#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

 

#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)

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

On Tuesday, the Arizona House passed Legislation to allow remote voting by House members who are at risk for Coronavirus and want to practice social distancing by working from home. After the House Floor session, I recorded this video, which could be the last one from my office for this session.

Most of this week I have been participating by phone due to the novel Coronavirus. On Tuesday, March 17, I went to the House for a few hours because votes were scheduled, and there was a rumor the Republicans were going to move to change the rules to allow remote voting. Remote voting sounds like a great idea, and I am taking advantage of it. The ulterior motive to remote voting is to keep former Senate President and current Rep. Steve Pierce, who said last Thursday that he wasn’t coming back to the capital, on the GOP budget and the other GOP bills that would die if we ended the session. Heaven forbid that a bipartisan budget and Coronavirus crisis response plan would be heard and passed! Two Senators– Paul Boyer and Heather Carter — said weeks ago that they were staying home due to at-risk family members.

There are a few drawbacks to the Skype voting system. The Speaker said that he wanted to make this option available for people for members who could be in an at-risk group for contracting COVID-19. There are 17 members of the Arizona House who are over 60 years old. There are at least two others who are under 60 but have medical conditions that put them at risk. Two are doctors. The remote voting system accommodates only six people.

Continue reading #AZHouse OK’s Remote Voting for Members, #AZLeg Remains Open (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)

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

Today’s video is a throwback to 2016. Jim shot this video of me testifying in front of the Tucson Mayor and City Council about the importance of paid sick leave and staying home when you are sick.

Much to my employees’ surprise when I was program director of the Arizona Smokers’ Helpline, I told everyone, “Don’t come to work sick. If you do, I will send you home.” Everybody had paid sick leave. I wanted them to use it to get well. The Helpline was a much healthier place after I gave everyone “permission” to stay home and take care of themselves.

When people come to work sick, they infect customers and co-workers. When people stay home sick, they get better faster and don’t infect everyone else. Just think of how many people a sick fast food worker, cashier, caregiver, bank teller, or customer service person can infect per day. This is how disease spreads throughout the population.

Continue reading COVID-19: Businesses… Please… Encourage Sick Workers to Stay Home (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)

Gloves & Hankies: Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic (video)

Just when we humans think the world is at our command, the hand of destiny shows us that it isn’t.

The new coronavirus from China is rocking the world’s largest economy, messing with the supply chain of globalization, and showing us that suppression of vital public health information in order to save face is bad policy.

COVID-19 has spread to different cities in China, Iran, South Korea, other countries in south east Asia, and up into Europe. They are expecting the new flu to come to the US. Public health officials had dire warnings earlier this week. They told Congress that we should expect to have “our lives disrupted” and to practice “staying apart from each other”!

What is the Trump administration doing to get a head of the flu? They put some money into it (perhaps too little too late), but Trump is following the same path as authoritarians in China and Iran and trying to gloss over the effects of the flu as it begins to hit our shores.

This should be a worldwide wake up call, not a time when we put our heads in the sand.

Continue reading Gloves & Hankies: Lessons from the 1918 Flu Pandemic (video)

Is 5G ‘Risky Business’? (video)

technology

Today’s video starts with a walk down memory lane to HB 2365. This was a very complicated, major telecom bill that passed the Legislature in 2017. I was the only person in the Legislature who voted “no” on the final read. I believe I was the last person to vote. Rep. Isela Blanc turned to me and said “You’re voting ‘no’? You should explain your vote.”

I didn’t explain my vote because my stance was part hunch.

I originally voted “yes” on HB2365. (I remember being skeptical, but it was sold as no big deal.) I voted “no” when it came back from the Senate with amendments for two reasons. 1) The bill included a lot of accelerated depreciation, which I interpreted as a tax break for the telecom corporations. I remember asking questions of the staff regarding the cost, and there wasn’t really any clear answer about cost. 2) The bill was very complicated. I remember the explanation alone being pages long, and we had to make a decision very quickly. I voted “no” because I thought we really didn’t know what we were voting on.

Continue reading Is 5G ‘Risky Business’? (video)

#HB2840: Medical Marijuana Patient Choice Bill on Feb 20 HHS Agenda (video)

marijuana

There are four medical marijuana bills (not all good) on the House Health and Human Services Committee agenda for tomorrow, Thursday, February 20.

One of them is my bill, HB 2840. This and my other 2020 medical marijuana bill HB2838 are patient choice legislation. If you have been following my healthcare bills this year, you know that I have proposed several patient choice bills. I believe in patient choice across the healthcare spectrum from reproductive choice to death with dignity and everything in between. 

Beginning in December 2019, the Arizona Department of Health Services switched all medical marijuana patients from a plastic identification card to an electronic ID. In my opinion, the patients were not adequately notified, and furthermore, they were not given a choice regarding plastic or electronic. Thousands of medical marijuana patients are over 80 years old. Thousands are over 60. Thousands more live in rural areas with limited Internet access.

HB2840 simply says that patients should be able to choose between a physical medical marijuana card and an electronic card.

Continue reading #HB2840: Medical Marijuana Patient Choice Bill on Feb 20 HHS Agenda (video)