Topics in this Issue:
- COVID Testing at St. Marks
- ‘Just git ‘er done’
- Putting Your Kids, Teachers and K-12 Staff at Moderate Risk is Just Fine
- Which #’s Do We Believe?
- Tucson City Golf and COVID
- Governor’s Thursday COVID Update
- Mask Wearing
- TPD Staffing
- Training Exercises at DMAFB
- Be Kind
- Tucson Pops Cancelling Fall Schedule
- Connect to Compete
- Multiple COVID Data Sets
- Final COVID Data Points
- Blue Barrels Curbside
- Local Tucson
- City of Tucson Resources
- Online Event
The County opened the Udall test site over the weekend. That gives them 3 permanent test sites scattered at Kino (SW side,) Ellie Towne (NW side,) and Udall (East side.) Their goal is to get a site equally located, ringing the City. Around the Council we call it ‘ward equity’. I prefer to call it just making sure all of our residents can quickly access a COVID test site. The blue light recognition is for their efforts, along with City Parks staff and Paradigm Labs to make this new testing opportunity available.
At Udall you’ll get out of your car and go into the Rec Center. There are two groups within the test facility; one for people who are symptomatic, and one for people who aren’t. It’s a nasal test, and as with the other County sites, it’s by appointment only. That ensures you won’t have to wait in your car for excessive amounts of time. Paradigm Labs is doing the testing and they’re still getting results back in about 48 hours.
Udall Park is located at 7200 E. Tanque Verde. You must pre-register for your test. To do that use this link and click on “Schedule My Test”:
Register for a COVID-19 test
When we voted on this, we allocated $2M to the site. At the time, I made the Mayor and Council aware the full fare for testing up to 15,000 people at the site was going to be closer to $2.8M, but others had the M&C deal cut, so we went with the $2M. Now the City has advised the County that we’re backing another $500K out of that for our own ‘costs’. The only impact of doing that is that we test fewer people. The full Council did not agree on reducing the funding like that.
This is CARES Act money. If we needed another $500K for administration, that should have come from another M&C conversation about increasing the allocation, not from getting you tested. But here we are – congratulations to the County and our Parks workers for getting this site up and running, albeit at that reduced capacity.
Our friends over at St. Marks are also hosting a free testing day. They’re working in conjunction with Pima County Interfaith Council. The testing will be the PCR – the kind that tells you if you’ve currently got the infection.
The tests will be given on Saturday, August 22nd from 10am until 2pm. The church is located at 3809 E. 3rd St. In order for PCIC and St. Marks to make this happen, they need at least 50 advanced reservations. If they get that, walk-ups will be taken, but they can’t get the nurses out to administer the tests if they can’t guarantee that first 50.
Please call 344.4110 in order to schedule your appointment. We’re grateful to Pastor Bart, his crew at St. Marks and PCIC for putting the effort into getting this done.
That’s Larry the Cable Guy. If you’ve never listened to him, Google it. He’s very funny – but you need to be in the mood to lighten up a bit and just roll with it.
Larry has a phrase he’s famous for. “Whatever you gotta do, don’t bitch about it, don’t complain about it, just give 110% and ‘git er done.” It’s one we need to embrace.
Over the past 2 months, we’ve allocated money for testing, spent time not getting it done, and now have the right people through the County Health department doing it. We allocated over $5M for supporting families, non-profits and businesses through the YWCA and others, and yet we took 2 months to get the money flowing while people were out in the community needing the cash. I’ve been advocating that we open portions of our parks system, along with the zoo. That decision too was bottled up in City Hall.
Too much of what’s driving our efforts at managing the COVID issue is being stalled. Even a government can do better. It’s not about taking credit. It’s about producing. We should hire Larry the Cable Guy to direct some of our CARES allocations.
Well, that’s the standard of risk the State is suggesting for reopening public schools. Not ‘Minimal’ risk. I was surprised to see their recommended guidelines.
Late last week the State offered local school districts some specific guidelines they are invited (not mandated) to consider when reopening schools for in-person classes. They sent out a document with over 20 pages of information, but it really boils down to 3 measurable metrics. They suggest districts look at all 3 and not only one. The reason is the population of a particular area affects how for example a % responds to an increase in a few new cases. Three new cases in a population of 10 is a 30% increase. If those 3 new cases happen in a population of 100, that’s only a 3% increase.
That also matters because as you’ll see below, the number of cases being counted seems to be quite different depending on whose data sets you’re looking at.
One of the standards is the number of cases per 100,000 population in a region. What the AZDHS and Department of Education suggest is 2 straight weeks of below 100 cases per 100,000, not counting the current week. Or 2 straight weeks of a decline in the weekly average.
The next metric they’re suggesting is two straight weeks with a percent positivity of below 7% - again though, not counting the current week. The World Health Organization’s target is below 5%, and preferably closer to 3%.
Finally, two weeks in a row with hospital visits due to COVID-like illnesses of below 10% of the total number of visits.
They put together this chart that shows how each of those standards is considered with respect to level of risk. Looking at all 3 of them combined the State’s benchmark is sending kids back into classrooms with a “Moderate” risk of infection. On a personal level, that surprises me.
August 2nd through the 8th we had 1,253 new cases reported by Pima County. Our population in Pima County is 1.1 million people. That means last week we had about 120 new cases per 100,000 population.
How about 2 straight weeks of a decline? July 26th through August 1st we had over 1,600 new cases. So last week (the 2nd through the 8th) would be one week of decline. We’ll see what comes this week.
I went to the AZDHS website and looked up the test result data for Pima County for the week of August 2nd. There were over 5,200 PCR tests administered and 404 positive results. That means we had about an 8% positivity rate for that week. That’s ‘moderate risk’ and is in the range the State recommends for reopening schools.
The State Health Department website that has the dashboard measuring these new standards only runs through July 26th. They have Pima County at 6.1% hospitalization rate for the week of July 19th, and at 3.5% for the week of July 26th. I’ll keep an eye on that dashboard to see when they update it. But if that trend is consistent, we’re in the Minimal range for risk based on those numbers.
I’ll add this caveat as well. There’s a pretty large gap between the number of new infections the AZDHS is showing on their website for Pima County and the number being reported by the County Health folks. For example, in one spot on the State site it says we only had 519 new cases during the week of July 26th. Here’s the chart we got from Pima County for that week -
The last column is the increase in cases day by day for that week in Pima County. I count about 1,000 more than what the State is reporting. The State says we had 51 cases per 100,000 that week. If the data being reported by Pima County Health is right, the number was closer to 150 cases per 100,000. So, I went to the daily count right from the State website. For the week of the 26th, counting day by day they report on their own site 986 cases in Pima County. That’s about 97 cases per 100,000.
The State says, “Benchmark Met.” Parents, teachers and staff need reliable data. I’ll do more looking into what’s causing the disparity in data because it affects how all 3 benchmarks are being measured.
Each parent and each school district will have to make their own call on the level of risk they’re willing to tolerate as they consider in-person schooling. I know we’re putting a lot of effort into making sure kids have access to the internet so those who are doing their work at home can stay current.
One metric the State cannot measure is how tough all this is on kids, parents, staff and teachers. If there’s a lesson for everyone it’s to wear a mask, avoid large crowds and social distance. Tens of thousands of people of all ages are negatively impacted by those who are not taking COVID seriously.
Speaking of having shut down our parks, not all of our programs in that department have been shuttered. Tucson City Golf has been open, offering people the opportunity to get outdoors, social distance and do a little walking. Oh, and hit a golf ball about 100 times during your walk.
The year-end numbers show that many of you took part. Through the whole fiscal year (July 1st, 2019 through June 30th, 2020) there were over 230,000 rounds played. In the previous fiscal year, they had 213,000, so we had over an 8% increase in rounds. That translated to a quarter million dollar positive net operating income. If you’ve followed the discussions we’ve had related to golf over the past few years you’ll know that being in the black, especially by that amount has not always been the case.
Typically, the early part of the year has the largest number of rounds played. That’s due to the nice weather and to winter visitors. I did some comparisons of this year vs the last couple to see what impact COVID had on January through June. I was surprised to see across the board, even without our usual number of snowbirds, rounds played this year exceeded the last 2 (one very small exception in March).
The only month in that table where ‘20 didn’t beat the other years is March – the start of the pandemic and possibly some reluctance on peoples’ part to get out. And even that month was only 63 rounds below ‘19. Every month though we had significantly more rounds played than we had budgeted for – even without knowing the COVID challenges we’d be facing.
The credit goes to our OB Sports partners, Visit Tucson for keeping us on the map, and to our Parks employees who still play a role in keeping all of our parks facilities up and running. I’m hoping you see many of the rest of them reopened in the very near term.
Governor Ducey was in D.C. last Thursday and so he skipped his weekly COVID update press conference. But on Wednesday of last week the Maricopa County Superior Court issued a ruling on the lawsuit that had been filed by gym operators who have been shut down by Ducey’s most recent Executive Order. The Court gave him a week to issue some specific guidelines the gyms would have to follow in order to reopen.
A little background – in his June 29th Executive Order, the Governor called on “indoor gyms and fitness clubs or centers to pause operations until at least July 27th.” And on July 23rd he extended that closure for at least another 2 weeks.
The gym operators filed suit saying that retail businesses such as grocery stores where social distancing was difficult to manage were allowed to open, but gyms were not. In the Executive Order Ducey included this language:
“To receive authorization to reopen, entities shall complete and submit a form as prescribed by the Arizona Department of health Services that attest the entity is in compliance with guidance issued by ADHS related to COVID-19 business operations.”
The problem was that ADHS never issued the guidelines prior to the 27th, so none of the gyms knew what guidance they had to follow. The form was finally posted on the State website on July 31st, but even then, the gyms were given no guidance as to what standards they had to meet.
The Court said that was a violation of their due process. Without knowing how to be responsive to the closure, the Order to stay closed could go on indefinitely. This paragraph from the ruling makes the point:
So, the State has until Tuesday to set the standards that’ll guide how gyms can reopen. Then the gyms will have to show they meet those guidelines – and if they do, expect to see some of them back open for business very soon. Late last week Ducey’s office filed a request that the Court ‘stay’ the order and allow him to keep the gym’s closed. The Court said no.
All of this is happening while we continue to see COVID having a severe impact on ICUs in multiple States across the nation, and while we seem to have hit a relative plateau in Arizona. But I remember writing almost exactly that a few months ago. Then we reopened, and things went south quickly. The recommendations from the health experts continues to be that you’re safest at home, and if you do go out, social distance, wear a mask and avoid large gatherings.
It surprises me that we’re still having to convince so many people that wearing a mask actually makes a difference. The UA has a policy that when you’re on campus, you must wear a mask when out in public spaces. And there’s push back from some members of the campus community. I ran across a study that was done in an effort to demonstrate to people just what a difference a mask can make. I’ll share a bit of it here.
By now I hope you know that COVID can be transmitted through droplets that you send out through even speaking. But coughing and sneezing are the worst. The study compared how much is transmitted both wearing, and not wearing a mask.
This image shows a side by side comparison of droplets that ended up on a petri dish that was 2’ away from a person who both coughed, and who sneezed.
The dishes on the left are from a person who was wearing a mask. On the right is that same person when not wearing one. The white specks are the droplets that ended up on the petri dish. The top two are from a cough, and the bottom two are from a sneeze.
The short message is the one you’ve heard over and over. Please share it around – gently, but with conviction. Wearing a mask in public places protects both you and others from transmitting COVID-19. I’ll get more into the numbers below, but the science, and the remedies are pretty easy to follow. Not doing so is playing by rules of the game established by the virus. We lose that one.
Here’s a photo from last weekend taken during the Sturgis, North Dakota biker rally. The guy in the blue shirt was interviewed and said most of the news on COVID is ‘being manufactured’. There’s really only one way to counter that sort of attitude, but no, I don’t hope he gets sick.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a pretty extensive review of TPD staffing, recruiting and generally laid out the prospects for how difficult it is just to maintain our current level of officers. I wrote it in the context of the ‘defund’ discussion that was happening at the M&C table.
One of the points I made was that based on upcoming retirements, we stand to lose up to 1/3 of our current senior officers in the next 12 months simply through normal attrition. As cops come up to retirement eligibility, they can choose to stick around, or they can bail. Because of several factors, one of which is the current difficult climate in law enforcement nationwide, many are bailing.
In the normal course of business, we lose about 6 officers per month over the course of a year. That’s a combination of terminations, transfers to other agencies, just moving into a different line of work and of course retirements. Right now, we’re on course for averaging about 6 per month in 2020, but June and July were a bit jarring. If those numbers continue, the “losing 1/3 of our officers in the next 12 months” may be understated.
In June we lost a total of 13 officers. Three of them transferred to other agencies, one didn’t make it through training, 4 were either terminated or resigned in lieu of termination, and 5 officers retired. There were also 13 separations in July; 4 terminated or resigned in lieu of termination, 2 failed training, one officer had to move out of State due to family reasons, 1 returned to the Army and 5 officers retired.
Some of the officers have mentioned concerns about community and political support as being reasons for leaving TPD. In addition, there are feelings that if use of force is needed in the course of a cop doing the job, they are concerned with how the media and public respond.
This is a national issue. But locally our current experience is that it’s very difficult to even get a full academy class through. We had 52 recruits chosen for the class that just began and now we’re down to 30. Some failed physicals, some had issues with their background checks, and some just changed their minds once the academy began.
Last Thursday morning a lady called out to me while she was biking on the Loop that she ‘disagreed with my vote’ on the budget. The last time I wrote about this I said that with our upcoming retirements, the people like her who want to see TPD downsized may ‘win’ by default. I’m hoping that’s not the case. Community policing requires that we add staff, not deplete our department, lose the investments we’ve made and reduce our ability to provide good response times and get out into the community and establish relationships between constituents and cops.
Between August 7th and 21st, Davis-Monthan will be hosting what’s called Red Flag Rescue training. It’s a Department of Defense search and rescue exercise that’ll include aircraft from all over the world. You may see an uptick in overflights during that period.
The search and rescue training involves instructing participants how to do the rescue operations, particularly after the first few days of a conflict. The participants will represent the USAF, Marines, Navy and Army.
While in Tucson, all of the participants will be adhering to the COVID regulations we have in place, both for when they travel to DM, and during the operations while they’re in town. I just mainly wanted you to know what’s going on in case you question the increase air activity.
If you’ve got questions, the DM Public Affairs folks are at 228.3378, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Last week, the Larry H. Miller auto dealerships in town joined together on a food drive. They called it “Driven to Assist”. The recipient agency was our Community Food Bank. This Be Kind is for all of the Miller employees and members of the community who donated to the effort. In total they ended up delivering over 1,600 pounds of food to the CFB. That will go a long way towards meeting some immediate family needs.
If you’d like to help Michael McDonald and his team out at the Food Bank, the best way is to donate some cash to them. Due to COVID they have to store any food they’re given for a couple of days. And they can buy supplies they are specifically short on, at bulk and for a better price than you and I can at the store. Find out about CFB at www.communityfoodbank.org.
And add El Rio to the food related Be Kind work. For years they’ve been hosting an annual Healthcare for the Homeless Breakfast event. Because of COVID, instead of inviting a large gathering, El Rio will be taking food out to one of the hotels that’s housing homeless residents during the pandemic.
If you’d like to take part in the deliveries please reach out to El Rio through Suzette Pesqueria at email@example.com. She needs to hear from you before August 11th. The event will run from 8am until 9:30am on the 12th. They’ll be distributing over 80 bags filled with a combination of food, clothes and toiletries. While the event is going on, all social distancing and mask protocols will be enforced.
Before I get to the news about their schedule, watch this short ‘virtual performance’ by the Tucson Pops Orchestra. I had a similar one from the Tucson Girls Chorus a couple of weeks ago. It’s how we’re doing music these days.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL https://youtu.be/giPHI1R2iuI
Each fall the Pops does a series of free outdoor concerts over in Reid Park. The season was to start on September 6th, and they waited as long as possible before pulling the plug. Last week they had to decide on cancelling this fall season. But they’ve already got plans to start back up again early next spring.
The opening concert is scheduled for 7pm on Sunday, May 9th. People start gathering at the DeMeester band shell in Reid Park about an hour prior to the show. There’s bench style seating, plus the opportunity to just do it picnic style in the grass on the hill. The Pops was the labor of love shepherded along for years by my friend Dave Sitton. That was prior to his passing a couple of years ago. They’ve still got a committed Board, top notch leadership with Laszlo Veres conducting, excellent musicians and a great following throughout the community. Mark your calendar and we’ll all hope this COVID mess is well behind us by then.
Another Be Kind – for internet service providers.
Last week I wrote about the City plan to expand internet connections to areas of town where service providers haven’t reached. This is especially important now that the public schools are about to reopen, and most are looking at a virtual model – hybrid, at best.
Last week I was involved in multiple conversations about how to roll out the program. The hero in all of this planning is our I.T. director, Collin Boyce. He and his team have invested hundreds of hours identifying where the dark spots are in the City and thinking through how to phase the program roll out. It will necessarily involve partnering with each of the school districts, sharing some of the investments they’ve made and piggy backing our own with theirs. It’s the public sector working together, pulling out of silos and capitalizing on shared assets.
While we’re getting the WiFi connections up and running, there’s a gap program you can take advantage of, and it’s free. For the past 7 years, Cox, Comcast and other internet service providers have been offering low cost internet connections for families who qualify for free school lunch programs. It’s called Connect2Compete. Pre-COVID it cost $9.99 per month. Now until the end of the year, it’s free.
This is for K-12 students. The current speed of the system is 25 megabytes per second. That’s enough to allow more than one person in the house to be online at a time, but if there’s a lot of Zooming and video happening, I know the service providers I’ve spoken to are ready to increase the speed. The goal for all of us is to get kids through this virtual learning challenge successfully.
If you are, or if you know of a family with K-12 kids who are in a low-income situation, and they don’t have internet in their home, please suggest they contact Cox, Comcast or whichever service provider works their area. The Connect2Compete program is a gap opportunity they should be checking into. I know Cox has seen a 433% increase in the number of families in Southern Arizona who have signed up just since COVID.
A few months ago, I was writing that the CDC guidelines for opening things up was to see 14 straight days of declining infection numbers. They’ve long since given up on that as the standard. Due to daily fluctuations, the goal is to now look for declines in weekly increments. That’s probably fair. What most people don’t realize is that the State is gathering test results from dozens of test sites by fax. Sites will fax their daily numbers and so some poor soul in the AZDHS is sitting there with stacks of faxes that need to be compiled to provide the daily updates. If they don’t have time to wade through the stack, or if faxes come in late in the day, they’ll float to the next day, falsely inflating that day’s count.
Up above I shared a couple of weeks’ worth of data for considering K-12 reopening. Here’s some information to make the ‘weekly’ vs ‘daily’ point. This is the last week of July. Notice the numbers in Column 6 (Pima County daily increase) went from 183 on July 28th up to 309 on the 29th. That’s probably a ‘fax’ issue. But the count is right at the end of the week – we had 1,739 new cases.
For comparison, here’s the first week in August:
Total new cases for that week reported by Pima County were 1,330. We’re lucky the 3rd and 4th were so low or that may not have been a decrease from the prior week. But remember, count is only one of the standards the health experts are considering when talking about opening K-12, the UA, businesses, and life generally.
One of the other criteria they’re looking at is the Rt (transmission rate) figure. The goal is to be below 1.0. If we’re above it, that means each infected person is infecting more than one other person out in the community. Below 1.0 means each infected person is spreading it to fewer than 1 other person. Our Rt for the State last week was .89. So that’s good news.
Last week in his presentation, UA President Robbins introduced this chart – it shows all of the various targets they’re considering during discussions about reopening campus for in-person classes.
Note a couple of things – first, they’re also looking at weekly rolling averages, not daily numbers. That seems to be the standard analysis now. And also, there aren’t any specific targets shown in the chart. The State included some pretty specific data points in their recommended reopening plan. The UA is still working with faculty, staff and public health experts to fine tune exactly what numbers they’ll want to see in order to consider any of those guidelines having been met. And the analysis is for them all combined. Missing one doesn’t necessarily mean the whole conversation stops until they’re all meeting the agreed-upon standard.
For example; the UA has about 300 on campus beds they can use for housing ‘positive’ students. If those beds become full, that doesn’t mean there’s no further analysis done until they clear space. The same is true of each of the metrics shown in the table.
The point is that nobody is looking at one single criterion to decide a way forward with reopening plans. I’ll keep sharing a variety of them so you can track trends.
I mentioned above that the World Health Organization says the percent positive rate for testing should be below 5%. Above I shared that Pima County was at around 8% for the week of August 2nd. That’s according to the AZDHS website. If someone else has different data sets, it should be made public.
And each week I share the raw numbers of cases in the State, and deaths. I’ve been sharing the running totals for the entire State. Local decisions will now be made based on more local data, so I’ll fine tune the summary data to just Pima County. Here’s what was true as of Sunday evening:
Here’s your weekly update on the Statewide COVID numbers, by County. From last week’s newsletter:
And here are the numbers from AZDHS as of last weekend:
And my weekly reminder that you can track the State data every day at www.azdhs.gov.
I had thought this was only one of my pet peeves, until I began hearing from several of you too. That is, neighbors who leave their trash and recycle barrels out curbside pretty much all the time.
There’s nothing illegal about it, but making the effort to pull them back into your driveway or wherever they’re out of sight will make the whole neighborhood a more inviting place for everyone. I’m hoping we will soon make some changes to the whole recycle program, and at that time what you have curbside may be a different array of barrels. But until then, it’d be great to see the barrels pulled out of everyone’s view until it’s your day for pick up.
This week’s Local Tucson item is an invitation for you to take part in a virtual open house TEP is hosting. The presentation will be on the new power lines they’re going to run as an upgrade to service. I’ve written about it a couple of times, and there has been a Community Working Group holding meetings with TEP to try to hammer out some level of agreement on where the new lines and poles will be located.
The public open house will be held on-line, but you can also call in if you’re not going to be around a computer. Go to www.tep.com/kino-to-demoss-petrie to get the link for the livestream. The meeting ID you’ll need is 845 9846 5977#. And the call-in line is 220.127.116.1182.
The project is to upgrade the power transmission lines from 46Kv capacity up to 138Kv. The goal is to meet increased demand, and to eliminate brownouts in various parts of the study area. TEP will need to connect 3 new 138Kv substations. They’re locations are/will be around Kino and 36th, Banner UMC, and Grant/I-10. If you picture that triangle and think about how to connect all 3 legs, you’ll see why this is a challenging project. It will involve cutting through existing built-up areas. Some of them are established historic areas. All of them include impacts on peoples’ homes. The balance is providing power in a way that minimizes those impacts.
The poles will be those large metal power poles, standing from 75’ to 110’ in height. At major intersections, they may be taller. The ultimate decision as to the route will be made by the Arizona Corporation Commission, but TEP is forming recommended options based on the input they’re receiving from the working group, and now from this public open house.
TEP plans on submitting their application to the ACC late this year, and they hope to have the whole project done by 2022. So this is fast approaching the end of the public outreach, and the start of them putting their plans in place for going before the Siting Committee of the Commission. Please join the conversation so your views are heard and are a part of what the utility is considering as this moves forward.
Council Member, Ward 6
- COVID-19 Updates: https://www.tucsonaz.gov/covid-19/covid-19-updates
- I Want To... : https://www.tucsonaz.gov/i-want-to
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
7:00 - 8:20 pm Pacific Time
Hosted by the Conversation Coalition
Race & Justice: Continuing the Discussion
What are we doing...and what do we intend to do...
to make things better in our lives, community, or culture?
The truth of our nation’s history weighs heavily this year, 401 years after the first enslaved Africans were brought to the shores of this land. Despite so many signs of advancement out of a racist past, we are learning how intimately injustice has been woven into our laws, politics, and attitudes. “Out of slavery,” writes Jake Silverstein in the New York Times magazine, “grew nearly everything that has truly made America exceptional: its economic might, its industrial power, its electoral system, its diet and popular music, the inequities of its public health and education, its astonishing penchant for violence, its income inequality, the example it sets for the world as a land of freedom and equality, its slang, its legal system and the endemic racial fears and hatreds that continue to plague it to this day.”
We each can do something, according to our strengths and capabilities. One way to begin is to connect. Join us for an 80-minute online conversation to think about what our unique contributions might be. We will use a dialogue method that integrates mindfulness, active listening, and reflective responding. In small & large groups we will consider key questions within a structure that allows time and space for each of us to be heard.
In tune with the time of pandemic, we will use the Zoom platform. You'll recieve the link when you register. We do not record the meeting.