Steve K's Newsletter 07/20/20

Topics in this Issue:

 

 

This week’s blue light recognition goes to members of our health care community again, but with a slight twist. I’ve shared the pictures and descriptions of the docs, nurses, and techs who are inside the ICUs and ERs, but there’s also important health care work going on that’s related to the issue of social isolation and its effects.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is partnering with the UA Dept of Psychiatry in hosting a Zoom event this week. It’ll be held on Friday the 24th at 2pm. Here’s the link to sign up:

July 24: COVID-19 Impacts on Mental Health - Part 2, Couples and Families, 2pm

The focus of this Zoom is how social isolation may impact relationships within couples and families. Early in this COVID mess I joined PCOA in hosting a Zoom on social isolation. Many of you participated. The CDC reports that over a third of the U.S. population is experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression, much of which may be linked to being shuttered in place for going on 4 months now. There has been a significant increase in the prescription of anti-anxiety drugs. The Osher/Banner/UA Psychiatry Zoom is intended to offer other coping strategies.

The format will include time for Q&A. Check out the descriptive link above, or if you’re already sure you want to register, go straight to www.OLLI.arizona.edu. You can also get more information on the entire Osher program by contacting Jamie Manser at 874.4148. 

COVID is having widespread health impacts. This Zoom will touch on one that is flying largely under the media radar screen but may be something you or loved ones are experiencing.

 

 

This Be Kind is for all the folks over at Pima Council on Aging who are stepping up and helping with grocery delivery for seniors during COVID. They’ve got a grocery shopping service for people who may be reluctant to go out into public areas. The concern may be due to some pre-existing condition, or general coronavirus and social distancing issues. 

You must be over 60 years of age to qualify. Please reach out to PCOA’s helpline at 790.7262 if you are, or if you know of someone who may benefit from the Kindness PCOA and their staff are spreading through this, and their many other senior-focused programs.

If you would like more information on eligibility, or other areas PCOA is working to benefit our community, contact Maddy Bynes at mbynes@pcoa.org

And another food-related item is a reminder of the Tucson Food Share that continues out of Tallboys. Groceries are available for free, twice each week. And they’ll deliver for free once per week. 

The pick-up times are Mondays and Thursdays from 6pm until 8pm, and they will deliver within a 12 mile radius of 4th Ave. You can schedule a delivery by calling 222.9242. Tallboys is located at 600 N. 4th Ave. This has been going on since COVID began. You do not have to demonstrate any financial need; just show up and they’ll take care of you. They’ve also got local organic produce and bulk staples for those who don’t need to receive the free food. It’s all received and distributed in clean and hygienically safe conditions. If you’d like more information about this opportunity, or would like to donate to the work,  connect with them at http://www.tucsonfoodshare.org.

One more food-related reminder. Every Tuesday and Friday, Palo Verde neighborhood partners with Emmanuel Church in a free food box distribution. Just head to the Emmanuel parking lot located at 1825 N. Alvernon and they’ll drop a food box in your car. The distribution runs from 11am until noon.

There’s a lot of neighbor taking care of neighbor going on. It speaks to the quality of character that’s spread all over this City.

Cross Country Solar Trip

That’s GRIFF – shortened for Griffin. It’s a 100% solar powered box truck. 

We’ve got our Tucson Griffin on Scott Ave - 


 
Our 12’ tall Griffin went up on Scott Ave in mid-2009, I guess as a way for my then-opponent to try to show downtown development was booming. In this case, GRIFF is a legitimate statement of progress. 

Josh Hill is the owner-operator-developer of this fully electric vehicle. He began in Idaho, wound his way through Oregon, down the coast and I let him camp out in my parking are last Monday while he raised GRIFF’s wings and let the EV repower. His goal is to become the first 100% solar powered EV to tour across America. While repowering, the vehicle was not plugged into any electric outlet to regain power. The new juice was provided by the sun alone, feeding the on-board battery system so Josh could resume his journey on Tuesday. 

The City is in the midst of a pilot project, using our sole solar powered bus to run routes. The limiting factor right now is it’s 6-hour duration capacity. I’m fully behind efforts like Josh’s to build on existing technology so we can move to a reliable renewable fleet. We’re not there yet; but based on what we learn from our own pilot, and based on the support guys like Josh receive from his own efforts, the market will change in ways that’ll allow us to expand into renewables without compromising the service we deliver to our customers. 

If you’d like to learn more about Josh and his work, check out his website at www.awakensolar.com

COVID and Genna

Last week I sat through a court procedure in which decisions were made regarding yet more court proceedings related to Genna’s case. If that sounds like a run-on or redundant sentence it’s because this whole prolonged case has run on and on and the messages to the family and loved ones have become redundant. The message - ‘wait just a little bit longer for justice.’

 
If you follow this newsletter, by now you know the story. Over 8 years ago, Genna was shot and killed by a guy who claims it was all just an unfortunate accident. My office has fought for, and with, the family to get what was a cold case, well, warmed up. It seems to be as the killer has now been indicted for manslaughter (woman slaughter, more accurately in this case.)

What's the COVID tie-in? The courts are not holding in-person trials right now, and they’re still figuring out how to do the jury selection/social distance thing. So what was to have been a done deal by this time in 2020 is now pushed out to a March 9th, 2021 trial date. Hopefully by then, if we haven’t put COVID behind us, we’ll at least have sorted out how to conduct business in the judicial system. 

Genna’s resting peacefully throughout all of this. Others of us aren’t. It’s just one more example of how multiple aspects of our lives have been changed by this virus. 

COVID and Reopening the UA

During last week’s UA update, both President Robbins and Dr. Carmona indicated a continuing concern over the trend in age-cohort COVID data. This graph shows where we’ve been seeing the greatest number of COVID cases. 


When campus reopens, the student population will be the 20-44-year-old age group. They’re largely catching coronavirus through community spread – through contacts they have outside of their own homes. That’s behavior we’re not able to be ahead of in many cases. Sure, bars are right now closed, but large parties in peoples’ homes around campus are commonplace. As the UA considers what the August 24th reopening of campus looks like, seeing nearly half of the new cases are among the student age group is a factor being closely considered.

One criterion President Robbins will be looking at when deciding the form of ‘reopening’ is what’s happening in our hospitals. He has a unique familiarity among University Presidents, having been a doc in his former life. I pulled this graphic from their most recent presentation. 

Our docs, nurses and techs are burning out. They spend their days outfitted in PPE:


 
They’re wearing that gear all day while delivering health care services, and while dealing with death and disability. One nurse told Dr. Carmona that she had served in the military, and that this reminded her of that experience. I have 3 nieces who are on those hospital front lines. Ann has a daughter and son-in-law there, as well. We are well aware of the family sacrifices being made by our hospital workers. So is the Robbins/Carmona team. All of this will be weighed when planning what campus reopening looks like.

Dr. Carmona shared that headhunters are calling our medical providers on a regular basis trying to recruit them to move to a different location. It’s a bidding war. In the midst of all this, President Robbins has announced there will be some sort of class offering starting on August 24th. Options include business as usual (not a serious consideration,) in-person classes with social distancing in classrooms, some hybrid of in-person/virtual, and all-virtual. Professors are being given the latitude of deciding whether to do all-virtual for their individual classes.

So far, the UA has about 6,600 students who have made deposits for on-campus dorms. All of them will take a mandatory antigen test before they’ll be allowed to move in. If they test negative, they’ll be allowed to move in wearing face coverings and following CDC distance guidelines. 

I’ll close with three quick thoughts on the challenge the UA has in reopening. One is they’re balancing the educational benefits with the significant financial impact of staying closed – and of staying virtual. That’s estimated at nearly $300M. It’s not realistic to think that’s also not being factored into all of this.

 Next is the reliance on peer-to-peer education/pressure that will have to be a part of a successful reopening. Enforcement of CDC and UA/County Health guidelines cannot be a law enforcement, confrontational issue. Students/faculty/staff will have to self-regulate, or it won’t work. 

And finally, all of this has lurking in the background the prediction by the medical community of a new swine flu coming to North America this fall. That’s not a throw-away line. It’s a big deal for everybody in the community, in our hospitals, and in classrooms. Stay tuned as protocols are identified for reopening campus. It’s a little City within the larger City, so it affects us all.

Reopening Elementary and High Schools

The Governor held another press conference last week in which he pushed back the reopening date for the public school system to August 17th. He has committed to meeting with school officials throughout the coming week to determine what that will look like. Just as the UA team has to consider the COVID infection rate on 20-44 year old’s, there’s data for public school officials to also be looking at. This graph is from Pima County – it covers the past 3 weeks. Considering that we’re all sort of “bubble-ized” within family units right now, it’s fair to assume most of the very young person infections are not a function of them cruising 4th Avenue after dark. So these data have to be a concern for public school officials.

I’ll have more on the public school opening as the plans are finalized. Count on them being something other than business as usual. Nobody at any level of education has that on the table as a serious consideration. The only thing that is certain is there are lots of people working lots of hours, spending lots of money planning for some sort of resumption of the educational system this fall. We’re living history – and we’re looking at a new reality for the way we live our lives.

UA Joins International Student Litigation

Ok, back to the UA for a minute - 

Two weeks ago, the Trump administration announced it was going to refuse visas for any international student who was attending school this fall on an all-virtual basis. I know the UA has a significant number of international students, comprising about 13% of the total student tuition. More importantly, they contribute significant research and cultural value to the campus community.

Last week the UA joined 19 other colleges and universities in suing the administration over that decision. We’ve had numerous international students who stayed in the country throughout COVID, missing out on opportunities to visit family specifically because of concerns they’d have trouble getting back into the U.S. 

As I mentioned above, the UA has yet to decide what form the fall semester classes will take. I write about COVID every week and recently shared that President Robbins said he would not reopen campus if the local infection situation was as it is now when that decision has to be made. That could mean all-virtual. Which means if Trump wasn’t blocked legally, none of our international students would be able to return to finish their studies and research.

This is a statement the 20 institutions jointly issued last week. I’m grateful to each of them for joining forces and pushing back on this important issue of both local sovereignty, and simple ethics.

The schools who signed onto the lawsuit are the UA, ASU, NAU, USC, Oregon, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, Cal Institute of Technology, Chapman University, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer College, Pomona College, Santa Clara, Scripps College, Seattle University,  St. Mary’s of California, Pacific, San Diego, and San Francisco. The good news is that after facing 8 Federal lawsuits, including this one, the Trump administration rescinded their policy. Kudos to those who took the time to challenge and defeat it.

Payroll Protection Plan

In the past couple of weeks I’ve seen several articles in the media about groups who have benefitted from the Federal PPP – the government program that was intended to help small businesses stay afloat by sending money to help offset payroll costs during COVID. Some of the objections people have voiced revolve around large, well-heeled companies using the funds, some with political connections that at least gave the appearance of playing favorites. And there has been criticism over PPP support for privately funded and religious schools. One that has largely gone under the radar screen is the Phoenix-based Goldwater Institute applying for and receiving PPP money.

The reason this should raise eyebrows is that Goldwater prides itself on the notion that...well, let me just quote their own attorney, Timothy Sandefur. He was quoted in an Arizona Capitol Times article that I’m poaching from a Huckelberry memo that came out last week. Here’s the quote:

When we instituted a local preference policy that would allow us to credit small businesses in our bidding process with extra points if they were local, Goldwater sued us. We had to rescind the policy because it gave preference to small local businesses over large out-of-state corporations. We felt there was virtue in keeping local dollars local. Goldwater felt that was a vice. Remember Barry’s Goldwater’s quote:  “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Well, ever true to form, they took the extreme view of us protecting small local businesses and pursued anything but a moderate approach – suing the City of Tucson.

Look at the Goldwater website and you’ll see the 32 full time staffers, including attorneys, finance people, policy analysts, and curiously in this case, donor relations and development officers. Evidently their fund-raising folks aren’t up to the job. Otherwise Goldwater wouldn’t have had to rely on a government subsidy to save their jobs.

We’re losing small local businesses during COVID. Goldwater is subsidized by the PPP program so they can continue to sue jurisdictions who try to preserve local jobs. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s quote comes to mind - “foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” Goldwater’s actions demonstrate that even they aren’t bound by acting consistently from one day to the next – depending on how they benefit.

 


Many of you may remember the group Sacred Space who met in our building Sunday afternoons. They were regulars here for a few years, until COVID. They’re now meeting virtually, still offering a mix of music and a meditation brought from a wide variety of spiritual/faith backgrounds. This coming Sunday their meeting is at 1pm – by Zoom. It was an honor to be asked to bring a short set of music at the front end of the meeting. 

The focus of my set will be on songs that speak to the space we are all currently sharing. That’s one of uncertainty, chance, hope and fear. To make the point that it’s our mutual reality now, the songs will be from Neil Young, Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift – showing that this condition is touching us all, regardless of background. 

If you’d like to join in, visit their website at www.sacredspacecommunity.org  and pick up the Zoom invite.

COVID Data

Last week, on the day after the State saw over 4,000 new COVID cases, I sent this letter to Governor Ducey. It’s still my hope to see local control returned, and the pre-emption flowing from his Executive Orders be rescinded.

 

Credit Yahoo.com for the story. In brief, the photo is theirs, and it shows the Governor at what he describes as a family gathering that was held before masks were mandated. That raises a couple of issues. I know two families who have had COVID rip through several of their members in the aftermath of a family gathering. So one issue is the fact that people get COVID through contact at gatherings exactly such as this one. It was not safe, nor was it good modeling of responsible behavior. Also, he was late to the game in even allowing Cities and Towns to mandate masks. It is still  not a State policy.

During his press conference last week, Ducey shared data that he feels indicates we’re making progress in re-flattening the COVID curve. Based on 3-day data, nobody can assert a ‘trend.’ But if the numbers in fact continue downward, he’d have a point. Here’s some of what was presented. It’s a data set called ‘R/naught’ (Rt.) It measures the speed with which the infection travels - if it’s above 1.0, it means people who are infected with COVID are out in public and are infecting more people. If it’s below 1.0, it means community spread is decreasing. This graph shows where we were on June 29th . Remember, it was May 15th when he reopened the doors around the State. On that date, the Rt was 1.18 - COVID was spreading rapidly. On June 29th, it still was.

On July 9th, our speed of transmission had dropped to 1.10. Ducey had closed bars and gyms on June 29th. Basing progress on this single measure, there appeared to be some.


And this week, our Rt is finally below 1.0:

The fact that our rate of transmission is at .98 is an improvement. And it’s the basis for the Governor not expanding his Executive Order to include any more restrictions on gatherings. Doing so would have been justified if he was following Federal guidance. Earlier in the week, the Feds issued a warning that included what they called “11 States that are in the Red Zone for test positivity.” Arizona is one of those States. The Rt is simply one data point. 

The percent of tests coming back positive is perhaps a more meaningful one. Pima County has ramped up their testing and are doing a great job of getting results back to people within 24-48 hours. What they’ve seen so far is that among people who are not showing any symptoms of COVID, about 10% are testing positive. That’s an alarming number – and one that Ducey should be watching. 

Included in the Red Zone report is a set of guidelines for those States. Two in particular that are more restrictive than what Ducey has in place are limiting inside dining to no more than 25% of restaurant capacity (he’s allowing 50%,) and limiting gatherings to groups of 10 or fewer (he’s allowing 50 or fewer).

Ducey wants mandating masks to be left up to localities. He has not rescinded the prohibition on localities from limiting any of the other parts of his Executive Order. I’ve continued calling on him to get out of the way and let us make our own decisions at the local level.

As testing increases, we’ll see more positive tests. The important data is to look at the percent of positive tests. The World Health Organization says that rate of positivity should be at below 5% for 14 days before reopening. We’re more than double that. We are not suppressing the infection. Please continue wearing face coverings when you cannot social distance and avoid large gatherings – even large family gatherings. Despite the satisfaction Ducey takes from the Rt 2-week slight decline, other metrics that may be more meaningful (positivity rate, for example) are not good. 

Face Covering Party

On Saturday, each Ward hosted a free face covering event. It’s important to recognize the work that went into pulling off the event that came out of the City Manager’s office. To be clear – he delegated! Thanks to Andy Squire and Lane Mandle for doing the heavy lifting and organizing the event across the City. By any standard, their work produced a huge success.

 

Our event was supported by this guy I was speaking to – one of our Fire Captains, the guy in the background greeting some cars – one of our Environmental Services recycle guys, Glenna from Parks and all of my staff were on hand. There was a steady flow of cars – over 400 in the few hours of the event, and we gave away over 3,500 masks.

You were an eager bunch. I’ve heard both Nikki and Fimbres had people lined up by 6:30am. So did we. I admit to being surprised by the response. Given how successful the event was, I’m suspecting we might do an encore. Thanks to all who came and helped out at each of the different events. It shows broad City-wide support for the cause, and your response shows broad City-wide buy into protecting others by wearing a mask.

Final COVID Data Review

So far, a total of just under 600 nurses have been provided from out-of-State to assist 21 hospitals scattered throughout Arizona. That includes 250 medical-surgical nurses, and more than 330 ICU/Critical Care Nurses. Over ¾ of them are being shared in the Maricopa/Pima County regions.

Let’s drill down from the international perspective to what Arizona’s, and our local COVID situation looks like. Here’s how the U.S. stacks up in recent COVID infections:


Then, bringing it a little closer to home, this graphic shows the national COVID trend.


How does Arizona fit into that nationwide graph?


This graphic shows why I felt weighing in again with Ducey was important. It also makes his refusal to either give us local control, or his refusal to take any more comprehensive protective measures a bit of a head-scratcher. 

Let’s bring it a little closer to home. Here’s the State/Pima County data. Ducey’s press conference was on July 16th. On the 17th, the State saw a COVID increase of just under 4,000 by this graph. It was later revised upwards to over 4,000. And Pima County had our largest increase in over 2 weeks the day after his press conference. That is not the plateau Ducey had hoped for the day before. 

As I mentioned above, the W.H.O. standard for the rate of positive tests that indicates you’re controlling the spread of the virus is under 5%. Their goal is really in the 3% range. Here’s Arizona from last weekend:

We are nearly 3x the positivity rate higher than the standard for suppressing the infection set by the W.H.O. Ducey has these data. So does his top doc, Cara Christ.  In fact, they come out of her department. I refer you back up to my most recent letter to the Governor requesting local control over local conditions.

Here are the raw Statewide data from 2 weeks ago. 

Compared to last week:

Here’s your weekly update on the Statewide COVID numbers. From last week’s newsletter:

 

And here are the numbers from AZDHS as of last weekend:

By this time next week it looks like Maricopa County will be over 100,000 cases. Pima County will be over 15,000. With a 14% positivity rate, we shouldn’t be surprised at either of those numbers. They’re of course more than numbers. They’re people – your friends and loved ones.

 I’ll close the COVID piece by giving Ducey credit for recognizing we’re facing a housing cliff due to evictions. In his press briefing last week he extended the eviction moratorium until October 31st. And he added another $5M to the State effort to establish a foreclosure prevention program. That’s money targeted to homeowners who rely on income they get from tenants to pay their own mortgage. With all the other pieces of this COVID mess people have to be concerned with, losing their home shouldn’t be one of them. This was the single piece of positive news I took from last week’s press conference.

And my weekly reminder that you can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov.

 


I have a bit of an odd Local Tucson item this week. It’s membership on our Independent Audit and Performance Commission. 

The IAPC a citizen-filled commission that is asked to look into various City processes. Their audits are intended to help us operate in the most efficient manner possible. Some examples of areas the IAPC has looked into include our finance processes, how our Pcard system works, our fleet services division, and code enforcement. 

The IAPC last met in June. They’re now having trouble making quorum due to some of the members having to step off for a variety of reasons. I’m looking for a Ward 6 rep on the IAPC.

In order to be eligible, you need to live in the City and have at least 5 years of financial experience, plus 5 years in areas such as project management, data analysis, or other administrative areas. If you’re interested in being considered, please email us here at the Ward 6 office and we’ll be happy to give a more complete rundown on the work. You can also find a description of what the IAPC does by going to the City website, find the City Clerk’s office and click on Boards and Commissions.

Our Family Services Facilitators

Since I started doing Council work over a decade ago, I’ve had the pleasure to work with the Our Family folks on several occasions. Many of you have attended the forums we’ve held together. They’ve included topics such as Post-Presidential Elections – where do we go from here, health care, education and trafficking. In each of those, Our Family has facilitated community engagement dialog circles.

The goal of the circles is to allow for a free flowing and non-confrontational discussion of community issues. This fall, the Our Family Center for Community Dialog and Training is hosting two more forums. Both will be virtual. They’re looking for volunteers to serve as facilitators during the forums.

Each of the forums will focus on giving voice to our youth. You’ll be facilitating a small group dialog on topics related to that theme. A part of doing that will involve 1 training meeting, 1 forum prep meeting and then the actual event itself. All of this is being done on-line.

If you’d like to help guide these conversations through a neutral process, please contact Joanna at the Center at jmarroquin@ourfamilyservices.org. You can also use this link to get more information, and to register. LINK TO REGISTER CAN BE FOUND HERE. 

 

Sincerely,

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

 

City of Tucson Resources

Online Event

Taking Action for Racial Justice

Hosted by the Conversation Coalition

Thursday, July 23, 2020
7:00 - 8:20 pm Pacific Time
Free Online Event

Click here to register

Who We Are
The Tucson-based Conversation Coalition is comprised of organizations and individuals committed to developing, and sharing dialogue methods that bring about mutual understanding and address pressing needs of our community. Our mission is not restricted to our desert community, and we welcome participants from far and near. We believe in learning with and from each other, for the benefit of all.