#Coronavirus Resources & Info: Keep Your Distance & Stay Healthy (video)

Coronavirus

I’m putting on my Masters in Public Health hat today to talk with you about being safe during the novel Coronavirus outbreak.

Coronavirus testing is still low in the state of Arizona and across the country. Although the deaths and the numbers of confirmed cases keep rising, the slow roll-out of diagnostic testing masks the real spread of the virus.

I recorded the video (below) on March 24, when there were 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Arizona. Twenty-four hours later, when I drafted this blog post, there were 401 confirmed cases in Arizona. Today (March 26), there are 508 confirmed cases and eight deaths. Maricopa County is racking up 50 new confirmed cases per day this week. For several days, Arizona had one new death per day; now that rate is also increasing. Friends, this is serious.

There is a lot of news, data, and information out there about COVID-19, but there is also a lot of misinformation and flawed analyses of the epidemiological data. Check the sources before you believe the message. (I have linked resources below.)

Here are a few key public health points to remember …

Please practice social distancing. Don’t go out in public, to work, to school, or to the store unless you have to. Consolidate grocery shopping and try to do once a week. Now, I sound like an old school Home Ec teacher, but having a shopping list and planning meals ahead helps a lot. Some retail stores have hand-washing stations outside and are controlling entry to maintain social distancing inside. This is a good idea, but, friends, if you don’t really need to run out and buy something, stay home.

Stay home and stay safe. Whether you are sick or healthy, staying at home is the most important thing you can do limit COVID-19 exposure and spread. People can be mostly asymptotic but still infect others around them unknowingly. If you are over 60 and/or have preexising health conditions, particularly impaired lung function, you are at higher risk than the rest of the population.

Work from home. If you have the option to work from home or take classes from home, do it.

If you have to go to work, be safe. If you have to interact with the public in your work, please follow all safety precautions. Ask your employer for gloves and other protective equipment.

Know the symptoms of the novel Coronavirus and how it is different from a cold or the flu. Difficulty breathing, fever, and cough two to 14 days after exposure could be COVID-19.

Testing is limited. Even if you have symptoms, testing is limited. Banner Health Systems has set up drive-through screening, but you have to call first to be prescreened (1-844-549-1851). You can also call Arizona’s 2-1-1 information line to learn about Coronavirus. The low testing rates and subsequently modest number of confirmed cases clouds the real extent of the pandemic nationwide. This is dangerous because some people will not heed the public health warnings if they are misled into thinking they are invincible.

Governments Respond. There have been multiple executive orders from the federal and the state; it is hard to keep up. Both the federal and state governments have hurriedly passed laws to make money, services and related websites available to fight COVID-19. Unfortunately, with such speed, there are likely to be overlaps and gaps in the government response. We are obviously seeing this with the low testing rates and the calls for more personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

Resources are available. Multiple strategies have been proposed and passed into law to help people with wages and housing if they can’t work during the Coronavirus emergency. (There are some links below. Arizona House Democrats are compiling more information; look for updates.)

This will get worse before it gets better. If too many politicians, governments and people continue to be cavalier about the novel Coronavirus, the death tolls in the US could be staggering as hospital personnel, equipment and beds become scarce.

We’ll get through this as a country, but we won’t be the same on the other side. The novel Coronavirus has already shown us how shortsighted it is to have a globalized supply chain and work force, just-in-time operations, and a focus on corporate profits over public health, public service and public education.

Sending love, hope and health to all of you. Please stay safe and be kind … especially to your family members, while you are sheltering in place. We’re all in this together.

RESOURCE LINKS

TUCSON/PIMA LOCAL INFORMATION & UPDATES

Pima County Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) – includes a wealth of information from outbreak statistics to public health links for a variety of services, here.

City of Tucson COVID-19 Update page – includes executive orders, information on city services and more, go here.

Arizona Daily Star (Tucson.Com) Coronavirus Updates – includes daily and hourly “what we know” updates, go here.

Tucson Coronavirus Update Facebook Page (Managed by the Tucson Sentinel.com) – includes news updates from the Tucson Sentinel, mixed with group member comments and other links. This page is heavily moderated to protect the integrity of the information and the tone of the discourse. No hate speech, trolls, or fake news allowed, go here.

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak, go here.

 

HEALTH INFORMATION

Arizona Department of Health Services – includes state related information about Coronavirus in Arizona, the daily outbreak statistics, and information on testing, go here.

Telephone hotline:  1-844-542-8201

Banner Health Systems Coronavirus Testing Information – to be screened for drive-through testing, go here.

Telephone hotline for testing: 1-844-549-1851

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – federal information on the COVID-19 crisis, symptoms, and science, go here.

 

HOUSING, FOOD AND NECESSITIES

Arizona Food Bank Network – This site has many links for people seeking help during the Coronavirus cirsis. It also has a directory of food banks in Arizona, go here.

AZ Department of Economic Security (DES) Services – DES has set up a specific COVID-19 page with information and phone numbers. Please note that information for unemployment insurance benefits are provided on this website.

These services include unemployment insurance benefits, services for the developmentally disabled, the Arizona early intervention program, cash, medical and nutrition assistance (food stamps), child case assistance, short-term crisis service and mortgage assistance, go here.

Health-e-Arizona PLUS – Online application for nutrition assistance (food stamps), Medicaid (AHCCCS) and cash assistance, go here.

Health-e-Arizona Hotline: 1-855-432-7587

Arizona 211 – Arizona 211 has compiled a great list of resources in one place. Individuals can either call 211 from their phone or browse their website, go here.

Information Hotline:  2-1-1

Community Action Agencies (CAA) – CAAs offer a wide variety of services including rental assistance and general casework, go here.

The Senior Help Line – The Senior Help Line is the top resource for Arizona’s seniors and elderly. The hotline operates 24/7 and has a great library of resources to pull from, go here.

24/7 Senior Hotline: 602-264-4357

Utilities and bill pay – Many utilities are offering assistance with bills including delayed shut offs for people who can’t afford to pay. You will need to call each specific company and inquire about what may be available to assist you.

SRP – https://www.srpnet.com/about/customer-assistance.aspx– 602-236-8888

APS – https://www.aps.com/en/About/Our-Company/Our-Commitment-to-Safety/COVID-19 – 602-371-7171

Eviction assistance – The Arizona Department of Housing offers limited eviction assistance in certain zip codes, please refer to this website for further information, go here.

 

EDUCATION INFORMATION AND FOOD SERVICES THROUGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Public Schools – The AZ Department of Education has guidance for parents and schools on their website, go here.

ld9 School Districts…

Tucson Unified School District, go here.

Flowing Wells Unified School District, go here .

Amphi Unified School District, go here.

Catalina Foothills School District, go here.

 

ONLINE LEARNING RESOURCES FOR FAMILIES

 Wonderopolis – Children’s learning website created by Education Solutions for Families invites children to explore intriguing questions about the world around us, go here.

Camp Wonderpolis – offers interactive STEM and literacy-building topics boosted by Maker experiments, go here.

National Center for Families Learning – free educational resources for families, go here.

Storyline Online – children’s stories read by famous people, a project of the Screen Actor’s Guild and the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), go here.

Go Noodle – physical activity and learning for children, go here.

Fordham Institute Resource for Learning from home, go here.

National Education Association Resources, go here.

Swing Education: 20 Online Learning Resources, go here.

 

Rep. PPH Updates & Videos Re: COVID-19
#Coronavirus Resources & Info: Keep Your Distance & Stay Healthy (video), March 25, 2020

#AZ Legislature Passes ‘Skinny’ Budget with #Bipartisan #Coronavirus Plan (video), March 24, 2020

#AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video), March 23, 2020

#AZHouse OK’s Remote Voting for Members, #AZLeg Remains Open (video), March 19, 2020

Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video), March 19, 2020

#Arizona Steps Up #Coronavirus Response with Emergency Declaration & $55 million (video), March 15, 2020

#AZLeg Should Add Coronavirus Prevention & Control to Budget (video), March 9, 2020

COVID-19: Businesses… Please… Encourage Sick Workers to Stay Home (video), March 3, 2020

Gloves & Hankies: Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic (video), February 26, 2020

COVID-19 NEWS & TRACKING

Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Global Outbreak

 

#AZ Legislature Passes ‘Skinny’ Budget with #Bipartisan #Coronavirus Plan (video)

Leader Charlene Fernandez

With the novel Coronavirus pandemic swirling around the Arizona capital and, most likely, through the halls of the legislature, the Arizona House passed the skinny budget with the Senate-negotiated bipartisan package to address the pandemic in Arizona.

The budget includes $50 million to address the Coronavirus. Along with the emergency response funding of $55 million for the Arizona Department of Health Services, which was passed by the Legislature a couple of weeks ago, that makes $105 million, which the Legislature has earmarked for the Coronavirus reponse. The additional $50 million, which was part of the Senate plan, goes to the governor, and he has flexibility on how to spend it and IF it should be spent.

This is a good first step, but some of us think that the House Democratic amendments would have fleshed out this plan a bit more. For example, there were Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan amendments to give $10 million to the food bank system, $40 million to the Housing Trust Fund (to help with rent, mortgage payments and eviction prevention), funds to expand TANF to five years and increase the amount per month (which is now set at 36% of the 1992 poverty rate), and funds to increase unemployment compensation, which, of course, is one of the worst in the country at ~$240/week.

None of these specifics got into the budget. We will have to watch Governor Ducey and what he does with his flexibility on spending the funds we have allotted. No one knows exactly what the future will bring, so some flexibility is a good thing.

The legislature adjourned until April 13, three weeks from now. Who knows where we will be in three weeks. As of today, March 24, 2020, Arizona has 326 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and five deaths. Two weeks ago, the number jumped from six cases to nine. Almost 100 confirmed cases were added between yesterday and today.

Continue reading #AZ Legislature Passes ‘Skinny’ Budget with #Bipartisan #Coronavirus Plan (video)

#AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

Rep. Warren Petersen

I have had two phone meetings already this morning [March 19, 2020] about the Democratic response to the novel Coronavirus on the state and federal level.

The first call was with House Dems, and we discussed our budget amendments that address the Coronavirus crisis. The second call was with Senator Kirsten Sinema, who outlined what the Congress is doing. She strongly emphasized that we lean on Governor Doug Ducey and Legislative Republicans to take the crisis and the potential loss of life seriously.

Currently, House Republicans plan to push the FY21 budget through with no Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan attached.

I recorded this video just a few minutes ago as I wait to be joined in to the Arizona House Floor debate on the budget.

Continue reading #AZHouse Republicans Push ‘Skinny’ Budget with Little Attention to #Coronavirus (video)

Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

Arizona House Democratic Caucus, 54th Leg.

Things are moving fast at the Arizona Capital regarding the FY21 budget and a recess or sine die for the Legislature.

You may remember that last week the legislature passed a continuation of the Arizona Department of Health Services, and it included $55 million to fight the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Three options are swirling around the capital this week. There is talk about passing a “skinny budget” which would have only a few minor changes from the current fiscal year budget. There are three options: pass a skinny budget, recess for a while, and come back to everything this is on the table; pass the skinny budget and sine die (end the session); or pass the skinny budget with language about how to spend the $55 million in Coronavirus funds and sine die.

The House Democrats brainstormed about ideas and legislation to fight the spread of the Corona virus and to help people and businesses impacted by the shutdown.  Our full Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan is below. This plan was crafted into budget amendments by our staff.

We could pass the skinny budget and end the session as early as tomorrow, Wednesday, March 18. Stay tuned. Headed for the capital now. We have some Floor votes this afternoon. [Posted on Facebook on March 17, 2020.]

Continue reading Democrats Push for #Coronavirus Crisis Response Plan in Budget (video)

#Arizona Steps Up #Coronavirus Response with Emergency Declaration & $55 million (video)

Arizona House

A week ago, on Monday, March 9, I urged for the state of Arizona to make a serious financial investment in prevention and control of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Tuesday, March 10, several House Democrats met to discuss prevention, control, treatment, and economic strategies to combat the Coronavirus in Arizona. Later that day, the House Democratic Leadership met with Governor Doug Ducey’s staff, urged appropriation of significant funds to get ahead of the outbreak, and discussed House Democratic Caucus ideas.

On Wednesday, March 11, Ducey declared a state of emergency in Arizona, hours after health officials announced the ninth case in Arizona and the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At that point, there were three cases in Maricopa County, five in Pinal and one in Pima.

On Thursday, March  12, our first vote of the day was to suspend the rules and pass SB1051 to continue the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and appropriate $55 million from the Rainy Day Fund to ADHS to fight COVID-19. Any funds that are unspent at the end of the fiscal year (June 30, 2021) will go back to the Public Health Emergency Fund. In addition, KTAR reported that the federal government had promised $12 million for Arizona.

Continue reading #Arizona Steps Up #Coronavirus Response with Emergency Declaration & $55 million (video)

More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (video)

UA College of Medicine

Today’s video is about HB2409, small business investment tax credit extension. This is also known as the Angel Investor Tax Credit. In the big scheme of tax giveaways in the state of Arizona, this one is sort of small potatoes dollar wise, but I still have issues. It is an extension if $2.5 million per year tax credit for 10 years. The angel tax credits are for “qualified investors,” people who are licensed, trained, and smart enough to play the stock market and make otherwise risky investments wisely because of their expertise. [My layman’s definition.] 

I have attended several Bioscience Roadmap events where they showcase research and new discoveries from the universities that are … just …about… ready for market. What they need is venture capital to get the new drug discovery or the next medical device from our universities to production to market.

I am very familiar with this topic because ever since I started my own small business in 1986, I have been writing about or working in public health and medical research. In fact, the first Bioscience Roadmap event that I attended featured Dr. Gene Gerner, Dr. Tom Grogan and the story of how their research at the Arizona Cancer Center blossomed into huge NCI research grants, new drugs, and successful UA spinoff businesses. I knew them, wrote about their research, and photographed them when I worked in the communication office at the cancer center.

My point is that I value scientific research and believe that research jobs (and related jobs that come with big grants) are some of the best jobs in our state. One of the reasons that I don’t support the angel investment tax credit is that I found out that only 30% of the funds go to businesses that spinoff from our research universities. Also, there is a $10 million ceiling to qualify as a “small start-up business” (who is eligible to receive funds from angel investors). If your business has $9 million in assets, is it really as “small business start-up”? 

Continue reading More Transparency in Commerce Authority Tax Giveaway Deals Is Needed (video)

#HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

Throughout last week as we debated multiple tax giveaways, I repeatedly asked, “Is $1 billion in new tax giveaways too much?”

In debate on Thursday, Rep. Mitzi Epstein and I showcased the 18 Republican bills that give away potentially $1 billion and revealed how little the bill sponsors actually know about the revenue losses that their proposals will create. (I say “potentially” because seven tax giveaway bills have an unknown cost. We shouldn’t be passing bills when we don’t know the economic impact!)

On Thursday, we were debating Rep. Bret Roberts’ HB2752, which was projected to be a $64 million hit to the general fund in FY21, $71 million in FY22, and $110 million in FY23. There was a floor amendment that said it change the calculations for the tax break. Roberts refused to answer a my question regarding how the calculations had changed and whether the cost was going to go up or down from the projected figures. It doesn’t necessarily work out well for the Republicans when they refuse to answer questions. Since he refused, I asked Epstein about this. The upshot is that the amendment made Roberts’ bill even worse and pushed it into the unknown cost column, bringing that total to eight tax breaks with an unknown cost.

Continue reading #HB2752 Gives Away Future Revenue Automatically– Bad Idea! (video)

Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)

AZ Tax Breaks

Crossover week– when hundreds of bad bills are pushed through both houses– is always difficult. In addition to four 12-hour days this past week, Democrats had the extra pressure of trying to stop the tax giveaway parade before it dances off the cliff with our state’s future.

I used to call these tax giveaways fiscally irresponsible, but with 18 tax breaks poised to pass the Arizona House and more coming our way from the Senate, we have crossed the line into insanity. Of the 18 tax giveaways, 11 have some cost estimate. Those 11 total close to $500,000 annually in new tax breaks starting next fiscal year; there are another 7 tax breaks with unknown costs. They’re not free; the Joint Legislative Budget Commission (JLBC) doesn’t know how to estimate their cost. You can read more detail about these bills these three articles herehere, and here. With so many unknowns, if they all pass, Arizona could be looking at $1 billion in new tax giveaways (AKA lost revenue) in next fiscal year or in the near future, since several of them automatically increase over time, and it takes a two-thirds majority to repeal any of them.

Continue reading Is $1 Billion in New Tax Giveaways Too Much? (video)

How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

sleeping baby

Several times during the tax cut debates on Wednesday, Feb. 11, in the House Ways and Means Committee, Chairman Ben Toma and other Republicans repeated the mantra that Arizona has a “budget surplus”. The only reason that we have funds that have not been allocated is because we have had decades of budget cuts and chronic underfunding of important programs like public education(!), the Housing Trust Fund, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), and so forth. It’s not that there is no need in our state, and, so therefore, we have extra cash. We don’t have extra money.

Also, several times during the committee meeting, I reminded everybody that Arizona is worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). We are not only shortchanging our school children by underfunding education, we are shortchanging small children before they ever get to school. It is highly ironic that Arizona is the country’s #1 “pro-life” state and also #50 in ACEs, due to our stingy policies and poor treatment of our children.

In my study of gaps and inequities in maternal and child health in Arizona, I took a comprehensive approach and looked through the lens of the social determinants of health. Two contributing factors to Adverse Childhood Experiences are housing insecurity and food insecurity.

Continue reading How Can the #1 ‘Pro-Life’ State Be #50 in Child Wellbeing? (video)

Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)

child's stove

Arizona is dead last — #50– for Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). Arizona is not only shortchanging school children, our stingy policies hurt little children before they ever enter the classroom. ACEs include food insecurity; domestic violence; DCS removal; addiction, incarceration, or death of a parent;  or housing insecurity at any level– homelessness, eviction, foster care, etc.

Rep. John Filmore’s bill HB2013 would force teachers to hold back children if they are not performing at grade level– thus eliminating “social promotion” for students who are technically not at grade level. Rep. Jennifer Pawlik– herself a soft-spoken and kind special ed teacher– said that teachers have tools to help children who are progressing but may not be at grade level. Filmore’s bill ignores the expertise of teachers and ignores the fact that some children may need extra help because of Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Far too many Arizona children have the chips stacked against them before they are born and due to significant ACEs during their early years, they enter kindergarten with emotional trauma. At a meeting with Amphi School District educators and parents, I learned that 40-50% of Amphi elementary school children who enroll in school in the fall, don’t end the year in the same school. Why? Housing insecurity, eviction, domestic violence, death, poverty, foster care. With low wages and bad policies, we are forcing far too many families to live with hardship.

Holding a student back a grade is second only to death of a parent in childhood trauma. HB2013 just increases the likelihood that Arizona children will be continue to be worst in the nation for Adverse Childhood Experiences.

Continue reading Arizona Is #50 in Adverse Childhood Experiences: #HB2013 Would Hurt Kids Further (video)