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A second COVID-19 testing blitz will be held in Maricopa.

That event is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 1, according to Kristina Donnay, the medical director and co-owner of the Maricopa Wellness Center.

It will follow the drive-thru testing set for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Saturday, July 18, in the north parking lot at the Copper Sky Recreation Complex.

Both events are being conducted by the wellness center in conjunction with the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Here is what you need to know:

Testing, which will be conducted by a swab to the nose, will detect active infection. It is not an antibody test.

Testing is limited and the event is first come, first serve. It is the first free-to-the-public testing made available in the city.

Please bring the following to be tested at the blitz:

• Government-issued photo ID (photocopy preferred), including driver’s license, visa, passport or military ID.

• Please bring photocopy (preferred) of insurance card (front and back), if applicable

• Two forms – a consent form and a LabCorp testing slip – can be accessed at those links, printed and completed, and brought to the testing blitz.

You must be 18 or older to be tested. No walk-ups will be tested; you must be in a car and all occupants of the car must be wearing face masks. There will be no bathroom access.

A copy of the test results will be sent in the mail by LabCorp, and test results can be accessed via LabCorp’s patient portal.

Coronavirus cases are surging in Arizona, with more than 4,200 new cases and 92 deaths reported Tuesday. More than 128,000 cases and 2,337 deaths have been reported in total, according to the state health department.

More than 5,940 of those cases were reported in Pinal County, which has reported 88 total deaths, including five since Saturday.

According to the state health department, 523 cases of the virus have been reported in the 85138 zip code, an increase of about 50 cases since Sunday, and 202 in 85139

A sign at the McDonald’s drive-thru on John Wayne Parkway is proof the Great National Coin Shortage has reached Maricopa.

The sign asks customers paying cash to use exact change. Alternately, they are encouraged to use a card to pay for their Big Mac.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant lots of change, just not an abundance of coins. As businesses and banks nationwide closed their doors in recent months to help prevent the spread of the virus, the flow of quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies has mostly ceased, according to media reports.

As a result, many businesses are faced with the prospect of not being able to make change for patrons.

A young worker at the Culver’s drive-thru on Monday night expressed relief when a customer used exact change to pay for a Vanilla Oreo Concrete Mixer.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell signaled the shortage on June 17, during a virtual hearing with the House Financial Services Committee, saying the supply chain followed by coins was being interrupted by the pandemic.

“The places where you go to give your coins and get credit at the store and get cash — you know, folding money — those have not been working. Stores have been closed,” he said during the hearing. “So, the whole system has, kind of, had come to a stop.”

It was thought that as the American economy restarted, coins would start moving again through the supply line, but shortages are still being seen.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino is telling guests to bring their accumulated change to the cashier’s cage for cash. The exchange is complimentary – many places take a small percentage or amount to count all those nickels and dimes and dispense cash – through Aug. 31. There is a daily exchange limit of $500 per guest.

Free COVID-19 testing will be available in Maricopa on Saturday.

The Maricopa Wellness Center and the Arizona Department of Health Services have scheduled a drive-thru testing blitz from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the north parking lot at the Copper Sky Recreation Complex.

Testing, which will be conducted by a swab to the nose, will detect active infection. It is not an antibody test.

Testing is limited and the event is first come, first serve. It is apparently the first free testing made available to the public in the city.

Maricopa Wellness has been providing testing for a $100 fee, which can then be submitted to insurance.

Please bring the following to be tested at the blitz:

• Government-issued photo ID (photocopy preferred), including driver’s license, visa, passport or military ID.

• Please bring photocopy (preferred) of insurance card (front and back), if applicable

• Two forms – a consent form and a LabCorp testing slip – can be accessed at those links, printed and completed, and brought to the testing blitz.

You must be 18 or older to be tested. No walk-ups will be tested; you must be in a car and all occupants of the car must be wearing face masks. There will be no bathroom access.

A copy of the test results will be sent in the mail by LabCorp, and test results can be accessed by LabCorp’s patient portal.

Coronavirus cases are surging in Arizona, with more than 2,500 new cases and 86 deaths reported on Sunday. More than 122,000 cases and 2,237 deaths have been reported in total, according to the state health department.

More than 5,600 of those cases were reported in Pinal County, which has reported 88 total deaths, including five since Saturday.

More than 662 cases of the virus have been reported in Maricopa –  476  in the 85138 zip code and 186 in 85139.

 

Getting children back on school campuses is less fun than it sounds.

Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year.

The opening of the 2020-21 year looms for Maricopa Unified School District and charter schools, with most starting entirely online. With an unknown date for returning to in-person education, school leaders looked for a balance between best health practices and the wishes of families before presenting a plan to roll out the return. Another component is preparing students psychologically for a new experience.

As the Arizona Department of Education presented a “Roadmap for Reopening Schools,” it told schools that implementing direction from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “should be guided by what is feasible, practical, acceptable and tailored to the needs of each community.”

Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order keeps kids off campus until at least Aug. 17, and Arizona School Board members are pushing for a delay in the return to physical classrooms until October. MUSD board member Torri Anderson said she would like to keep children learning remotely until fall break, which is Oct. 5.

Heritage Academy has a July 22 all-online start date. MUSD starts July 30 online. A+ Charter Schools, which is debuting this year, starts Aug. 3 online. Sequoia Pathway will start Aug. 4. Legacy Traditional School starts Aug. 5 and is hosting a July 15 virtual town hall to explain the plan. Leading Edge plans to start school Aug. 17 in person but with an online option for families that prefer to stay at a distance.

MUSD surveyed parents to learn if and how families wanted children to return to campus. Some shared their ideas and concerns about reopening with InMaricopa, as well.

“Open the schools as normal, but with extra sanitation precautions,” Jesselee Evans Green said. “At my work, we stop every two hours to clean every surface that’s been touched. It only takes a couple of minutes. Kids can help with that by wiping their desks down at the end of the class. Extra hand washing stations around the schools as well …. My kids need to go back to a learning environment that they enjoy.”

HEALTH

District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., created an infection-control plan for MUSD that is ready to go when the day comes. She and the Health Services Department will put together health tubs for each teacher.

“It contains some backup hand sanitizer and also some Lysol spray, the larger alcohol wipes that are also with virucide. I read the label; it works perfectly. And with gloves and masks,” Stephens said.

School nurses will also create a video for teachers about the items in their infection-control tub, explaining how and when to use them. Stephens said she does not want teachers to use certain items incorrectly.

They will explain the difference between disinfecting and cleaning, for example.

“I’m also going to put together a video for the kids on the first day about the importance of social distancing, keeping as far apart as possible under the circumstances,” she said. “Coughing and how important it is to keep their hands clean.”

To convey the basics to students of all ages, they will explain the concept of sterile technique, “Clean to clean; dirty to dirty.” That means if something is dirty and you touch it with your hand, your hand is now dirty and needs to be cleaned.

At Leading Edge, all students and staff will be temperature checked upon entry to school each day. Masks may be worn but are not mandatory. All classrooms will have hand sanitizer. Cleaning and disinfecting procedures will be intensified, and there will be training in health and safety protocols.

MUSD schools will establish entry points where health workers will take the temperature of each student that comes in. It’s not a diagnosis but it is a screening. Students who have a temperature of 100 or more are sent to the health office. Students with a temperature of 100.4 are sent home.

Students are expected to go to their classrooms immediately rather than milling in the hall and mixing with large groups before the first bell.

“We’re trying to cohort the classrooms as the group, however many kids there may be,” Stephens said.

For the elementary grades, that means, where feasible, schools will try to have art in their classroom and music in the classroom. They may even have breakfast and lunch in the classroom.

Principals and teachers will plan the recess times, which may not allow use of playground equipment. A cohort may be assigned a specific section of the play area for physical activity. And hand sanitizer will always be nearby.

But they are still dealing with very young children.

“All we can do is the best we can,” Stephens said. “We try to teach them to be safe. As long as they’re not hugging each other and slobbering all over each other, I don’t care if they hold hands.”

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. If more than one cohort uses a classroom, the room will be disinfected between each cohort. If only one cohort uses the room, it will be disinfected once or twice a week.

For all ages, the nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” Stephens said. “It’s the rebreathing of the carbon monoxide. It’s not safe for anyone to wear a mask all day long.”

She said teachers would not wear masks while teaching unless they approach students to help with something. Afterward, both teacher and student are asked to clean their hands.

Middle school and high school, however, leaves Stephens at a loss, even with her many years of infection control. She has students wearing masks when they change classes. The schools may mark hallways to divide traffic moving in separate directions so students are not face to face.

To prevent congestion in the hallway, there may be monitors to move students along instead of stopping to chat. As they enter the classroom, they will be asked to clean their hands with school-provided hand sanitizer.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

There are procedures in place if a child who has been to school tests positive for COVID-19, especially determining who else has been exposed.

MENTAL HEALTH

“Overwhelmingly, what I’m hearing is students just want to go back to school,” said Amber Liermann, Exceptional Student Services behavioral counselor and licensed professional counselor and clinical supervisor.

Many parents, too, want their kids in the classroom.

The counseling department at MUSD has had weekly meetings during the fourth quarter of last school year and all through the summer to prepare for a start to a new school year unlike any other.

“We want to make sure that we’re staying on top of the developments of what’s going on and making sure that we are prepared to support our students and our families for whatever happens and whatever options are offered,” Liermann said.

They have discussed validating each family’s and each student’s personal experience with COVID-19. Some families might have lost a loved one. Some might have financial impact while others were not as affected.

They will be coming back with different levels of socialization as well. When students do come back, reestablishing attachments, from elementary to high school students, has vital importance.

“It’s important to create routines as normal as possible so the students regain security,” Liermann said. “We would replace old rituals with new rituals. At the elementary schools, in particular, students want that hug from teachers. So, instead of a hug or a high five, they’ll have a tingle and a dance.”

The campuses have Positive Behavior Interventions & Support (PBIS) teams to help students make good decisions if they are feeling stressed. All schools also have Comfort Corners but will change how they are used to avoid sharing tools.

The teletherapy and video chats available last quarter will continue when appropriate.

“Self-regulation and stress-management are going to be really, really important this year,” Liermann said. “There are going to be fears and anxiety coming from students going to school. We will be teaching stress-management tools, help teachers know when to give breaks.”

Health Services asked to participate in administration training to talk about trauma informed care, crisis prevention and de-escalation strategies for a most unusual beginning of a new school year.


This story appears in part in the July issue of InMaricopa.

Henry Wade Maricopa City Council
Maricopa City Councilmember Henry Wade. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

By Councilmember Henry Wade

Hello Maricopa,

I hope this note finds you and your family well. These are some challenging times that we find ourselves in today. However, through your patience, understanding and commitment to community, we individually and collectively are able to support one another. Even though you may be confused and frustrated by decisions made on your behalf, believe me it is particularly difficult when we cannot agree with the outcomes.

One such decision we have all been grappling with lately is whether to wear a mask in public or not. More specifically, should your elected City officials, mandate-wearing masks for all citizens unable to maintain 6 feet social distancing outside of the home.

To be clear, I fall on the side of mandatory use of face coverings whenever you are less than six feet from anyone. It is also not a good idea to be in an occupied space with more than 10 people, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

We are facing significant issues as we deal with this pandemic coupled with social unrest in our country. Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any relief in sight for either. The way we are treating each other during this crisis is reminiscent of the civil rights movement with the added twist of a silent killer. Additionally, it seems we have abandoned manners, mutual respect and sense of fair play. I for one am really tired of all the rhetoric. Because we have been asked to confine ourselves to our homes with our families, nerves are unraveling and stress levels are high. Added to that, we are without the kind of leadership, that promotes compassion and love for one another; it is more likely that things will get worse before they get better.

All that being said Maricopa, for my part, l will try my best not to succumb to the negative energy that may creep into our community and will look to my faith as a source of strength and deliverance. I will endeavor to stay informed on those issues that serve to build Maricopa up both literally and figuratively and will try hard not to engage in negative pursuits or dialogue. For those expecting me to comment on every issue, I hope this serves as an explanation to you as to why I may or may not engage. However, if you feel that you really need to hear from me, please feel free to contact me directly at 520-213-7497 or drop me a line at Henry.wade@maricopa-az.gov. I would be most eager to talk to you directly.

Thank you very much for sharing some of your precious time with me today.

Henry Wade is councilmember and former vice mayor in the City of Maricopa.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey
Gov. Doug Ducey speaks at Thursday afternoon's news conference on the state's response to the coronavirus pandemic. Source: YouTube

Stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Gov. Doug Ducey implored residents on Thursday, stopping short of re-instituting an order to enforce that message.

“I want to emphasize that you are safer at home in Arizona,” Ducey said, imploring residents to wear face masks and practice physical distancing and regular washing of hands. “There is nothing more you can do to help than to stay home.”

But he added that wearing a mask is also vitally important to slowing the spread of the virus.

“I want to ask everybody to wear a mask,” he said.

The plea to Arizonans came as the number of cases rose to more than 112,000 statewide. Nearly 2,040 deaths have been reported.

Ducey also said restaurants will have to limit indoor dining to less than 50% occupancy in an effort to slow the spread of the virus, Ducey said in his first news conference in a week-and-a-half. It is unclear how many restaurants statewide were not already limited occupancy to 50% or less, and one reporter noted that the restriction was not a new action, and was in fact prescribed by the state Department of Health Services on June 19.

His action on June 29 to again close bars and nightclubs, gyms and waterparks “is encouraging” and already having an effect to help flatten the curve, he said.

“We are seeing some better results,” he said. “The actions we took 10 days ago are making a difference. We need to see more of a difference.”

Ducey said the state will continue strengthening its guidance on COVID-19.

“Everything we do going forward” will be done to protect lives, the governor said.

“In an effort to protect lives and protect livelihoods…” he said. “We will be more prescriptive in our guidance going forward.”

Ducey said the end of his stay at home order on May 15 led two weeks later to “a rapid rise of cases” that was eventually seen by many states nationwide. He noted the pandemic is reaching into each and every part of Arizona.

“No county, no matter how rural, is spared from the virus, “ he said.

In Pinal County, more than 1,550 cases and 82 deaths have been reported. In Maricopa, there have been 430 cases in the 85138 zip code and 164 cases in 85139.

The governor also said he will launch “Project Catapult” to “dramatically expand testing in Arizona.”

“Today demand is through the roof,” he said. “Everyone wants to get a test.”

Doug Ducey Risk Behaviors
Gov. Doug Ducey used this chart to assess the relative risks of certain behaviors to spreading the virus. Source: Office of Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

The state health department and a number of private partners are working toward a goal of 35,000 daily tests by the end of July to 60,000 daily tests by the end of August.

Ducey was asked about President Donald Trump’s threat to withhold federal education funding to those states who don’t open up their schools on time.

In response, he said he reiterated that his decision-making is not based on politics, saying everybody wants to see children back in school, but that it would not happen in Arizona until it was safe. Ducey has already delayed the opening of schools a month until the end of August

“We are going to be living with this virus for the foreseeable future,” said Ducey, noting that the fall arrival of the flu season will bring yet more challenges.

“We can’t let up.”

Students in K-5 and 6-12 will start "virtual" classes at the end of the month that will include synchronous teaching.

 

Maricopa Unified School District will begin school July 30.

The school year will begin online with two different virtual academies. A 6-12 Virtual Academy, which had been planned before COVID-19, had already been approved. A version for K-5 is new.

The governing board voted unanimously on the first-day-of school decision Wednesday.

All students will start with distance learning. Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Ed.D., said that will include “daily synchronous instruction” with teachers teaching live and students participating through their district-owned devices. The plan also includes honors, AP, foreign language and electives classes.

Lopeman said the schedule adheres to 180-day requirements. For contracts, there are 189 days for new teachers and 187 for returning teachers.

When virtual will become brick-and-mortar is still up in the air. Gov. Doug Ducey’s executive order will not allow that to happen before Aug. 17, a date he called “aspirational.” So that is a date MUSD is aiming for, too, until more information comes from the governor’s office and the state Department of Education.

The board will discuss a date to return to in-person classes at a special meeting July 22.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Board member Torri Anderson said she would prefer to keep students on the online platforms until fall break and then switch over to in-person for those families that wish to do so.

The schedule takes away one week of fall break.

Human Resources Director Tom Beckett said it has been a complicated process to get all the moving parts together.

“As we approve this school calendar, we also have 13 different employee work calendars that are all going to be impacted by the decision we make tonight on this,” he said.

Lopeman said the delay of five school days from the original July 23 start date was to better help staff and parents get prepared, allow for smooth tech checkout of devices and allow more time for training.

Teachers that wish to may conduct their virtual teaching from their own classrooms.

Damien Carter, owner of VET Logistics LLC, wants to deliver 2 million COVID-19 test kits.

 

A multi-million-dollar company started out of a house in Maricopa is working to give away COVID-19 test kits in Arizona and California.

Damien Carter, 38, is CEO of VET Logistics, a trucking company based in Phoenix. A resident of The Villages, Carter said his intent is to deliver 2 million PCR (polymerase chain reaction) and rapid test kits for free to communities that need them, preferably low-income areas.

Carter said the deal, involving qMetrix Group, RHEA Inc. and AnyPlaceMDBox, started as a $100 million contract. He asked suppliers to exchange half that amount for COVID test kits in what may be the largest personal donation of kits.

“Basically, VET Logistics purchased those kits to distribute,” Carter said.

Willie Sneller, CEO of qMetrix Group, said his logistics company is acquiring the test kits from China 500,000 at a time.

“We are providing one of the few CDC-, EUA-approved rapid test kits available today,” Sneller said from his office in Iowa.

He said his relationship with Carter came about because one of his representatives was acquainted with Damien’s father Ken (of “Coach Carter” fame) in California. Damien had co-founded VET Logistics with fellow Maricopan Ronald Mcanelly.

“He’s an amazing man,” Sneller said of Damien Carter. “He works very hard communicating. He is working on a very, very worthy effort.”

Carter’s first target for test-kit distribution was his hometown of Richmond, California. There and in Arizona, he was in contact with the governor’s office to explain his intentions and coordinate the effort.

“That trickled down to the county health department. Once it gets there, I drop them off,” Carter said. “I would hope and I’m trying to have faith people will do the right thing and help people in those low-income areas.”

Sneller said his company was honored to be a partner in Carter’s “benevolent effort to help communities that are in dire need of the rapid test kits for the COVID-19 antibody test.”


This story appears in the July issue of InMaricopa.

 

Maricopa small businesses received more than $7 million in federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Farmers, lawyers, doctors and exterminators were on the list of 273 local businesses and organizations taking advantage of the PPP loans meant to help mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19.

For instance, eight Maricopa dentist offices received PPP relief, ranging from $33,000 to $142,000 and averaging $73,000. Of the 10 full-time restaurants that received loans, the largest was for $131,500 through Points West Community Bank.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury released information on individual business loans under $150,000 for the 56 states and territories. Arizona small businesses received more than $2 billion in individual loans of less than $150,000 and more than $4 billion all together.

Overall, the Small Business Administration approved $350 billion in business loans across the nation.

The SBA released information on the amount of individual loans, the lending agencies and the categories of the businesses approved for the PPP, but not the name and address of the businesses.

The PPP funds impacted 848 Maricopa workers. The program provides funds for up to eight weeks of payroll costs, including benefits. The PPP funds can also be used to pay interest on mortgages, rent and utilities, according to the SBA.

“The PPP is an indisputable success for small businesses, especially to the communities in which these employers serve as the main job creators,” SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza stated in a news release.

The largest Maricopa employer who benefited was a sports and recreation center with 28 employees. A local dairy kept on 26 employees with the PPP loan, and two restaurants with 24 employees each also received payroll funds.

PPP loans, funded by part of the federal CARES Act, are made by lending institutions and then guaranteed by SBA. Businesses applied to lenders and self-certified that they are eligible for PPP loans. That includes a “good faith certification” that the borrower has economic need requiring the loan and has applied the affiliation rules and is a small business.

The lender then reviews the borrower’s application, and if all the paperwork is in order, approves the loan and submits it to SBA.

“Today’s release of loan data strikes the appropriate balance of providing the American people with transparency, while protecting sensitive payroll and personal income information of small businesses, sole proprietors, and independent contractors,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said.

The largest local business category receiving loans was “miscellaneous retail store.” A dozen Maricopa retailers sought PPP money, the largest being $97,100. Nine of those 12 loans were approved by Readycap Lending LLC.

The largest loan granted was for the aforementioned dental office that received $142,000. It has 16 employees and was approved for the loan by First Citizens Bank & Trust Company. The smallest loan was $510 for a taxi service.

There will be not one but two fireworks displays in the city on the Fourth of July, but residents won’t be able to watch them from one of the most popular vantage points.

The Copper Sky Recreation Area, traditionally a gathering place for family activities and the fireworks on the holiday, will be closed at 6 p.m. to prepare for the southern display. There will be no Great American 4th celebration in the park this year, a casualty of social distancing guidelines at a time when coronavirus cases are surging in the state.

To expand the visibility of fireworks to more homes and backyards, a second display will light up the skies in the northern part of the city, the city announced Wednesday morning. In addition, the shows will feature high-altitude pyrotechnics. The 15-minute displays will occur simultaneously at 9 p.m. The northern location has not been disclosed, but it will not be a location that allows car or walk-up traffic.

The fireworks will cost about $25,000, about $5,000 to $7,000 more than last year’s display, according to Nathan Ullyot, the city’s director of community services. The event will be well under budget with the city not incurring the expenses – portable toilets and trash collection, for example – associated with the traditional celebration at Copper Sky, he said.

Ullyot said he knows many Maricopans will be unhappy about the lack of daytime events and a nighttime gathering spot at Copper Sky to view the show.

“I’m sure they will be frustrated,” he said. “I am sure they will be disappointed. This is the best decision out of bad choices.”

With the risk of further community spread of the virus, it would “not be responsible to open the park and sanction a gathering,” he said.

Another factor in the decision, Ullyot said, was concern that a day-long celebration at Copper Sky with food vendors and entertainment in the park, and fireworks afterwards, would draw hundreds or thousands of out-of-towners with other cities and towns in the state canceling their own festivities.

The city will be suggesting home activities and contests for residents on its social media pages in the coming days and weeks. Possible ideas include backyard BBQ contests and virtual cornhole competitions, Ullyot said.
“Even though we aren’t able to celebrate the 4th the way we normally would, we want to provide a little piece of normal for our residents,” he said. “We’re hoping our residents will be able to see the shows from anywhere in the city. We will also connect through social media and photo contests, with some pretty sweet prizes.”

 

Wild Horse Pass Casino and other Gila River gaming facilities are re-engaging their COVID-19 safety plan as they reopen after a two-week closure.

The casinos had closed in March for what was expected to be the peak of the pandemic and re-opened at the beginning of June. However, positive coronavirus tests caused them to close again June 18.

Today, the casinos (but not the hotels) are re-re-opening.

According to information released by Gila River, masks are mandatory. No smoking is not allowed on casino floors, and occupancy at each casino is reduced to 50%.

Guest temperatures will be checked at the door. Should a guest or team member’s temperature be at or above 100.4 degrees, a second test will be administered. If it remains elevated, they will not be allowed entry.

Casino hours are from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Its Cleaning Ambassadors Program has an alert system that dispatches a crew for instant cleaning.

Valet services are suspended. Inside seating is limited. Plexiglass dividers are in place between slot machines and at table games. The poker room at Wild Horse Pass is closed.

The hotel is expected to re-open Sept. 2.

Wild Horse Pass has opened the Fullhouse Café, Rizzo’s, Fatburger, Shutter Bar and River Bar. Still closed until further notice are Shula’s, Aroma, Ling & Louies, Room Service, Hotel Lobby Bar and Spotlight Lounge.

“Nothing is more important to our Community than the well-being of our team members and guests, children, elders and families,” said Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis in an earlier statement. “Like our sister tribes and businesses all over Arizona, we have tried to do what is best for all, while processing new information and new guidelines about the pandemic with little in the way of definitive guidance.”

Gila River also operates Vee Quiva and Lone Butte.

All masked up for a safe environment, Store Manager Baron Bedgood (left) and trainee David Henderson were on hand for the opening of the new Walgreens this week. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

After a 13-year wait, the new Walgreens opened its doors Monday.

The store at 41840 W. Maricopa-Casa Grande Hwy. was built before the Great Recession as a future Walgreens, but the company never opened as it waited for the right time, financially.

Store Manager Baron Bedgood said it relieves the pressure on the Walgreens on John Wayne Parkway.

The store opened with little fanfare except the “Now Open” sign on the front of the building. It drew in about 100 customers its first day, Bedgood said.

“We just want to let everyone know we’re here and would love to have everyone drop in,” he said.

The store, which is about 9,000 square feet, has a pharmacy, photo department and a wine-and-beer section. It has an area for a beauty consultant once the safety protocols for COVID-19 allow.

Opening during a pandemic hasn’t been easy. Initially, it was meant to open in April, but coronavirus caused slowdowns and shortages. The pharmacy is about 95% operational as they await some stock.

The store has 11 employees. They work within the company’s safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Bedgood moved to the area from Tucson. He has been with Walgreens for 14 years. He said he worked a couple months at the John Wayne Parkway location when the manager was on leave and saw first-hand just how busy it was. The new store is meant to give Maricopa’s eastside residents easier access.

He said those who have prescriptions at the JWP Walgreens can have them transferred over to the new store in a matter of seconds.

Copper Sky pool
A lifeguard watches over swimmers at the Copper Sky lap pool. File photo by Kyle Norby

Three lifeguards at the Copper Sky Multigenerational Recreation Complex have tested positive for coronavirus.

None of the lifeguards have worked since June 20, according to the City, which issued a news release on Monday night.

“We do not believe the affected staff came in close contact without taking appropriate precautions with any of the public during any potential shift where they may have had COVID-19,” said Nathan Ullyot, community services director for the city. “Copper Sky Aquatic staff have taken great care to provide aquatic services within the state, federal and CDC guidelines for pool operation.”

City staff have been following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for public pools, which includes physical distancing, wearing face coverings where possible, performing daily temperature checks, and staying home when exhibiting any symptoms, the city noted in its announcement.

In addition, the city said, Copper Sky initiated several protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19 to the public including capping pool capacity to 100 people, expanding the pool deck area into the adjacent lawn to allow for further physical distancing, spacing pool deck furniture around the deck area and removing furniture to limit gatherings and operating open swim in two-hour periods, allowing 30-minute closures to clean and disinfect the pool area.

Earlier Monday night, the city announced the Copper Sky facility will close for at least 30 days in response to the Gov. Doug Ducey’s new executive order, announced earlier in the day. Members will not be billed for services for July. Additional information will be sent at a later date to members about the impact of the closure.

Open swim at the aquatic center will also be closed for at least 30 days in response to the specific stipulations included in the executive order in regard to public pools, the city said.

 

Gov. Doug Ducey talks to the press Monday.

Bars, gyms and movie theaters will be shutting down again, and school kids will have more weeks of vacation.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced today all Arizona on-campus schools will be out of session until at least Aug. 17, which he described as a target date.

Maricopa Unified School District will discuss what all that means in a special meeting tonight. The meeting was already planned specifically to talk about delaying the start of school after July 23.

Starting at 8 p.m. today, bars, gyms, theaters and water parks must close, according to the gubernatorial order. Ducey said they would be closed for a month, again aspirational timing.

As he did during last week’s briefing, Ducey emphasized the state is heading in the wrong direction in its COVID-19 case trends.

The number of confirmed local cases of the virus has climbed to more than 300. Maricopa ZIP code 85138 now has had 241 cases, and ZIP code 85139 has had 112.

Statewide, cases now total 74,533, with 3,382 deaths. Pinal County Health Services is reporting 3,417 cases and 63 related deaths.

“If you don’t need to go out, don’t go out,” Ducey said.

His order also prohibits any gatherings of 50 or more people. Public pools can have no more than 10 people in or near the pool.

On Monday night, the City of Maricopa announced the Copper Sky Multigenerational Complex will close for at least 30 days in response to the governor’s executive order. Members will not be billed for services for July. Additional information will be sent at a later date to members about the impact of the closure.

Open swim at the aquatic center will also be closed for at least 30 days in response to the specific stipulations included in Ducey’s executive order in regard to public pools.

“To adhere to the safety standards of operating open swim and the prohibitions in the Executive Order, unfortunately closing open swim at Copper Sky for the next 30 days is the best way to protect residents and staff both inside and outside of the pool,” said Community Services Director Nathan Ullyot in a news release.

The swimming pools at Copper Sky were among the City’s earliest casualties to COVID-19 mitigation measures. As of May 30, the competition and leisure pools, water slide and climbing wall had reopened.

As discussed last week, Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board plans to meet in special session Monday at 6:30 p.m. to discuss changing the date of the first day of school.

Opening day is scheduled for July 23. The district is currently using a modified schedule that includes two-week breaks for fall, winter and spring.

This week’s agenda states delaying the start of the school year is recommended “due to the unpredictability of the data associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Arizona has drawn national attention as a hot zone for the coronavirus.

During the June 24 meeting, Bernadette Russoniello, a counselor at the high school who is also a mother of students and a spouse of a teacher, asked the board to consider delaying the school year or opening fully online. She said she is “terrified” of returning to campus under current conditions.

To accommodate all students and alleviate health fears, the district has put together a plan that would provide education models to be in place for the first semester. Those include the traditional on-campus, brick-and-mortar instruction model that would engage a litany of health protocols, a fully online, real-time instruction model and a hybrid model that would have students on campus part of the time and online part-time.

For the moment, only the fully on campus and the fully online models are completely developed. It is doubted the hybrid model would be set by July 23.

Sue Swano, president of the Maricopa Education Association, said the organization took issue with some of the stipulations entailed in the brick-and-mortar model. She wrote to the board, stating staff and students should be able to move around throughout the day rather than be confined to one classroom.

“MEA fully understands that it is easier to trace contact from person to person if someone tests positive for COVID-19 , but we also know for mental health reasons, it is not best practice to be contained in the classroom for seven to eight hours a day.”

While nursing professionals at the district have asked that students wear face masks on buses and when entering campus, wearing face masks all day is not feasible. As planned, elementary students and their teachers would stay within their cohorts in the classroom, where they would not have to wear a mask, and outside for recess. MEA, on the other hands, suggests wearing masks or face shields in class.

The discussion and decision about delaying the start of the school year is the only action item on Monday’s agenda.

347Grill Coronavirus
The 347 Grill at UltraStar, when it was closed in early May. Photo by Bob McGovern

The UltraStar Multi-tainment Center is temporarily closing its 347 Grill restaurant and 10 Pins take-out program after a person who was at the facility tested positive for coronavirus.

A message displayed prominently on its website began: “Ownership and management learned that an individual who was at UltraStar has tested positive for COVID-19. We understand that this news may cause you concern.”

A number of attractions – the bowling alley, laser tag, arcade and indoor concessions stand – remain open, the message said. Movies Under the Stars will continue nightly at 7 p.m.

Arizona is one of several western and southern states reporting record numbers of new coronavirus infections. There were 3,858 new cases reported Sunday and nine more deaths. Rates of positive cases and hospitalizations have spiked as well.

The message said that from the start of its May 15, 2020 reopening, UltraStar has adopted and implemented “thorough measures to protect you and our team from exposure to COVID-19….”

Among the mandatory measures implemented, UltraStar noted, were requiring staff to stay home if sick, taking temperatures of employees as they arrived for work, requiring staff to wear face masks, promoting social distancing by limiting the number of occupants with fewer seats and tables, ensuring that anybody with an elevated temperature not enter the building and increasing cleaning and sanitation procedures throughout the facility.

“We look forward to reopening on July 6th ensuring that it is safe for our staff and customers to return,” the message said. “During our temporary closure, we will be doing a thorough deep cleaning and sanitizing all areas …. The safety of our team and our guests is of the utmost importance and we appreciate your support as we navigate these challenging times.”

Last week, the Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa closed for several days to conduct a deep cleaning after a worker tested positive for coronavirus. It has reopened.

How have you been shopping since COVID-19?

Transaction privilege tax, often simplified as TPT or sales tax, is an indicator of consumer activity in any given area. Along with other economic meters, it gauges how people are spending their money.

These data have drawn particular interest during COVID-19 and locally have drawn surprise. A rise in unemployment, for instance, did not appear to slow consumerism in Maricopa. While the pandemic forced the closure of non-essential businesses, shoppers found their items at essential businesses. Instead of buying a shirt at a local boutique, shoppers bought clothes at big-box stores.

That shifted who pocketed the money. So, there has not yet been a dramatic fall in overall business this spring. Maricopa’s sales tax collection stayed on the same trend as previous years while maintaining a growth gap over last year.

Maricopa sales tax collections have been on trend despite the pandemic. Data: ADOR

Because of the shift in shopping patterns, however, individual businesses are suffering and in danger of going under.

According to the Arizona Department of Revenue, many businesses are struggling to meet their TPT payment deadlines. Officials are working with them on a case-by-case basis, including applications for a late-payment/late-filing penalty abatement program.

“The Arizona Department of Revenue prioritizes working with customers rather than taking enforcement actions when reasonable as this approach is more beneficial to the taxpayer and efficiently serves state and municipal interests,” the department stated in a news release.

For Pinal County and Maricopa, a continuously strong classification has been contracted construction. It has remained the biggest source of monthly TPT funds.

The fallout of businesses in arrears in rent or who lost clients or loaded up their credit with loans to get by may yet be felt across the community as harshly as it has been felt by individuals.

Sales tax collections usually slide a bit during summer as many families go on vacation and the heat keeps visitors at bay and limits community events. Vacations and travel are not anticipated to be as popular this year. The dramatic increase in confirmed COVID-19 cases in June is also expected to impact business and consumerism.

Face masks became mandatory at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Hotel and Casino at noon Wednesday, according to an email sent to Caesar’s Rewards members.

The universal mask policy took effect for all people indoors – guests, employees and passersby, included – at the Harrah’s property in Maricopa and all other hotels and casinos across the Caesar’s network, Caesars Entertainment announced.

Masks are required at all times, unless eating or drinking. If guests do not have a mask, the hotel/casino will provide one.

The company said it will take steps to ensure that everyone wears a mask. Anyone who refuses to wear a mask, after being asked, will be directed to leave the property, Caesars said.

Next door, the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin will require face masks for everyone over the age of 5 and not seated in a dining area, effective 11 a.m. Friday. Employees have been wearing masks for weeks.

The Caesars policy extends a requirement for face masks already in place for guests and employees participating in table games.

“We promised that Caesars would continue to evaluate the latest recommendations, directives and medical science regarding the COVID-19 public health emergency and modify our enhanced health and safety protocols accordingly,” said Tony Rodio, Caesars CEO. “As a result, we are immediately requiring everyone in our properties to wear masks, because the scientific evidence strongly suggests that wearing masks and practicing social distancing may be the most important deterrents to spreading COVID-19 from person to person.”

The hotel/casino operator had previously instituted enhanced health and safety protocols, including more frequent cleaning and sanitization. It also implemented a health screening program for all employees.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin has announced that bingo will resume on Tuesday, June 30, as a smoke-free zone.

Casting doubt that the district will be prepared to start school July 23 as tentatively scheduled, the Maricopa Unified School District Governing Board will look at changing the timeline.

Board members are looking at postponing the first day up to two weeks and will meet in special session to make that decision.

Wednesday, the board looked at the options for launching the 2020-21 year.

Superintendent Tracey Lopeman, Ed.D., said the administration and board had been considering delaying the start of the new school year since May. Several aspects to coming back are changing daily based on state and national responses to COVID-19.

“I’m going to buy a T-shirt with an asterisk – ‘Subject to change,’” Lopeman said.

Board member Patti Coutre suggested the district wait until Aug. 5. Board member Torri Anderson suggested Aug. 7.

“I don’t think everyone is emotionally ready to come back right now,” Coutre said.

Anderson agreed.

“Until we have people in our audience, I don’t know why we could have students in our classroom,” she said.

The administration has limited the number of people allowed in the board room during meetings.

Lopeman said a delay would probably mean taking a week out of the fall and spring breaks, and reworking contracts. A delay may also lengthen the amount of time families have to decide their preferred option for coming back to class.

Today, Gov. Doug Ducey announced $270 million more from AZCares for reopening schools. That will help MUSD fully develop its hybrid model. At the moment, models for brick-and-mortar classes and online-only classes mostly have developed framework.

Curriculum Director Wade Watson said the online model would have Advanced Placement and Honors courses available, though possibly not to the same scale.

MUSD had accredited its Virtual Academy for grades six through 12 this year. Wade said the governor’s action allows them to make Virtual Academy Jr., for kindergarten through fifth grade, available as it applies for accreditation.

Technology Integration Specialist Christine Dickinson said the district will be technologically prepared for fully online or hybrid infrastructure.

During the last quarter of the year, only seniors were guaranteed personal devices. This year, the district will exceed 1-to-1 in devices for all students.
Board member Jim Jordan expressed concern for the credit-deficient students who attend Ram Academy. “I know they’re there for a reason. They need a high touch,” he said.

Watson said those students can have a combination of online learning and live teaching.

“Should there be students in Ram Academy who choose to stay home or look at hybrid-type model, we can accommodate that,” Watson said. “It’s just critical, if they are not physically present, that we reach out to them on a daily basis and provide synchronous, video-type instruction so they don’t get lost in the shuffle.”

The district is still deciding if face masks will be mandatory in classrooms. The district is supplying face masks to teachers and may provide face shields.

“Maybe wearing face masks is what allows us to come back at all,” Lopeman said.

Tonight, Maricopa Unified School District will present the first draft of its “Welcome Back” plan as it prepares to start classes July 23 in the wake of COVID-19. Tomorrow, everyone can begin choosing their preferred option as the district touts its flexibility.

MUSD received survey responses from 3,073 parents and 636 staff regarding their preferences and concerns.

That survey showed 45% of parents wanted a brick-and-mortar setting for classes, while 44% of teachers preferred a hybrid of onsite and online learning. The opinions of parents and teachers were mostly in line on questions of face mask use and daily temperature checks.

The framework for returning will be published on the district website Thursday. It includes a caveat: “Plans for a hybrid model that integrates in-person and remote learning are in development and highly dependent on several external factors.  Therefore, we cannot commit to launching this model on the first day of school.”

Families will have the option of choosing to go to school in person on campus or attending class via the newly established Virtual Academy. All students will receive a personal, dedicated device.

Health Services has had video meetings with custodial staff to go through the cleaning and disinfecting process. Because social distancing is not considered feasible on a school bus, school nurses are encouraging masks on the bus or from their drop-off point onto school grounds. If parents want their children to wear a mask in more settings, that can be accomplished up to a point.

“Children should not sit in a mask all day long in a room,” District Nurse Lizabeth Stephens, R.N., said.

Meetings between Health Services and the principals were organized to get everyone’s ideas about how to put best health advice into practice. The Arizona Interscholastic Association’s COVID-19 guidelines are also a point of conversation.

Though meals, art and music may be in the classroom for elementary students, the daily schedule will be regular. The district is also expecting afterschool programs like 21st Century and the new Boys & Girls Club to operate in their designated locations.

“We are preparing to be there when school starts,” said Matthew Lemberg, executive director of Boys & Girls Clubs of the Casa Grande Valley, which is launching its Maricopa club this year.

The middle schools and high school will have “virtual clubs” available.

The online learning platforms will have “daily synchronous instruction” such as ZOOM or Google Meets. It is expected to be more direct learning experience than the distance learning of last quarter.

Starting tomorrow, families can choose their option at www.musd20.org/musdsafe.

Learn more about the district’s physical and mental health preparation in the July issue of InMaricopa magazine.

On a morning when three governors required anyone traveling to their state from Arizona to be self-quarantined for 14 days, Pinal County Board of Supervisors rejected a request to mandate residents wear face coverings in public.

The vote on a resolution encouraging rather than requiring use of face coverings was unanimous, though the debate was animated and emotional. One supervisor tried to insert an amendment that would require a mandate to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The County Attorney’s Office also had its suggestion for mandated face masks in certain circumstances be overruled.

Supervisors also dismissed the opinion of the county health services director by saying available medical opinion was contradictory.

According to board clerk Natasha Kennedy, a total of 424 county residents wrote the board in favor of mandated face coverings while 115 wrote in opposition.

Republican Supervisors Todd House and Mike Goodman said the situation was “all about politics and nothing but politics.”

“We can’t take away personal responsibility,” Goodman said, later adding, “When we mandate and take away individual rights, we are passing a threshold that is very dangerous.”

After hearing from members of the public in person and in writing, the supervisors met in closed session for more than an hour before returning to discuss the issue in public.

Those who wrote in favor of a mandate said residents in the county were ignoring social distancing and did not care about the wellbeing of others. One said the supervisors were refusing to hear the majority. Several compared mandating face coverings to mandating the use of seatbelts.

One spoke of being told to stay home if she was afraid of going out without a mask mandate and said her family had already been at home for months.

“Those who won’t wear masks should stay home,” she wrote. “It’s their turn.”

Those opposed to the mandate argued that masks were dangerous, and a mandate infringed on their rights. They said they would vote against anyone who supported a mandate.

Dr. Shauna McIsaac, who heads the county health services department, said she supported a provision that was ultimately removed from the resolution.

“I strongly believe masks should be mandated,” McIsaac said.

She said the scientific evidence shows wearing a face mask helps limit the spread of COVID-19. Without a vaccine, face masks were the only way for residents to protect themselves in public, she said.

Democrat Supervisor Pete Rios said he voted for the resolution because it was “better than nothing” but wanted a mandate. Rios was the only supervisor to wear a mask in the meeting room. When supervisors removed proposed language that would have created a mandate, he proposed an amendment to add the mandate back in, to no avail.

The supervisors bandied the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, questioning the use and effectiveness of wearing a mask. Fauci had stated March 8 in a “60 Minutes” interview on CBS, “Right now in the United States, people should not be walking around with masks,” and added they could be contributing to a mask shortage for healthcare workers.

Afterward, as COVID-19 spread and protective equipment more available, Fauci told the investment site TheStreet, “Masks are not 100 percent protective. However, they certainly are better than not wearing a mask.”

Tuesday, Fauci gave the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce his advice: “Plan A, don’t go in a crowd. Plan B, if you do, make sure you wear a mask,” Fauci said.

At Wednesday’s supervisors’ meeting, Chairman Anthony Smith of Maricopa, a Republican, said he wished the medical information was more clear. He also said the sheriff’s office would be overwhelmed with enforcement issues if mask-wearing became a mandate.

The resolution encouraging the use of face coverings in public is applicable to the unincorporated areas of Pinal County.

Text that was added after Friday’s meeting by County Attorney Kent Volkmer but then removed by supervisors today included:
    Face Coverings shall be mandated in the following circumstances:
a. When an individual has tested positive for COVID-19 or has been informed by Pinal County Public Health that they have been in close contact         with someone who as tested positive they are required to wear a Face Covering in public until they no longer test positive or 14 days has lapsed,         which ever shall be applicable;
b. Whenever the public are inside or outside engaging or seeking Pinal County services unless it poses a greater physical or mental health risk           or one’s disability or religious beliefs prevent wearing a Face Covering.

The final text of the county resolution:

RESOLUTION NO.
062420 LSE 02
RESOLUTION OF THE PINAL COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS ENCOURAGING MITIGATION EFFORTS IN THE FORM OF FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, due to existing cases of COVID-19 within the State of Arizona and community spread of the illness within the State, on March 11, 2020, Governor Douglas A. Ducey declared a state of emergency for Arizona for COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, multiple cases of COVID-19 have been identified within Pinal County and the situation is rapidly evolving with person-to-person transmission and continued community transmission; and

WHEREAS, the conditions and risk of increased exposures to residents of Pinal County have caused the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to declare a public health emergency; and issue a Declaration of Local State of Emergency on March 20, 2020; and

WHEREAS, A.R.S. § 26-311 authorizes the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, during such emergency, to govern by proclamation and have the authority to impose all necessary regulations to preserve the peace and order of the county; and

WHEREAS, ON June 17, 2020, Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-40, Containing the Spread of COVID-19 Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts, that allows a county, based on conditions in its jurisdiction, to adopt policies regarding the wearing of Face Coverings in public for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and that any enforcement of such policy shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation and that individuals be given an opportunity to comply prior to any enforcement action being taken; and

WHEREAS, the CDC and the ADHS continue to update their guidance for prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 with additional information to help individuals make better decisions about going out while preventing and mitigating the spread of the virus; and

WHEREAS, published June 11, 2020, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America concluded “wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic,”; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors recognize that it is critical to also maintain six-feet physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, the use of Face Coverings, as recommended by the CDC and the ADHS, can further aid in slowing the spread of the virus permitting offices, businesses, venues and activities in Pinal County to remain open; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors adopts the Requirements for Businesses issued in conjunction with Executive Order 2020-40, issued June 17, 2020 (attached hereto as Exhibit A).

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that a public health emergency continues to exist necessitating the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to adopt the following policy and order applicable in unincorporated Pinal County, encouraging Face Coverings to be worn if six-feet of physical distance can not be maintained in public effective June 25, 2020.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

  1. “Face Covering” means a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face, or a full plastic face shield. A covering that hides or obscures the wearer’s eyes or forehead is not a Face Covering.

  2. All members of the public are highly encouraged to, wear a Face Covering in the following situations:
    a. When they are boarding or riding on public transportation or paratransit or are in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle. (This Resolution does not require any person to wear a Face Covering while driving alone, or exclusively with other members of the same family or household, in a motor vehicle).

  3. All Pinal County Departments and Elected Officials, contractors and volunteers are encouraged to:
    a.
    Require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a Face Covering at the workplace or when performing work off-site any time the employee, contractor, owner or volunteer is:
    i.
    interacting in person with any member of the public;
       ii. working in any space visited by members of the public,
    iii. working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    b.
    Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the facility, or location.
    c.
    Public Safety Employees and Detention Officers are not required to wear a Face Covering while on duty, unless required by the Sheriff.

  4. It is recommended that children under two years or younger not wear a Face Covering.

  5. Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as walking, hiking, bicycling, or running, are encouraged to wear a face covering when they are unable to maintain six-feet distance from others. (This Resolution does not recommend any person to wear a Face Covering while swimming).

  6. Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is not more than adequate physical distancing area, based on the size and number of people in the space (indoors and out of doors) are encouraged to wear a Face Covering.

  7. When wearing a Face Covering or mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety, or security risk, such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, the wearing of Face Covering will not be required. A person who declines to wear a Face Covering because of a medical condition or whose religious beliefs prevent the wearing of a Face Covering shall not be required to produce documentation verifying the condition, or belief. Persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication shall not be required to wear a Face Covering.

  8. When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment a Face Covering is encouraged where individuals are unable to maintain a distance of six-feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence. A mask or Face Covering is encouraged to be worn when entering or exiting any such establishment.
  9. Any enforcement of this Resolution shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation. Before any enforcement action is taken, a person shall be notified and given an opportunity to comply.

  10. This Resolution shall remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 Pinal County Local State of Emergency or until lawfully amended or terminated.

Property taxes are in a generally downward trend, but there is still uncertainty in local budgets. That is causing finance experts to calculate zero revenue growth in building budgets.

The City of Maricopa and Pinal County are dropping their tax rates as the overall tax levy increases. Maricopa Unified School District expects its secondary tax rate to decrease while the primary rate rises.

With economic and population growth, even through COVID-19, the City’s lax levy is gaining about $190,000. That is allowing the city to lower its primary tax rate from 4.7845 to 4.6309 and its secondary rate from 1.1871 to 0.9348.

The county is planning to drop its primary property tax rate from 3.79 to 3.75 when rates are adopted in August. Angie Woods, director of Management & Budget, said it was a huge effort by the county to meet goals of bringing down the tax rate. The budget, she said, was built with an eye on the pandemic.

“Our local excise tax and state shared tax revenues were built in as flat,” Woods told supervisors this month.

She said April revenue numbers were better than projected.

“Very, very positive numbers for the month of April,” she said in a supervisors’ meeting this month. “Very surprising.”

MUSD’s governing board will discuss its proposed budget at its meeting today. The district’s secondary tax rate, which pays for the voter-approved override and bonds, is scheduled to fall from 2.5557 to 2.5327 for fiscal year 2020-21. The primary rate, however, may rise from 4.2475 to 5.2256, as previously reported. Without the addition of an Adjacent Ways levy for the second high school, the primary rate would have decreased about a cent.

The budget is based on the estimated 100-day average daily membership. That has grown from 979 in 2016 to 1,593 in 2020.

“Before the COVID-19, closure I was projecting a growth of 340 ADM,” Finance Director Jacob Harmon said during an earlier meeting. “Since there are so many unknowns due to the changes in the world and our economy, we’ve decided to build the budget based on zero growth so we can be prepared for worst-case scenarios.”

Though the district is receiving funding through the CARES Act, estimated at $1 million, how far it will stretch is a question.

“I have a strong feeling, based on different information we’ve seen in trends in other states, other districts, that the expense of reopening is probably going to outweigh the CARES money,” Harmon told the board.

The governing board meets tonight at 6:30 p.m. and can be viewed live on the district’s YouTube channel.

Unincorporated areas of Pinal County are the aim of a resolution "highly encouraging" the use of face masks where social distancing is difficult.

 

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Pinal County is 2,459, and the Board of Supervisors is making a second attempt to take a stand on face mask use.

In another special meeting, planned for Wednesday, supervisors are expected to “highly encourage” the populace of unincorporated areas to wear face masks in public. Last Friday, when the number of cases was 1,911, the board reworked a resolution after hearing from more than a hundred residents. They gave themselves another week to review it. The resolution is similar to policy put in place in the City of Maricopa.

Though receiving 34 letters in opposition to a mandate to wear face masks and 119 in favor, the four Republicans on the board were seeking to issue a request rather than a requirement. The proposed resolution adopts a policy of encouraging face mask use.

“I can count,” Democrat Pete Rios said at the time. “Even though I would want to require the use of face masks, it’d be a 4-1 tire track on my back.”

The board had considered a resolution for all of Pinal County, but the final draft considered this week applies to the unincorporated areas.

The updated resolution going to the board this week includes a reference to guidance in Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Order 40. That itself is a reference to guidance, not mandates, from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, asking businesses to require the use of face masks if social distancing is not feasible.

The resolution states it will be in effect “for the duration of the COVID-19 Pinal County Public Health Emergency” that was declared by the board. Supervisor Stephen Miller questioned the vagueness of that timeline last week.

In response, Dr. Shauna McIsaac, director of the county’s Public Health Services, said the goal is to achieve 60%-70% immunity, either through antibodies in those who have had the virus or vaccines for those who have not. A vaccine, she said, may take up to 18 months to develop and get to market.

“So, we’re wearing masks for two years now?” Miller asked.

“Absolutely,” McIsaac replied.

She said there is currently a lack of effective antibody testing, something the University of Arizona is trying to remedy.

Residents who wrote to the board in favor of mandating masks said it was a common-sense measure that would mitigate the spread of the virus. Wearing masks protects others, one wrote, while another said a mandate was a small but effective thing to ask. The virus, one wrote, “is a health issue, not a political one.”

Those opposed to a mandate said it would cause many community conflicts as “Karens” try to turn in anyone they thought was in violation. They called a requirement “excessive” and causing unnecessary fear.

After the supervisors made changes to the resolution (though not changing the title, which references a mandate), they scheduled this week’s meeting and possible executive session on the matter.

 

TEXT OF THE PROPOSED PINAL COUNTY RESOLUTION:

RESOLUTION NO. 061920-LSE-03

RESOLUTION OF THE PINAL COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS MANDATING MITIGATION EFFORTS IN THE FORM OF FACE COVERINGS

WHEREAS, due to existing cases of COVID-19 within the State of Arizona and community spread of the illness within the State, on March 11, 2020, Governor Douglas A. Ducey declared a state of emergency for Arizona for COVID-19; and,

WHEREAS, multiple cases of COVID-19 have been identified within Pinal County and the situation is rapidly evolving with person-to-person transmission and continued community transmission; and

WHEREAS, the conditions and risk of increased exposures to residents of Pinal County have caused the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to declare a public health emergency; and issue a Declaration of Local Health Emergency on March 20, 2020; and

WHEREAS, A.R.S. § 26-311 authorizes the Chairman of the County Board of Supervisors, during such emergency, to govern by proclamation and have the authority to impose all necessary regulations to preserve the peace and order of the county; and

WHEREAS, ON June 17, 2020, Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey issued Executive Order 2020-40, Containing the Spread of COVID-19 Continuing Arizona Mitigation Efforts, that allows a county, based on conditions in its jurisdiction, to adopt policies regarding the wearing of Face  coverings in public for the purpose of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and that any enforcement of such policy shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation and that individuals be given an opportunity to comply prior to any enforcement action being taken; and

WHEREAS, the CDC and the ADHS continue to update their guidance for prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 with additional information to help individuals make better decisions about going out while preventing and mitigating the spread of the virus; and

WHEREAS, published June 11, 2020, the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America concluded “wearing of face masks in public corresponds to the most effective means to prevent interhuman transmission, and this inexpensive practice, in conjunction with simultaneous social distancing, quarantine, and contact tracing, represents the most likely fighting opportunity to stop the COVID-19 pandemic,”; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors recognize that it is critical to also maintain 6-feet physical distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, but the use of Face Coverings, as recommended by the CDC and the ADHS, can further aid in slowing the spread of the virus permitting offices, businesses, venues and activities in Pinal County to remain open; and

WHEREAS, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors adopts the Requirements for Businesses issued in conjunction with Executive Order 2020-40, issued June 17, 2020.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that a public health emergency continues to exist necessitating the Pinal County Board of Supervisors to adopt the following policy and order applicable in unincorporated Pinal County, encouraging Face Coverings to be worn in public effective June 19, 2020.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED:

  1. “Face Covering” means a covering made of cloth, fabric or other soft or permeable material, without holes, that covers the nose and mouth and surrounding areas of the lower face, or a full plastic face shield. A covering that hides or obscures the wearer’s eyes or forehead is not a Face Covering.
  2. All members of the public are highly encouraged to, wear a Face Covering in the following situations:
    a. When they are inside or outside any location or facility seeking or receiving Pinal County Government Services;
    b. When they are boarding or riding on public transportation or paratransit or are in a taxi, private car service, or ride-sharing vehicle. (This Resolution does not require any person to wear a Face Covering while driving alone, or exclusively
    with other members of the same family or household, in a motor vehicle).
  3. All Pinal County Departments and Elected Officials, contractors and volunteers are encouraged to:
    a. Require their employees, contractors, owners, and volunteers to wear a Face Covering at the workplace or when performing work off-site any time the employee, contractor, owner or volunteer is:
        i. interacting in person with any member of the public;
    ii.
    working in any space visited by members of the public,
        iii. working in any space where food is prepared or packaged for sale or distribution to others;
    b.
    Take reasonable measures, such as posting signs, to remind their customers and the public that they wear a Face Covering while inside of or waiting in line to enter the facility, or location.
    c. Public Safety Employees and Detention Officers are not required to wear a Face Covering while on duty, unless required by the Sheriff.
  4. It is recommended that children under two years or younger not wear a Face Covering.
  5. Persons who are engaged in outdoor work or recreation such as swimming, walking, hiking, bicycling or running, are encouraged to wear a face covering when they are unable to maintain six feet distance from others.
  6. Persons working alone in separate office spaces or in non-public workplaces where there is not more than adequate physical distancing area, based on the size and number of people in the space (indoors and out of doors) are encouraged to wear a Face Covering.
  7. When wearing a Face Covering or mask poses a greater mental or physical health, safety or security risk, such as anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cover without assistance, the wearing of Face Covering will not be required. A person who declines to wear a Face Covering because of a medical condition or whose religious beliefs prevent the wearing of a Face Covering shall not be required to produce documentation verifying the condition, or belief. Persons who are hearing impaired or communicating with a person who is hearing impaired, when the ability to see the mouth is essential for communication shall not be required to wear a Face Covering.
  8. When eating or drinking in public at a restaurant, bar, or other food or beverage establishment a Face Covering is encouraged where individuals are unable to maintain a distance of six feet away from persons who are not members of the same household or residence. A mask or Face Covering is encouraged to be worn when entering or exiting any such establishment.
  9. Any enforcement of this Resolution shall focus first on educating and working to promote best practices to accomplish the goal of mitigation. Before any enforcement action is taken, a person shall be notified and given an opportunity to comply.
  10. This Resolution shall remain in effect for the duration of the COVID-19 Pinal County Public Health Emergency or until lawfully amended or terminated.

Maricopa aerial
Maricopa is a city of neighbors. Photo by Kyle Norby (flight courtesy Desert Rat Aviation)

The City of Maricopa is strongly encouraging its residents to wear face masks to prevent the most vulnerable in the community.

“…The Maricopa Mayor and City Council, and the City of Maricopa strongly encourage & request residents to wear masks where social interaction takes place, while visiting businesses and other institutions outside of one’s close familial circle, and especially where social distancing is not possible in these given locations,” said a news release released by the city on Thursday afternoon.

While face masks are not mandated, Mayor Christian Price said he wants all people in the city to cover up.

Get free face masks from 10 a.m. to noon Friday

“Wearing a mask is a small thing each of us can do to protect those most vulnerable in our community,” Price said in the release. “The Governor said he would like to see every Arizonan wear a mask. I specifically, would like to see every Maricopan wear a mask, especially when unable to social distance from others around us. All of Arizona’s businesses, non-profits & institutions are now required to establish these new and updated guidelines for our well-being. So as we frequent these various entities let’s all do our part and show off how much we care about each other by masking up Maricopa!”

The City said its staff will follow requirements from Gov. Doug Ducey, including wearing face masks when they are within six feet of others and/or when interacting with the public.

“Thank you to all our caring residents who plan to do the same,” the release concluded.

On Wednesday, Ducey gave local governments in Arizona the authority to mandate masks in their cities. The governor’s move came amid public pressure for him to take action to address the surging number of new coronavirus cases in the state. On Thursday, state health officials reported 2,519 confirmed cases, eclipsing the previous single-day high of 2,392 cases reported on Tuesday. The number of deaths rose Thursday by 32 to a total of 2,519.

Ducey said Wednesday any mandate should rest with local authorities because the number of new cases varies greatly from city to city.

He also announced enhanced guidelines for businesses, organizations and professional offices, including that they must “require face coverings when physical distancing is not feasible.”

In a Facebook post Wednesday, Price referenced that new requirement: “The Governor now says that citizens of Arizona are requested – HIGHLY SUGGESTED even – to wear masks or face coverings when out and about from your own home …. It’s not necessarily “mandated”, per se, but we are requested to follow the most up to date CDC guidelines and in the Gov’s own words: “He would like to see every Arizonan wear a mask or face covering.” (Especially when unable to social distance).

Among the dozens of comments in response to the mayor’s post were expressions of support and pleas to make masks mandatory.

A petition posted created on MoveOn.org  urged Price to make masks mandatory.

A number of mayors in other Arizona cities – Chandler, Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale and Tucson among them – have already moved to require face masks.

 

Dutch Bros COVID-19
The Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa. By Kyle Norby

A worker at the Dutch Bros coffee shop in Maricopa has tested positive for coronavirus.

In letter to the community, posted on the Facebook page of the local store, the company confirmed an employee at its 20232 N. John Wayne Parkway location is in self-isolation for two weeks after getting a positive test result Thursday. The worker had the COVID-19 test on Monday.

Before the test results came back, the employee worked morning and afternoon shifts on Thursday, June 11, and Saturday, June 13, and morning shifts on Friday, June 12, and Sunday, June 14, the company said.

Upon learning of the positive result, closing procedures were initiated at the store, the company said.

“As an extra precaution, the shop will undergo a third-party deep clean before reopening,” the letter said. “We are also coordinating with public health officials to confirm our protocols not only meet, but exceed, expectations.”

The company noted it had already implemented a number of steps – increased handwashing and sanitizing, and face mask policies in line with recommendations by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example – to prevent the spread of the virus.

The letter did not specify when the shop would reopen.

Anyone with questions or concerns is encouraged to reach out to communitywellness@dutchbros.com.

This morning, the City of Maricopa opened its application process for small business and nonprofits affected by COVID-19 to receive AZCares funds.
The new webpage has details on The Maricopa Business Reemergence Program and the Maricopa Food & Aid Distribution Non-Profit Assistance Program. Applicants have until 6 p.m. on Monday, July 6, to submit their complete application.
The AZCares Fund is Arizona’s portion of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Maricopa City Council assigned $1.35 million to the Reemergence Program and $350,000 to the Nonprofit Assistance Program.
Many nonessential businesses in Maricopa were closed for 10 weeks and have struggled to regain their clientele. The Reemergence program can go toward rent or mortgage payments from March, April and May, purchase of personal protection equipment and related items. It is not for payroll or utilities, but the City is touting other business resources that may help mitigate other expenses.
Applications will be reviewed and allocations announced in mid-July.

People wear face masks while waiting in line to enter the Ross store in May. Photo by Bob McGovern

Use of face masks in Maricopa will not be mandatory, the city mayor has decided.

Mayor Christian Price announced on Facebook Wednesday afternoon that he would not force residents to wear face coverings in public.

He did echo the request of Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey for residents to wear face masks voluntarily.

Letter: Sheriff announces he has COVID-19

Get face masks from 10 a.m. to noon Friday

“The Governor now says that citizens of Arizona are requested – HIGHLY SUGGESTED even – to wear masks or face coverings when out and about from your own home…,” the post said. “It’s not necessarily “mandated”, per se, but we are requested to follow the most up to date CDC guidelines and in the Gov’s own words: “He would like to see every Arizonan wear a mask or face covering.” (Especially when unable to social distance).”

As far as restaurants, Price said if restaurateurs are already complying with earlier Phase 1 requests, then all is good. If not, he added, the Pinal County Health Department will be enforcing those guidelines.

“So please just be a good actor here and do your part,” he wrote.

Among the dozens of comments left on his Facebook post were sighs of relief and pleas to make masks mandatory.

Earlier Wednesday, Ducey gave local governments the authority to mandate masks in their cities. The governor’s move came amid public pressure for him to take action to address the surging number of new coronavirus cases in the state.

Ducey said any mandate should rest with local authorities because the number of new cases varies greatly from city to city.

A number of mayors in other Arizona cities – Phoenix, Tucson and Mesa, among them – have already moved to implement a face mask requirement for residents.

Officials in Chandler sent out a tweet on Wednesday saying the City Council will hold a special meeting at 4 p.m. Thursday to “discuss & possibly take action regarding directives for residents relating to reducing the spread of COVID-19 including masks/social distancing.”

A vote will be taken Friday in Gilbert on the matter.

 

Sheriff Mark Lamb

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb posted the following on the department’s social media today:


Unfortunately, as a law enforcement official and elected leader, we do not have the luxury of staying home. This line of work is inherently dangerous, and that is a risk we take when we sign up for the job.

Today, that risk is the COVID-19 virus.

On Saturday, I held a campaign event, where it is likely I came into contact with an infected individual.

On Tuesday, I was called to join the President at the White House. As is protocol, all visitors are screened for the virus. While still asymptomatic, I tested positive for the COVID-19.

I will be self-quarantining for the next 14 days minimum.

I alerted the Pinal County Public Health Dept. immediately after my positive test, and they are working to track all those I came in contact with following the Saturday event.

Thank you, be safe, and God Bless,
-Sheriff Mark Lamb

 

Maricopa small businesses and others may start applying for AZCares money from City Hall starting Thursday.

The city council worked out the timing and some procedures at its Tuesday meeting. The application process was to last two weeks, which would have ended July 2. But with that being the City’s holiday for Independence Day, the process was extended through July 6 at 6 p.m.

“We want to make sure that all the businesses have the time to not only hear about it but get their application together,” Mayor Christian Price said.

The City received nearly $6 million of the state’s portion of CARES Act funds to help the community recover from the effect of COVID-19 closures.

Two of the application categories are Maricopa Resurgence (for small businesses) and Food and Aid Distribution Assistance (for nonprofits that benefited the community during the closure of nonessential businesses).

The small-business portion was funded $1.35 million. The nonprofit portion was funded $350,000, with the provision that any leftover funds be transferred over to the small-business side. City Manager Rick Horst said the City anticipates the greater need being among the small businesses.

Price, Vice Mayor Nancy Smith and Councilmember Vincent Manfredi all spoke of encounters with business owners who were uncertain if they would last the summer.

After the application process, City staff will look over the applications, and city council will decide allocations by mid-July. Councilmember Rich Vitiello wanted staff to start reviewing applications as soon as possible to hasten the process.

Price said there are lagging indicators that Maricopa was going to be hit hard in the coming months as some businesses do go under, causing a loss of employment, revenue and even residents in a “systematic domino effect.”

Councilmember Marvin Brown wanted it clarified that home-based businesses may apply as well.

The application form will be on the City website, and the City will announce when it becomes available.

Vehicles line up during an earlier distribution of face masks at the offices of InMaricopa. Photo by Kyle Norby

The resurgency of positive cases of coronavirus in Arizona underscores the importance of wearing face masks in public to prevent the spread of the virus.

InMaricopa wants to help.

We will offer another distribution this week of free surgical-style masks to help you and your family stay safe.

Face masks will be handed out from 10 a.m. to noon Friday during a drive-thru in the parking lot of our offices at 44400 W. Honeycutt Road. Please enter the lot from the westernmost driveway, stay in your vehicle and proceed slowly to the canopy where an InMaricopa.com staffer will distribute masks to you.

Arizona is not requiring residents to wear masks during the health crisis, but they are recommended. But federal health officials say they are a highly effective way to slow the spread of the virus and recommends people wear them when out in public.

InMaricopa has, so far, handed out thousands of masks to residents needing them.

We encourage all residents who do not have face mask protection to stop by on Friday.