted with a mask. I didn’t bother to ask her what issue she had with wearing one.
We’ll hear more on today’s Zoom. Tune in, even if you only plan on listening.
Both today’s meeting, and the Health Care Zoom tomorrow will run from 5pm until 6:30pm. During both meetings 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 and therefore won’t have access to the on-line Chat box, you can text to 979.1620 and we’ll add you to the speaker wait list.
We’ll decide when we see how many people are signed into the meetings how long statements can be. I’m guessing we’ll be limiting them to 2-3 minutes, so if you’re participating it will 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. Also, what are you looking for from businesses you plan on going into. I expect the input we get will be very different between the businesses and the health care professionals. I’m looking for some level of overlap. These meetings will play a part in what I bring to Mayor and Council when we have our study session on May 19th - same title as the Zooms; “What does reopening the City look like”. It’s a huge issue that impacts the lives of every one of us.
I’ve shared lots of information in past newsletters about economic assistance that’s available to businesses in general. Our Executive Leadership team at the City has also put together a flyer that contains information developed to reach the Spanish-speaking businesses in Tucson. The information lists lending organizations who have financial capacity and are doing specific outreach to Spanish speaking members of the business community. Here’s the flyer – please share it with businesses you feel might benefit.
Not only is this guy’s mask the wrong kind, but his horse isn’t modeling appropriate mask-wearing behavior. Leave it to friend of Ward 6 though, Joan, to step in where the ‘masked man’ left off. She’s making her way around the City deploying masks on all sorts of our local creatures to send the message (in a lighthearted way) that we need to be adhering to the CDC guidelines for mask-safety.
Here’s Joan – incognito:
And here’s part of her handiwork:
Joan of course has accomplices – you won’t see her in the dark of night climbing up to the top of these critters stringing on the masks. However, what is done isn’t as important as the message it sends. If you’re out in a crowd, please mask up.
Thanks to Craig Smith from KGUN9 for chasing the tip he ‘may have received’ from this office and tracking down Joan. Here’s his story.
If you’re lacking a mask, late last week both Standard Restaurant Supply (885-2345) and Brady Industries (207-0618) had both 2 and 3 ply masks for sale. The prices move with demand, so check their sites if you aren’t able to get ahold of one of the community-made cloth ones. I’ve had three different sources of those in the past couple of newsletters. With a very little effort, you can get a mask.
Quick budget update: there are lots of moving parts, and Mayor and Council put one more in the mix last week.
On Friday, May 1st, we received an update from the City Manager on guidelines related to how the $95M in federal CARES money can be spent. This was a part of the Q&A we engaged as a part of getting clarity on how we are to implement those guidelines. We will be audited – what we don’t want is to mis-spend the money and have it clawed back, as a General Fund expense,
Coming on a Friday, that represented about $30M - $40M in positive news for our projected General Fund obligation. We’re facing an estimated $24M deficit this fiscal year, and another $40M+ in fiscal year ’21. Mayor and Council need to understand though that this is one-time money. Using it does not address the structural pressures that are causing the deficit. Having it helps. It does not get us back to being structurally balanced, though.
During the Mayor and Council meeting on the 5th, this motion was offered:
It was not, and still is not at all clear to me that running a $40M federal subsidy to our public safety budget through a new measuring tool like what’s being called for advances our ability to avoid depleting our reserve fund, put in place a structurally balanced budget, or is the proper way to study the alleged ‘implicit and explicit’ bias in how we manage our funds.
Should we be sensitive to assuring vulnerable communities receive our attention while budgeting? Of course. And in the face of an immediate $24M deficit, and the FY’21 impending $40M+ deficit, Mayor and Council is asking staff to create a measuring tool that ‘studies, designs, and challenges internal City policies, practices, contracts, programs and budgets’? It continues to be unclear to me how we make such an assessment when asking for “payroll costs for public safety” workers to be reimbursed. Staff is already over-stretched just trying to manage COVID-19, and put a structurally balanced budget into place. The motion passed 6-1.
It remains to be seen how the good news we got on Friday will be affected by the requirement to create this assessment protocol and run all CARES expenditures through it. The motion includes budgets, as well. The 6 who supported the motion will, I’m sure, provide clear direction on what that assessment tool looks like – and quickly. Our budget is due June 30th.
Then, late last week I read the comments coming from Senator McSally related to her perspective on how local budgets have are being handled, and her support for loosening the reins on how the federal dollars we’ve been awarded may be spent. I’ll just quote her. She was speaking to a group up in Surprise, Arizona. I suspect the comments evoked a response validating the name of their town.
“On any (new) funding, I’m just going to be frank with you guys, OK? This is not the time for states and cities – unlike Arizona, unlike Surprise – who have mismanaged their budgets over the course of many decades, for them to use this as an opportunity to see you, as a taxpayer in Arizona, as a cash cow for them.”
Prior to COVID-19, the City of Tucson had a structurally balanced budget, we have over $60M in reserves and we were making excellent progress as we continued to grow out of the 2010-2011 recession. That’s not a “city who has mismanaged their budget”. We’re continuing to advocate with our Federal delegation to ease up on restrictions for how the money can be spent, but from her comments it’s clear this one of our Senators won’t be allied with our efforts. She’s one vote.
Also last week, the State announced that sales tax revenues for April were about 6% below what they were in 2019. We’re not yet sure if that projection included the month of April when everything was shut down, or if it was a real time projection. There’s a lag in reporting tax revenues, so knowing that is important. But it didn’t change the conclusion the Joint Legislative Budget Committee offered when they said the projections will not cause them to revise their estimate of a State of Arizona $1.1 Billion deficit next fiscal year.
The State has financial issues. We have one senator who hasn’t been paying attention to the hard work we’ve put into structurally balancing our budget, and Mayor and Council want all CARES expenditures and budget recommendations to be run through an equity assessment protocol that doesn’t yet exist.
We will have another budget update during our May 19th study session. The only thing certain is that we have to have approved a budget by June 30th.
Not all of the COVID-19 consequences are bad. Two examples – crime is down, and so is air pollution.
We get periodic updates on TPD work from Chief Magnus. Last week he shared these year-to-date data on various crimes. While some of the reason we are seeing a drop in crime is the great community policing work he has instituted in the agency, some component has also got to be that so many of us are just not out and about. That appears to include some who would be engaging in crimes of opportunity. Add to that the fact that lots of people are in their homes during the day for Stay at Home. Most burglaries take place when we’re at work. So, the virus is having some impact on reductions in the crimes you see listed in the chart.
Two data points that are not included in the chart are child and domestic abuse. I’ve written about this in past newsletters in connection with Emerge and the work they do. During this time when people are forced to be housed, possibly in an abusive relationship, it’s really important that you make an effort to stay connected, checking in perhaps by video chats so you can actually see who you’re ‘looking in on’. And remember the Emerge 24-hour hotline: 795.4266.
Another positive impact of this Stay at Home time is a reduction in air pollution. This is a photo of Milan, Italy – note the smog covering the City.
In an April 20th article of The Guardian, Damian Carrington tracked where COVID-19 deaths were happening around Europe, and he overlaid them with cities that have high air pollution levels. Based on the data, he wrote that high levels of air pollution may be one of the most important contributors to deaths from COVID-19. His analysis included 66 regions in Italy, Spain, France and Germany. He found that 78% of the coronavirus deaths occurred in just 5 of the regions, and those were the most polluted. Poisoning the environment means poisoning our bodies. COVID-19 is a respiratory stress – we don’t want a compromised respiratory system. The Smithsonian says that if the pollution doesn’t kill you, it’ll certainly make the symptoms worse.
So what’s happening in Pima County since the shutdown began in March? Well for one thing, we’re driving significantly less than before March 15th. In the month following the shut down the Pima County Environmental Quality folks report sharp drops in Nitrogen Dioxide in the air. That’s a catalyst for ozone, which triggers coughing, throat irritation and generally bad stuff for our lungs. Last year we were on an EPA ozone watch list.
I’m not suggesting we should cheer for a pandemic, but some of the side effects are at least interesting points that we might benefit from keeping in mind when things begin to reopen. There’s a song I do from “A Star is Born” that has a refrain ‘maybe it’s time we let the old ways die’. Something to consider.
Last week I wrote about our legal challenge of the State law that’s attempting to force us to even-numbered year elections. While we don’t have a local election set for this November, don’t forget that there are some rather important political decisions that’ll be made in a few months, and you will want your voice included in the tally.
Pima County voters can right now sign up for vote by mail for the 2020 elections. That’s both for the Primary elections, and for the General. None of us can predict what’ll be happening with COVID-19 as the summer and fall unfold, so signing up to vote by mail could preserve your ability to participate.
Use this website to request an early ballot be mailed to you: https://www.recorder.pima.gov/BallotByMail. On the form you’ll see boxes to check for both the Primary and the General. Signing up doesn’t commit you to voting by mail, but it preserves the option for you in case things really go south from a pandemic standpoint and getting to a polling place becomes a problem.
While I’m on the whole reopening theme, Tucson Water has some health-related advice for firing up your plumbing after a long shut down. What they’re suggesting is easy, represents a rational caution, and may save you some health consequences.
Water that has been sitting stagnant in private pipes for an extended period of time will degrade in quality. That could mean increased bacteria or metal levels. It’s easy to deal with by just flushing the lines. Here’s the 5-step process they’re recommending:
1) Remove aerators or any water treatment device you may have installed at the faucet
2) Turn on the faucet that’s furthest from your meter first
3) Flush as many of your outlets as possible at the same time – don't go around the house/business and just flush them one at a time.
4) Flush for around 20 minutes
5) Flush both hot and cold water lines.
The Tucson Water website has more good information on how to return from being shut down in ways that’ll ensure your water supply is clean and healthy. This is one of the links they recommend you check out: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html.
This Be Kind is for the thoughtfulness exhibited by the Pima County Emergency Operations Center team. Spearheaded by my friend Lee, they made a special effort to reach out to City transit workers who have been assisting with keeping things rolling during COVID-19. I join Lee and the Pima County EOC in thanking those front-line workers who are out daily doing the Sun Tran, Sun Van and Sun Link work.
While we’re all working through COVID-19 and thinking of new ways to celebrate what not too long ago were simple family get-togethers, we see creative work-arounds that deserve to be noted. This wonderful lady turned 99 last week. Her family put together a parade of cars that slowly drove by and offered her birthday wishes. Later in the day friends and family who are out of State did Zoom greetings. The Kindness all of those involved showed cannot be measured.
Greater Good has given out over $250M in grants. Their focus is on people, the planet, and this Be Kind is for their focus on pets. Greater Good is partnering with PACC and is providing pet food for families that have been impacted by COVID-19.
Greater Good has donated food to the Friends of PACC. It’s being distributed in one-gallon Ziploc bags by PACC staff and their great volunteers. To get involved, go to the Pima Animal Care Center out at 4000 N. Silverbell. The distribution will take place in the main parking area every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday from 7:30am until 9:30am. Please be courteous and wear a mask when you show up to pick up your gift.
If you’d like to help support this work, go to the Friends of PACC website at www.friendsofpacc.org and it’ll guide you through the steps.
Please remember – there are lots of people out walking their dogs, and just hanging out in some of our neighborhood parks. There is a leash law in Pima County. In respect of everyone else who’s out and about in our neighborhoods while honoring the Stay at Home order, please comply with that law.
This final Be Kind for this week is for the now over 400 donors to Hill Bailey’s KDRI-FM ‘Drive Thru for Tucson’s Front Line’ promo. Each week I’m happy to update their progress on the way to the $45K goal. The current donation level is just over $40,000. Last week Sapphire Catering was responsible for delivering 100 meals to the late-night squad at Oro Valley hospital. I’ll just say that having been hospitalized after being run over while on my bike, I know those nights can be long, and those shifts involve some really compassionate workers. So, good on Sapphire. Also, YOU Tucson and Z Pizza took care of lunch for the Golder Ranch Fire Stations. Even restaurants that are opening their doors are lagging business. Please use this link to get Hill’s promo over the top. All the money goes to local restaurants, and all the food they provide goes to local health care workers and first responders.
Last week, the NY Times shared this graph. It’s an interesting longitudinal look at how COVID-19 has impacted the country. If you just look at the New York numbers, it appears they’ve passed their peak. But when you pull those data out from the national numbers you see the trend nationwide is the reverse of that. Despite some areas showing successes, it’s clear the national trend is headed in the wrong direction.
Reversing the trend by opening things up without adequate protections would be a huge mistake. The social distancing, masks and other things we’re doing have an impact, but the data clearly shows we’re not looking at coronavirus in the rear-view mirror.
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.
Last week I wrote that it appeared we had plateaued in the number of new cases we were seeing. That was based on the weekly data showing around 26 new cases per day throughout the week. Well, things changed again, in the wrong direction. Look at the past week’s “Pima Co. Change from Previous Day” column and you’ll see last week had days of 33, 46, 41 and 67 new cases. If you look at the last column (“number of deaths”) you’ll see last week was our worst since the beginning of April.
Just as the Governor is opening things back up for business, our trend is indicating that now is not the time to be letting down our guard.
Relevant to those numbers is the number of people who are being tested. This chart shows the testing numbers for Pima County:
The only day that we saw north of 2,000 people being tested in the County was Wednesday. There’s some progress, but certainly not a ‘blitz’ attack. There may be some correlation between the number of new cases being reported and the slight uptick in testing. But since there’s a lag between when a test is given and when we get the results, we’ll be more likely to see the impact of last week’s testing on the infection data in the coming days. That means, expect the new cases column to continue to increase.
All of this simply highlights the uncertainty built into the work of chasing the virus. This puts me in a position of wanting to treat resuming ‘normal’ activities in a very conservative manner.
Also last week we received this graphic from the Pima County Health folks. At the time it showed some improvement from the prior week. It will need to be readjusted again based on Jan’s data. The “Decreasing symptomatic cases over 14 days” column will have to shift back into the red. So will “Decreasing COVID-19 related deaths over 14 days”. We’re making some progress on testing, and so far, there appears to be progress being made on adequate facilities for patients. But we are not checking the necessary boxes to assume resuming operations as before is safe.
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:
As of Sunday night, there have been 137,739 COVID tests done in the State. We have a population of 7.2 million people. Having tested under 3% of the population is more of a blip than a blitz.
You can track the State data at www.azdhs.gov.
There’s plenty of current information on COVID-19. This link takes you to the Pima County Health set of COVID guidelines.
Throughout the week we get calls from people wanting to know how to report social distancing/large gathering violations. I’m guessing that with Ducey’s shift to reopening restaurants and other businesses, we’ll see an increase in those complaints. You can use this link for that purpose:
There are pockets of subgroups that are being impacted in very different ways by the COVID-19 virus. We know that people of color and economically disadvantaged workers are still out on the front line, and therefore are likely going to increasingly represent a demographic that is disproportionately affected by the virus. The same is true of subgroups such as people in congregate settings; prisons, nursing homes, homeless shelters. That reality supports the decision to shut down the schools when we did.
Another subgroup that is facing unique challenges with COVID-19 is our LGBT community. The Pima Council on Aging is partnering with the UA conducting a survey that will highlight where we may be able to up our game and provide services that are now falling in the cracks.
If you identify as a member of the LGBT community, and you’re age 55 or older, please take a few minutes and share your perspectives. It’s all anonymous, and the data will help PCOA focus their resources in areas of need that you highlight. Thanks for making the effort to get involved.
Because of the COVID-19 restrictions on public meetings, TEP is continuing to take input on the proposed new substation and power line extensions in an on-line mode. They still hope to have a recommendation to the Corporation Commission late this year. That’s where the final determination will be made as to routing. I’ve shared maps and project descriptions in previous newsletters, but if you would like a refresher on the reasons behind the work and what’s being considered, this link will take you to the full TEP Power Point presentation:
All of the public input is due by Friday, May 22nd. You can access the on-line comment form by using this link: www.tep.com/kino-to-demoss-petrie/ .
This week’s Local Tucson item is Sustainable Tucson. Yes, they’re still meeting – not in our Community Room, but tomorrow they’ll host a virtual meeting. It’s scheduled to run from 6pm until 8pm.
Tomorrow’s guest speaker will be Mike Peel from Local First Arizona. He’ll talk about the impacts COVID-19 has had on our local businesses, and what we can do to help sustain that key part of our local economy. One way is to scroll back up and get involved with the Drive Thru for Tucson’s Front-Line promotion. But Mike will offer more ideas, each of which will be important for consideration as we start to ramp things back up.
To get involved in the Tuesday meeting, go to https://bit.ly/STLocalEconomy.
Council Member, Ward 6