Steve K's Newsletter 05/18/20

Topics in This Issue:

Last week we hosted two different Zoom meetings, both titled “What does reopening the City look like?” One had business operators invited to take part. The other had health care workers invited. I’m using this week’s space that I set aside to honor our health care and first responder personnel to share the input we received during their Zoom. 

Taking part in the call were medical people ranging from an ER doctor, a COVID-19 unit nurse, the supply chain coordinator for a hospital, the director of an in-home care company, a nurse from the behavioral health community, health clinic personnel, to the lady who runs the nursing school over at the UA. This was clearly a group who is and has been on the front lines throughout COVID-19. 

What did we hear? First, the message needs to go out that our hospitals are safe places. Do not avoid going if there’s medical care you need. Several of the callers said they’re now seeing patients who should have sought medical care sooner but were scared away by the media messages about contracting Coronavirus at health care facilities. Go to the doctor if you need medical care. 

There were some reoccurring themes during the call. They included concerns that we’ll lose the ground we have gained if we reopen things too quickly, without the proper health guidelines in place. There’s a concern over supply chain interruptions if we get a new ramping up of COVID-19. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) supplies are at about a three week level right now, but that will disappear if we see a resurgence. Repeats of the message that older adults and people with existing health conditions must avoid large crowds and must wear protective covering when out in public. There are concerns about how we are managing testing and contact tracing. There were comments reminding us that while masks are important, contamination from surface transmission is largely being ignored. People with mental illnesses are being uniquely impacted by the new social norms we’re living with. We also have a big component of our in-home care community that’s largely unregulated and so is flying under the COVID-19 regulation radar screen. 

One overarching message is the need to educate, educate, educate. If you’re going out into public, do it wisely.  There was unanimous agreement that opening the City now is premature and will result in increases in infections, strains on our health care system, and will continue to put the lives of these workers at risk. 

The County issued guidelines for how to implement Ducey’s loosening the Stay at Home Order. They are being sued for having issued the guidelines. I’ll have more on that below. It is fair to assume that every one of the medical people who took part in my Zoom would say even the rules the County implemented didn’t go far enough. 

For the record, ‘the experts’ are not saying it’s safe to go out again. The experts are running ER’s, COVID-19 units, and trying to make sure health care workers have sufficient PPE. They are saying now is not the time to loosen the rules. Thanks to all of you who work in the health care field. We need your service, and we need your voices. 

With that, an update in the Be Kind on how Hill Bailey’s fund raiser is going. Money donated goes to buy food at local restaurants, and that food is going to hospitals and to first responders.  Last week El Charro supplied 250 tamales to local hospital workers, and Holy Smokin’ Butts BBQ delivered 100 meals to St. Mary’s hospital. The project goal is to raise $45,000. Right now, Hill and her KDRI-FM colleagues are at $40,731. Please consider taking part. Every donation helps support the people who continue to be out on the front lines. You can by clicking this link:  https://tinyurl.com/s8jkrk4. This supports local business, and local heroes. 

This week’s Be Kind includes more food distribution opportunities. One is taking place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at Ward 6 office neighbor Catalina United Methodist Church. They’re located right across from Himmel Park at 2700 E. Speedway. 

From 8:30am until 9:30am on those days, they host a ‘grab-n-go' food pickup. The meals are given free of charge. Kids up to the age of 18 get one free breakfast and one free lunch. Parents are invited to do the pickup for their household. It’s great to see the Catalina folks stepping towards this need in our community in such a big way. 

The final Be Kind for this week is Tucson Food Share. On their website you can learn how to either volunteer or donate. Check them out at https://tucsonfoodshare.org.  

Their work is about sharing free groceries with neighbors who have been impacted by COVID-19. They have food pick-ups on Monday’s and Thursday’s from 6pm until 8pm. The pick-up is at 600 N. 4th Ave at the south-facing door east of the main Tallboys entrance. Food is being made available to anybody who needs it – no income test, no I.D. or documentation.  

Their goal is to support anyone who is already self-isolating due to age, or medical conditions. All of their hygiene protocols are aligned with CDC recommendations. Look at their website in order to get involved or call them at 222.9242. You can request a food delivery if you aren’t able to go and pick it up in person. Here’s a direct link to the delivery form. 

 https://forms.gle/WLHsPYUCueQqATdQA  

Food is pretty much an essential. It’s great to see all of the Kindness being shared across the community using food as the touch point. 

Ending Stay at Home 

Before I get to what Ducey did last week, I’ll share the Guest Piece I wrote that Sarah Garrecht-Gassen at the Star was kind enough to run last week. 

The current stay-at-home executive order issued by Gov. Doug Ducey is due to expire at midnight on May 15. There are certain political pressures weighing on the governor to allow the order to sunset and effectively ‘reopen the economy.’ 

However, the health-driven criteria issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all argue against doing so. 

Since the middle of March, we have watched the state gradually ratchet down various activities throughout Arizona. Following the declaration of a state of emergency, Ducey joined in the decisions to shut down the public school system, and in keeping with CDC guidelines he called for the closure of dining in restaurants, shuttering bars, gyms and other non-essential retail and social gathering places. 

Each executive order has called for a reevaluation in two-week increments. The decision to follow that timeline is consistent with CDC guidance related to COVID-19. 

One of the criteria we are called to evaluate before ending the order is finding 14 consecutive days of decreasing symptomatic cases. 

There is no place in Arizona that has achieved that standard. 

Some of the other CDC guidance includes having adequate personal protective equipment for first responders and health-care workers. Currently, Pima County is experiencing a huge backlog on orders for PPE. 

The CDC guidance also includes widespread testing, and the ability to conduct “contact tracing” for all who test positive for a COVID-19 infection. We have tested well under 5% of the statewide population, and have no ability in place to track down “COVID-19 positive” contacts. 

Across the nation we are seeing increased numbers of people infected with the virus. As testing increases, that’s to be expected. And because coronavirus can be spread for days before symptoms appear, the testing results mean we have people with active infections inadvertently interacting out in public, spreading the disease. 

The data shows extra vulnerability for people who are stuck in congregate settings. Those include residents of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, homeless shelters, and ICE detention facilities. As new residents are introduced into any such community, the likelihood of “community spread” is clear, and in many cases potentially fatal. 

Another of the CDC criteria we are directed to observe prior to “reopening the state” is hospital bed capacity in the event of a resurgence of infections. We all remember the horrible scenes of emergency rooms and ICUs across the country when the outbreak first began. 

Thankfully, due to the elimination of elective medical treatments, hospitals have been able to open up bed space. That has come at the expense of immense financial impacts on our medical care system, and at the expense of patients awaiting important surgical care. 

Across the nation we’re seeing governors relax their stay-at-home restrictions. They do so ignoring the simple reality that the virus does not respond to two-week increment executive orders. It cares not a bit about political pressure to restore “liberty” and reopen commerce. The virus does what it does; that is, find a vulnerable target, infect that target, and spread. South Korea tested reopening, saw a surge in new infections and has now had to begin the process of “staying at home” once again. 

Social isolation can have devastating effects on people. We must stay connected, even during this stay-at-home period. 

The economy is suffering. We must continue to support local businesses as best we can through curbside purchases and takeout orders. 

There is a social contract that calls on the government to help sustain businesses and families during times of need. We must continue to do so with ongoing federal support to local governments. And that support must come with few, if any, strings attached so local governing bodies can best target the funds to where the needs most urgently exist within their communities. 

On May 15, Ducey should absolutely not end the stay-at-home order. None of the CDC guidelines have been met that would indicate ending the order is a prudent medical decision, save for one: 

The pandemic is not over, but yes, we do have room for you in our ICUs for when you become infected. 

The day that ran, the Governor lifted his Stay at Home. This began a series of events that will now have to play out at the Attorney General’s level. 

In the Executive Order, the Governor says our supplies of PPE are sufficient to take care of a potential resurgence of COVID-19 infections. The hospital workers I spoke to would not agree. He says in the Executive Order that the Arizona Department of Health Services’ data shows we’ve made progress in slowing down the spread of Coronavirus. Here’s the ADHS map I shared with you last week: 

Here’s the ADHS COVID-19 map from this week: 

So based on that “progress”, Ducey has lifted the Stay at Home. I stand by what I wrote for the Star. 

Restaurants were allowed to open for dining-in on May 11th. Over the weekend, Ducey expanded the list of allowable activities to include this: 

I mentioned above that there’s now a lawsuit that has been filed against Pima County. It’s based on that set of regulations. Noting that ‘promoting’, ‘intensifying’, ‘monitoring’, ‘ensuring’, and the rest of what’s contained in that section of the Executive Order are very general and vague, the County issued a set of guidelines that lends more specificity to what was contained in Ducey’s Order. The County is our regional health authority. Businesses were asking what the Executive Order meant in application. The Pima County Health folks instituted guidelines giving clarity to Ducey’s list. 

There were four areas Pima County gave guidance on. Those included restaurants and bars, outdoor seating, resorts and fitness, and attractions. There is cross-over in the guidelines given by Pima County between those categories. Here’s what the County Health authority was asking restaurants to demonstrate in order to comply with the vague standards included in Ducey’s Executive Order. I say ‘was’ because things may change now that there’s an A.G. investigation going on. 

1) All restaurant personnel and their vendors are subject to a ‘wellness check’ as they arrive at the business. 

2) All workers are to wear masks and gloves 

3) Any customer who shows symptoms of COVID-19 will be prohibited from entering.  

4) Signage advising customers who are symptomatic to stay away from the place. 

5) Reducing occupancy to 50%, or lower 

6) Any in-house seating must be arranged ahead of time by making a reservation. 

7) At least 6’ between tables 

8) Clearly marked 6’ spacing tape marks on the floor throughout the facility 

9) No more than 10 people allowed per table 

10) Menu boards or single use menus 

11) Eliminate self-serve condiment and soda stations 

12) Expanding outdoor service areas 

13) Hand sanitizers available throughout the facility 

14) Intensive sanitizing after each customer leaves 

15) At least every 2-3 hours, update a ‘cleaning log’ on-line and at the entrance so customers can see what areas of the restaurant have been cleaned. 

The County also recommended using a touchless payment method and having restaurant personnel getting a National Food Safety & Handling certification. Those two are just for the businesses ‘to consider.’ 

The regulations the County voted to implement for outdoor seating include things such as allowing portions of parking lots to be used, vacant land in the area to be used, using sidewalks or parking spaces. Much of what they voted on for outdoor seating will really fall into zoning code discussions for us, and for towns in the region. The County has no jurisdiction over our ability to for example set aside parking slots for outdoor seating. We’ll be having that sort of conversation ourselves. 

The guidelines for resorts and fitness centers build on what the County adopted for restaurants. The same sorts of PPE, sanitizing and signage requirements, but the indoor occupancy allows for more than 50% occupancy if the physical size of the facility will allow for it and still keep with the 6’ distancing requirements. 

The guidelines for Attractions mirror those for restaurants. 

On Friday, State Representatives Leach, Roberts and Finchem filed their action with the State Attorney General. It’s pretty short, but the impacts are potentially long range detrimental to many of our goals related to getting ahead of the spread of COVID-19. Here’s what they filed: 

The “A.R.S.” section they cite is the same State law they used to shut down our gun destruction policy. The State Supreme Court voted that guns are of Statewide concern and so if we continued to break guns at your request, we could lose over $130M in State shared revenues. The numbers are different, but the same loss of revenue threat exists for the County. The three representatives base their action on this section from Ducey’s Executive Order: 

The allegation is that the rules put into place by the County are ‘in addition to’ what Ducey included in the list I shared up above. 

The County was trying to give some specificity to the very general guidelines Ducey left in his Order. The County based their policy guidance on what the medical community recommends. Ducey, and by extension Finchem, Roberts and Leach would have the business figure it out for themselves. 

Here’s what we get when left to the individual interpretation standard. This is from last Friday at Frog ‘n’ Firkin just off the UA campus.  

The County rules were trying to prevent that sort of irresponsibility. Under the terms of Ducey’s Executive Order, it could be argued that the fact that they didn’t limit the group to 10 or fewer was ok due to “the size of the location” or that it was not “feasible”. Finchem, Leach and Roberts would support the student’s behavior, and the ability of the restaurant to allow it. 

Luzdelia Caballero from KGUN9 interviewed the manager of the place and he said he wished the State had waited until after graduation before allowing restaurants to reopen. That totally doesn’t fly. He could have easily joined the hundreds of businesses Statewide who are signed on with ‘Too Soon Arizona’ in making the point that now is not the time to reopen. You can find the whole list at www.toosoonarizona.com. You’ll find lots of local small businesses listed on the site. 

This week the Board of Supervisors will be considering eliminating some of their guidelines in response to the Leach, et al. action. Those may include no longer requiring advance reservations, staff no longer checking customers’ symptoms at the door, and there being no civil penalties for violating the guidelines. Whether that’s enough to satisfy the A.G. remains to be seen. Given that this whole COVID-19 issue has turned partisan and political, and is not being driven by the medical community’s advice, my hunch is that the legal action will continue, regardless of what the BOS does. If you don’t want to wait on all of that to play itself out, this chart was issued by the CDC for restaurants and bars to help them in deciding whether or not to open.  That agency seems to be everyone’s go-to: 

Lying with Statistics 

Many of us took Stat 101 back in the day. A part of that course was to show tricks people play when using statistics. For example, if you want to show some percentage of an activity is decreasing, just increase the size of the denominator in the fraction. That way, even though the actual number of incidents is going up, the fraction of the whole appears to be dropping. That’s exactly what Ducey did in justifying ending Stay at Home. Here’s his tweet that shows the “percentage of positive tests” is headed down. But the number of tests being given is significantly increasing. And as I shared up above with the Arizona Department of Health data, the actual number of cases is continuing to go up. 

In his press conference, the Governor said that “we’re on the other side of this pandemic.” Why? Because “the percentage of positive cases is going down.”  

Here’s the ADHS data summary I shared with you last week: 

Here it is from this week, as of Sunday night. These are the raw numbers of infected people, not a phony percentage change based on increasing the denominator of a fraction. 

You can track the State data at www.azdhs.gov

Here is the daily count for the last 15 days. The first column is the number of Statewide infections, the second column is Pima County infections, the third is the daily increase in Pima County, the fourth is deaths Statewide, the fifth is Pima County deaths, and the last column is death number changes by day in Pima County. Not a single column in that chart indicates that ‘we’re on the other side of this pandemic.’ And if the management of Frog ‘n’ Firkin is an example of how businesses are going to respond to reopening the doors, expect the virus to reemerge. But don’t take my word for it. Trump’s doctor, Anthony Fauci said “if we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to Open America Again, then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country. This will not only result in needless suffering, and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.” 

Rallies and Guns 

One of the ‘essential’ businesses included in all of Ducey’s Executive Orders is gun dealers. And at many of the rallies to reopen businesses, we’ve all seen scenes like this: 

And this: 

 What is that guy hunting with that thing? Or maybe it’s just some real fear going on? 

You don’t see much PPE in these rally’s. I did run across this interesting juxtaposition: 

What’s with the protester carrying a gun and also wearing a mask. Cognitive dissonance – or this,  

Pictures tell a thousand words. We need to get back to science. 

COVID-19 and Stress 

Performance Research conducted studies about two weeks after the CDC declared the COVID-19 pandemic. They studied over 1,000 respondents to a survey that was given from March 23rd through March 26th. The results show that emotionally, financially and from a health perspective, people are stressing over this issue. Here’s a graph that shows what people taking the survey were feeling. 

On top of the coronavirus-related direct stress, we have an increasing number of people who have been called on to be caregivers for family members. This AARP graphic shows how that number has increased over the past five years. Check it out slowly - “nearly 1 in 5 are providing unpaid care to an adult with health or functional needs.”  

And Emerge tells us that the amount of domestic abuse that’s going on during Stay at Home is increasing. All of this screams out for the importance of staying connected. If you’re feeling the strain of the moment, reach out to a friend or loved one.  You may also want to contact your primary care physician and ask for some counseling. Here’s the Emerge 24-hour hotline: 795.4266. The national suicide prevention hotline: 1.800.273.8255

These are unprecedented days in all of our lifetimes. Please be good to yourself, and to your loved ones. Please don’t ignore neighbors who you may not have seen out and about for a while. This is Jake – he's a garbage truck driver in Kentucky. He gets another food related Be Kind for this week. 

During his route, Jake noticed that an elderly lady customer had not been taking her containers out to the curb for a while. Jake had their dispatcher call the lady to check in. The customer answered the phone and when asked why she hadn’t been taking the cans to the curb said it was because she didn’t have any trash. Why? Because her caregiver had quit out of fear over the pandemic and so she didn’t have any food. No food, no trash. 

Jake stopped in after his shift and found every one of her cupboards empty. The company went on a massive shopping spree and filled the refrigerator and cupboards with food. They’re now regularly checking in on her. Please do the same with your neighbors. 

County Data – Testing and Personal Protective Equipment 

Last week I shared data from the County on the COVID-19 testing that was going on in the region. This is the snapshot that covered up through May 8th. Since then, there has been a good increase in both testing, and in locations where the tests are being given. 

Late last week the County sent this chart. It shows the locations, and numbers for where testing was taking place over last weekend: 

Those tests were given in conjunction with the Statewide ‘blitz.’ Statewide now there have been over 151,000 tests administered for COVID-19. They’re running a 7% positive rate.  

There are a lot of logistics that go into setting up a test site. The follow up with labs, patients and State/regional regulators has to follow some very strict protocols. It’s great that some progress is being made. And while testing is important, it’s a snapshot in time and if the Frog ‘n’ Firkin behavior becomes typical, the test result you get tomorrow may be very different than yesterday’s. 

So, with that happy note in mind, the availability of PPE is a key bit of information for the health care and first responder community. It was a big item during our health care Zoom. I get a weekly update from the City and County Emergency Operations Centers. Late last week, this chart reflected how far backlogged we are in terms of the current requests for PPE vs how much we still need. As we learned from talking with the TMC supply chain director, they’re out beating the bushes for this stuff all the time. A resurgence in infections is a huge concern throughout the medical community. You can see one reason why from this graphic. 

Moody’s Speculation - Best Cities for a Coronavirus Recovery 

Let’s end with a few good news sections. First, Moody’s is a Bond Rating Agency. They have put together some metrics on how various cities across the country are positioned to recover as COVID-19 winds down. We’re listed in their Top 10 ‘best poised.’ That doesn’t make this a time to celebrate, but it gives us some hope that our part of the recovery might be less troublesome than what other cities experience. 

One of the criteria they felt will be important is being a ‘small college town.’ While I’d push back somewhat on that characterization, we are at least a mid-sized City, and we have a well-regarded University in the middle of the City. I would also add that Pima Community College has some programs that now have international attention, and some very important two-year health care programs that are available. That will be important as students and families consider the cost of higher education as we climb out of this economic downturn. 

The study also suggests that people may have an inclination to leave big, densely populated cities and head to where there’s more open ground. I’ve voted against some of the large east-side developments that are chewing up some of our open space. I also didn’t support a pretty recent midtown housing development that will introduce unnecessary density onto a 6-acre site over by the Rillito. We have some large student housing projects on the near horizon that, if approved will run counter to the assumptions this study relied on for Tucson. For developers generally, maximizing density, such as on the Benedictine property and many infill projects should be a part of any project design discussion. “Just because you can” may not be a part of our new reality. 

The study also points to locations where people are more car centric as being better positioned than where people cram into overcrowded subways to get around. We invest a lot into our mass transit system, and people will still need a reliable one as we pull out of this. But the study included our ‘car-culture’ as one of the factors that may be attractive as a counterpoint to say a business recruiting to one of the large northeast urban centers where you rely on mass transit as your primary transportation option. 

They also mentioned areas that rely on tourism as being well-positioned for recovery. I’m not sure I would agree with that as long as people are reluctant to travel. But it’s in the Moody’s mix, so it’s only fair to mention it.  

Here are the 10 cities worst-positioned to recover from coronavirus. They're listed alphabetically, not in order of strength. 

1) Detroit 

2) Honolulu 

3) Los Angeles 

4) McAllen, Texas 

5) Miami 

6) New Haven, Connecticut 

7) New York City 

8) Philadelphia 

9) Stockton, California 

10) Tampa, Florida 

I’m not sure I get McAllen and New Haven being included, but the rest pretty clearly follow the pattern they described in the selection criteria. 

The Top 10 cities best-positioned for a coronavirus recovery, in alphabetical order, are: 

1) Boise City, Idaho 

2) Denver, Colorado 

3) Durham, North Carolina 

4) Madison, Wisconsin 

5) Provo, Utah 

6) Raleigh, North Carolina 

7) Salt Lake City, Utah 

8) San Jose, California 

9) Tucson 

10) Washington, D.C. 

I really don’t get including Denver and D.C. in that list, but the rest all clearly follow the ‘small college town’ model.  

It’s just a fun-fact speculation to have in mind. We still have a long way to go working through the COVID-19 mess. 

This week’s Local Tucson item is the Metropolitan Education Commission (MEC) career and college advising effort. It’s all being done virtually, and it’s very important for High School seniors who have questions about their next steps educationally. 

The MEC is scheduling video chats. It’s all free. Chat ‘office hours’ are from 1pm until 6pm, Monday through Thursday. During the chats, your student can ask questions about any education-related topic, and the advisors from MEC will help navigate through the issue. Things such as ACT or SAT prep, college admissions, student financial aid and career counseling are all important topics. They’re all fair game for the chat. 

To schedule a video chat, you can call MEC at 670.0055, or go on-line to www.metedu.org/rcac. It’s a key service they’re offering at a very important time. 

Crushed Glass/ ‘A’ Mountain 

Every day, many of you continue to drop off your empty glass bottles behind the Ward 6 office by the garage door. Last week I turned over to TDOT 35 more 5-gallon buckets that were full of ‘sand’. That’s I think the third such hand-off to them since this glass crushing began. They’re using the sand for treating ruts and potholes in alleys and easements. 

Before the COVID-19 shutdown, we also had some Department of Corrections crews coming by to fill sandbags with the crushed glass. Last week, our E.S. Director sent me this shot as an example of how those sandbags are out in the community, being of value. 

That’s the road heading up ‘A’ Mountain. Your old Coke or wine bottle may be buried in one of those sandbags. As the monsoon season nears, we’ll be filling more sandbags for free distribution to help protect your property.  

Keep bringing the glass by and I’ll keep sharing the bounty with our City workers, saving some money at the sand quarry and saving our landfill. Given our financial condition, every little bit helps, and this is an easy way you can participate. 

Sincerely,

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