Tags Articles tagged with "coronavirus"


Legacy Traditional School staff distribute supplies Monday morning: Josi Apernethy, Elvira Figueroa, Fanta Vasquez, Becky Durovka and Susan Chacon. Photo by Kyle Norby

After a semester and part of a quarter, the school year is over for physical campuses, and many questions remain.

State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman and Gov. Doug Ducey announced the extended closure of all public schools through the remainder of the school year in an effort to slow the spread of a novel coronavirus. All school curricular activities were shut down as well. No banquets, no award presentations, no prom night.

“This decision was made in the best interest of the health of our students, teachers and their families to do our part in flattening the curve of the spread of COVID-19,” Hoffman said. “This was not an easy decision, nor one that we have taken lightly.”

School staff will have full pay through the end of the school closures.

“We know our students and staff look forward to the excitement that the end of the school year brings, and this is not the outcome we wanted,” said Tracey Lopeman, superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District. “However, the health and safety of our students and staff members is our first priority.”

As the announcement was being made, MUSD was beginning to prepare teachers for the distance-learning program it put in place this week for students to learn remotely. Originally it was to be activated through April 10 but is now the education program for district schools through the end of the year.

Lopeman said the ramifications of closing schools for the rest of the semester are complex. Prom had already been canceled, and graduating seniors do not yet know what will happen for graduation. Sports season and championships were also canceled, frustrating the final high school seasons of many.

Hoffman said the state board will meet Tuesday to discuss graduation requirements, A-F grades and remote-learning documentation.

“I think it’s a safe decision,” said Amy Sundeen, assistant principal at Leading Edge Academy. “To put 800 kids in one location definitely increases the risk of them catching the coronavirus. We are taking every step possible to ensure that our kids can receive the best education from now through the end of the year.”

Leading Edge Academy began handing out laptop computers last week. Photo by Kyle Norby

Leading Edge Principal Mat Reese said his K-8 charter school handed out 200 laptop computers last week. There was a 50% response from parents on Friday alone, with more showing up afterward.

“We are still looking at how we will do grades and promotions,” Reese said. “I am proud that our staff have really stepped up their game. Students are getting excellent classroom instruction through Google Classroom.”

Maricopa Unified School District distributes meals at its campuses. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Sequoia Pathway started handing out supplies last week in a curbside distribution. MUSD schools also began handing out meals to their students, with each student 18 and younger receiving breakfast and lunch. Legacy Traditional School had three distribution tables set up Monday morning for families to pick up lesson plans, school supplies and paper products such as, yes, toilet paper.

Teacher Grant Hanks, who teaches at both Maricopa High School and Central Arizona College, called it “a strange few weeks” as everyone gets up to speed.

“For MUSD, we are using Google Classrooms with our students. Luckily I was using this from the start of the school year,” Hanks said. “I post copies of the PowerPoints notes and assignments so that students are aware of what they need to do. During the latest textbook adoption, we also decided on a Pearson, which gives us access to online materials as well.”

Hanks uses MyLab Math in pre-calculus, letting high school students see how math classes will be in college.

“So I plan to continue to use Google Classroom to share notes and links to videos so that students can learn the material,” he said. “They will do their assignments on Pearson’s Mylab Math. All high school teachers will be offering virtual office hours for students that would like some help. I’m not sure exactly what that looks like at this time. For the students that can’t access the Internet, we are providing them hard copies of the assignments.”

Hanks’ wife teaches third grade at Sequoia Pathway, and he has helped her set up her distance-learning class, despite the fact technology is not her superpower.

“She now feels better using Google Classroom, can use Zoom, and Microsoft Teams,” he said. “So it’s been a successful couple of weeks. It’s been a learning experience for both of us.”

Each school is counting on parents to hold students accountable for their lesson plans, whether online or in hardcopy. But the schools are also waiting for answers to questions to come from the state education department.

“We are committed to communicating with staff and families regularly as information becomes available,” Lopeman said.

Multimedia journalist Kyle Norby contributed to this report.

Though on the surface, the latest executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey does not seem much different from previous announcements, it does have some teeth, if people want to push the envelope.

Monday, Executive Order No. 18 made it mandatory rather than just good advice to stay home if it is not essential for you to be out in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It’s a ratchet up,” Mayor Christian Price said. “There’s not a ton of change. But it mandates social distancing.”

According to ARS 26-303, the previous declaration of an emergency gave the governor the right to exercise “all police power.” At the local level, that has the potential for repercussions, but Price said the moment is an opportunity for an education campaign for employers and employees rather than physical enforcement of mandates.

“Arizonans are staying home because it’s the right thing to do,” Ducey said.

Exceptions to the “Stay home, stay healthy, stay connected” policy include participating in “essential activities,” employment, volunteering or participation in essential businesses outlined in a previous executive order and self-employment if the office space is separate from your home and not open to the public.

The order specifically states, “No person shall be required to provide documentation or proof of their activities to justify their activities under this order.”

Ducey said, semantics aside, the “stay home” order is the same as shelter-in-place that has been ordered in several other states.

“We do not want people to feel trapped or isolated in their homes,” he said. “The weather is beautiful right now. Find a way to get out and enjoy it with physical distancing.”

Grocery stores and pharmacies remain open, and restaurants can continue to provide take-out and delivery services. The governor recommended that residents continue to buy a week’s worth of groceries for a week’s worth of needs.

The emergency situation has required different responses at different levels for the state. While the governor previously called up the Arizona National Guard to help weary suppliers keep shelves stocked, he also ordered Black Hawk helicopters to the Navajo Nation to help set up field hospitals.

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Gov. Doug Ducey and state Superintendent Kathy Hoffman released the following joint statement:

“In alignment with yesterday’s updated federal guidance, today we are announcing the extension of school closures through the remainder of the school year. Today’s announcement is intended to give parents and educators as much certainty as possible so they can plan and make decisions. While this isn’t the outcome any of us wanted, we are grateful for the partnership of schools around the state, who have stepped up to offer virtual and take-home learning opportunities for our students. These efforts are crucial, and we recognize that schools are making every effort possible to continue providing instruction during closures. We also thank our legislative partners for passing legislation ensuring all educators and staff see no disruption in pay. Our No. 1 priority will continue to be health and safety, and we will continue to work closely with public health officials to make the best decisions for kids, families, and our school communities.”

As such, the remainder of the Arizona Interscholastic Association spring season and championships have been cancelled.

“This is an unfortunate circumstance for all of our member schools, students and coaches,” said AIA Executive Director David Hines. “We know this decision was a hard one, but one that was necessary to assist in the well-being of everyone across Arizona. We hope everyone stays healthy and focused on what the next chapter will bring.”

Esports teams may continue to compete in scrimmage mode only via PlayVS.

Homestead received board approval to put up holiday lights through May 31, and the Watsons got to work decorating. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Residents in the Homestead North subdivision are brightening spirits during the COVID-19 outbreak by putting up Christmas lights in their front yards.

“The Christmas lights always give people hope,” said HOA board member Andrew Harrison. “It’s something you can do that all your neighbors can see easily.”

It took the homeowners’ association board of directors five days from ideation to approval of allowing residents to hang holiday lights on their homes, a decision made Wednesday.

According to Harrison, secretary and board member of the Homestead North HOA, the idea came from a member of the board after seeing an article detailing holiday lights in public places that had since closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

Homestead residents received an email from the HOA board, detailing the initiative to hang lights as “An Act of Solidarity.”

“This small act is a statement of support for all those who have been impacted by COVID-19 and to show our solidarity in overcoming it,” the email read.

Sarah Watson, a Homestead North resident, said it’s the children of the neighborhood who benefit the most.

“I think it’s such a good idea, just to be able to go walk around, if it’s warm enough, or drive around, get out of the house, all while being safe and following the CDC guidelines,” Watson said.

With an 18-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a 3-month-old child at home, Watson said the family has experienced frustration

Sara Watson. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

and concern amid the COVID-19 outbreak, with potentially missing a graduation ceremony and making sure her infant isn’t exposed to the virus.

As the family navigates changes in their daily routines, the lights have provided “something to smile about,” Watson said.

Derick Fröm has been a Maricopa resident for two and a half years. He and his wife Cortney have five children from ages 2 to 11.

Fröm said he would love to see more families participate in hanging up lights.

From left, Cortney Fröm, daughter Rowan, 4, and Derick Fröm. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

“It would be nice to see more kids out playing,” Fröm said. “We would love to see more people do it.”

Cortney Fröm said her children love being outside, and the lights are a way to enjoy the outdoors while practicing social distancing.

“I like decorating. The kids love it,” Cortney said, “and people have told us, it’s nice turning the corner and seeing the lights up.”

The From House. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

While children can benefit from seeing the lights, neighbors of all ages are seeing additional positive effects of the holiday lights appearing during a social distancing period.

Kevin McCrary. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Neighbors Kevin McCrary and Sumer Moriarity have both experienced a growing sense of community in their neighborhood.

“You can see your neighbor, and you’re both social distancing, but you can say, ‘hi,’ if you’re putting up lights or working in your front yard or doing something,” Moriarity said. “It’s a way to stay in contact with people without being too close.”

McCrary, a senior resident down the street from Moriarity, said his neighbors check up on each other frequently during an uncertain time.

“It’s a way to bring people by the house and talk to us at a safe distance. I think it’s just really trying to bring the neighbors closer together,” McCrary said. “My neighbors have offered to pick things up while on Costco runs, you can see it on Facebook, there are a lot of people that are pulling together and really trying to help each other.”

Jaime Harrison, sons Jack, 8, and Oliver, 2, and Andrew Harrison. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Harrison said he would like to see more residents of the neighborhood participate in hanging their lights. A father of two young children, Jack, 8, and Oliver, 2, Harrison said he has seen children playing in the streets and their front yards more often now that children are home for most of the day.

“I feel like I’m back in the Midwest again,” Harrison said, “where everybody plays outside, knows their neighbors and helps each other.”

The Homestead North HOA board approved light decorations through May 31.

Residents of Pinal County may not be all that great at staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A company that tracks GPS data has handed out letter grades across the nation and gave Pinal County a D for social distancing. The company, Unacast, watched frequency and distance of travel on a daily basis.

The state overall received a C. The lightest day of travel by Arizonans in the past week, not surprisingly, was Sunday, which saw a 36% drop in the average distance traveled.

In Pinal County, that decline was 26%.

However, on Monday, people started moving around again to start the workweek, and the number of mobile phones on the road increased dramatically. Coincidentally, there was a dramatic increase in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 announced.

While statewide there was a steady slide of drivers on the road between March 16 and March 22, those in Pinal County mostly stayed within their average travel routines until the weekend. Pinal’s average distance traveled since Feb. 28 is down only 16%.

Ten of Arizona’s 15 counties received an F from Unacast, but they are rural counties where most areas require driving long distances to shop for basics.

Maricopa County scored highest, getting an A on Sunday and now boasting a B. Pima and Yavapai have C’s, and Greenlee has a D.

Arizona itself is far more rural than other states with similar populations and as a result has far fewer COVID-19 cases and far fewer related deaths. Like Arizona, Washington scored a C on the GPS social-distancing metric, but Massachusetts had B for its efforts.


The novel coronavirus COVID-19 was first announced in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, in December. Its symptoms are similar to common influenza but its fatality rate is higher.

See the impact in Maricopa

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, older adults and people who have severe underlying medical conditions like heart or lung disease or diabetes seem to be at higher risk for developing more serious complications from COVID-19 illness.

Reported illnesses have ranged from mild symptoms to severe illness and death.


These symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure (based on the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses).

__Shortness of breath

Those with those symptoms should self-isolate. When they develop “emergency warning signs” for COVID-19, they should get medical attention immediately. Emergency warning signs include:

__Trouble breathing
__Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
__New confusion or inability to arouse
__Bluish lips or face


There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to this virus.

The virus is thought to spread mainly from person-to-person
__Between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet).
__Through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.


Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially after you have been in a public place, or after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

__Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
__Avoid close contact
__Avoid close contact with people who are sick
__Put distance between yourself and other people if COVID-19 is spreading in your community. This is especially important for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick.


__Stay home if you are sick
__Stay home if you are sick, except to get medical care. Learn what to do if you are sick.
__Cover coughs and sneezes
__Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow.
__Throw used tissues in the trash.
__Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, clean your hands with a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
__Wear a facemask if you are sick


You should wear a facemask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a facemask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then you should do your best to cover your coughs and sneezes, and people who are caring for you should wear a facemask if they enter your room. Learn what to do if you are sick.

Everyone is discouraged from creating “home remedies” or other solutions not prescribed by medical professionals. Patients have been scammed out of money for unnecessary and ineffective concoctions and others have even died.

If you are NOT sick: You do not need to wear a facemask unless you are caring for someone who is sick (and they are not able to wear a facemask). Facemasks may be in short supply and they should be saved for caregivers.


Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily. This includes tables, doorknobs, light switches, countertops, handles, desks, phones, keyboards, toilets, faucets, and sinks.
If surfaces are dirty, clean them: Use detergent or soap and water prior to disinfection.
To disinfect:
Most common EPA-registered household disinfectants will work. Use disinfectants appropriate for the surface.

Options include:
Diluting your household bleach.
To make a bleach solution, mix:
5 tablespoons (1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water
4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
Follow manufacturer’s instructions for application and proper ventilation. Check to ensure the product is not past its expiration date. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleanser. Unexpired household bleach will be effective against coronaviruses when properly diluted.

Alcohol solutions:
Ensure solution has at least 70% alcohol.
Other common EPA-registered household disinfectants.
Products with EPA-approved emerging viral pathogens claims are expected to be effective against COVID-19 based on data for harder to kill viruses. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (e.g., concentration, application method and contact time, etc.).

Arizona had its largest one-week increase in first-time unemployment insurance claims on record last week, according to the Arizona Office of Economic Opportunity.

Mirroring the nationwide jump in claims, Arizona saw 29,348 new claims the week ending March 21 compared to 3,844 the week before.

Doug Walls, a labor-market research administrator for the department, said there had been no forecast estimate of what the number would be, but it was “up significantly.”

The previous high in first-time claims was 11,178 in 2009 during the recession.

Walls gave an entirely remote presentation of February employment numbers to a handful of journalists Thursday. He said Arizona gained jobs in all seven metro areas during the month, but cautioned numbers are incomplete because of the coronavirus.

In the available numbers for February, the state’s labor market increased 3.2% compared to last February. That equaled 111,000 people. Compared to January, there was an increase of 24,300 jobs.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.5%. Nationally in February, the unemployment rate was 3.5%. Both numbers are expected to change dramatically when March numbers come in.

Education and health services had the biggest gain in jobs year-over-year with 22,000 added. The trade, transportation and utilities sector was next with 10,600 jobs. Overall, there was a net gain of 79,000 in Arizona since last February.

Month-over-month, there was a statewide gain of 24,300 jobs, which was close to the 10-year average of 25,100.

Nationally, there was an increase in unemployment claims of 3.3 million, even higher than many economic experts anticipated. The coronavirus has caused the temporary closure of many businesses across the country and worker layoffs, with some even closing permanently.

“This large increase in unemployment claims was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus,” Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said. “The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance.”


The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) has updated the community transmission level of COVID-19 in Arizona to widespread. Widespread transmission indicates that cases have been confirmed in twelve or more counties throughout the state. As of today, Arizona has confirmed 508 cases in 13 counties. There have been 8 deaths reported due to COVID-19.

“Given widespread transmission, all Arizonans should expect that COVID-19 is circulating in their community,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS Director. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that is highly contagious and can be fatal in anyone, especially our elderly population and people with underlying health conditions. Protecting those at highest risk of complications and ensuring that our healthcare system is prepared to deal with a surge in cases is our highest priority. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect themselves and their family from this disease.”

The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then immediately throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. For people with mild illness, individuals are asked to stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and get rest. For people with more severe symptoms, such as shortness of breath, individuals are advised to seek healthcare.

ADHS activated its Health Emergency Operations Center on Jan. 27 after the first case of travel-associated COVID-19 was confirmed in Arizona. The Health Emergency Operations Center remains open to coordinate the State’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information about the COVID-19 response in Arizona, go online to azhealth.gov/COVID19.

Access to the Internet will not be necessary for participating in Maricopa Unified School District’s distance-learning plan.
Starting Monday, the district will make educational resources available to students from preschool through high school. Teachers will be available to deliver hardcopy and online resources.
The district announced its plans on its website Wednesday night.
Public schools, which include district and charter schools, were closed statewide through April 10 during the coronavirus outbreak. Below, see how charters are responding, as well.
MUSD is on spring break, which ends Friday.
Only high school seniors will be supplied a laptop or wifi hotspot to complete their courses. They can check out technology April 1 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. near the library if they bring their student ID and a government-issued ID.
“Your child’s teacher will provide more detail for you and your child with information that is specific to their grade level,” the MUSD information states.
Though teachers will provide information about Google Classroom, an online platform, there will also be hardcopy options available.
According to MUSD, teachers will be available during school hours by email or video conferences. They will “connect with families” twice a week.
Students in preschool through eighth grade can pick up hardcopy materials curbside at a time and date to be provided by the schools. High school teachers are developing course materials to be distributed curbside as well. Again, Google Classroom will be used.
More resources here.
Leading Edge Academy has teachers providing weekly video instructions and provides daily ideas for online resources as parents become homeschoolers. Legacy Traditional School presented its remote-learning plan March 20. Heritage Academy will also use online programs to continue classes while campus is closed.

Thursday at Sequoia Pathway, bins will be out for parents to drive by and pick up assignments if they do not have technology at home. The school expects its online teaching for K-12 will be up and running Monday.

“We are excited as we are insuring that our students will be a able to learn and grow in this time,” athletic director Glen Hale said.  “Our hope is that we can bring stability and structure through teachers still teaching and bringing the learning to their doorstep.”

From State of Emergency to telemedicine, the gubernatorial executive orders since March 11 cover a wide assortment of issues that have arisen from the novel coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak.

Tuesday, Gov. Doug Ducey added a suspension of residential tenant evictions to the list. Wednesday, he required all health insurance plans to include telemedicine in their coverage, and at the same rate an in-person visit would cost.

When the governor made his declaration of Public Health Emergency March 11, nine cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in Arizona. As of end of day Tuesday, there were 401, including six deaths.

Executive Order 2020-07
March 11, 2020
Proactive Measures to Protect Against COVID-19
“The Department of Health Services in conjunction with the Department of Insurance shall require that all insurers regulated by the State cover COVID-19 diagnostic testing from all qualified laboratories without regard to whether the laboratory is in-network.”

Executive Order 2020-08
March 19, 2020
Limiting In-Person Motor Vehicle Division visits for Driver License Renewals
“The Arizona Department of Transportation shall defer requirements to renew Arizona driver licenses and driving permits that have an expiration date between March 1, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2020, by six months from the expiration date.”

Executive Order 2020-09
March 19, 2020
Limiting the Operations of Certain Businesses to Slow the Spread of COVID-19
“Beginning at the close of business on Friday, March 20, 2020, all of the following establishments located in counties of the State with confirmed cases of COVID-19 shall close access to the public until further notice: Bars, movie theaters, indoor gyms and fitness clubs.”

Executive Order 2020-10
March 19, 2020
Delaying Elective Surgeries to Conserve Personal Protective Equipment Necessary to Test and Treat Patients with COVID-19
“Beginning on Saturday, March 21, at 8 a.m., all non-essential or elective surgeries, including elective dental surgeries, that utilize personal protective equipment or ventilators shall not be performed at any licensed healthcare facility or by an licensed healthcare provide in the State of Arizona.”

Executive Order 2020-11
March 20, 2020
Ensuring Individuals Whose Employment is Affected by COVID-19 Have Access to Unemployment Insurance
“The Arizona Department of Economic Security shall waive all the following requirements for applications for unemployment insurance: Waiting period, able and available to work, actively seeking work and daily job contacts.”

Executive Order 2020-12
March 23, 2020
Prohibiting the Closure of Essential Services
“Essential businesses and operations: Stores that sell groceries and medicine, food and beverage and agriculture, outdoor recreation activities, organizations that provide charitable and social services, media, gas stations and businesses needed for transportation, financial institutions, hardware and supply stores, critical trades, mail, post, shipping, logistics, delivery and pick-up services, educational institutions, laundry services, restaurants for consumption off-premises, supplies to work from home, supplies for essential businesses and operations, transportation, home-based care and services, residential facilities and shelters, professional and personal services, daycare centers for employees exempted by this Executive Order, manufacture, distribution and supply chain for critical products and industries, hotels and motels, funeral services.”

Executive Order 2020-13
March 23, 2020
Enhanced Surveillance Advisory **COVID-19**
“Pursuant to the “Enhanced Surveillance Advisory and ARS, the Arizona Department of Health Services and local health authorities may access confidential patient information, including medical records, wherever and by whomever held, whether or not patient identity is known, including health information held by Health Current in its capacity as the statewide health information exchange.”

Executive Order 2020-14
March 24, 2020
Postponement of Eviction Actions
“All Arizona Peace Officer Standards and Training Board certified law enforcement officers and any person subject to the jurisdiction of the Constable Ethics Standards and Training Board shall temporarily delay enforcement of eviction action orders for residential premises when one of the following circumstances exist: The individual is required to be quarantined based on their diagnosis of COVID-19, the individual is ordered by a licensed medical professional to self-quarantine, the individual is required to be quarantined based on someone in the home being diagnosed with COVID-19, the individual demonstrates they have a health condition that makes them more at risk for COVID-19 than the average person, the individual suffered a substantial loss of income resulting from COVID-19.”

Executive Order 2020-15
March 25, 2020
Expansion of Telemedicine
“All health insurance plans regulated by the Arizona Department of Insurance are hereby required to provide coverage for all healthcare services that are provided through telemedicine if the healthcare service would be covered were it provided through an in-person visit between the enrollee and a healthcare provider.”


MUSD Superintendent Tracey Lopeman


Technically, Maricopa Unified School District is still on spring break.

While many public schools in the state were closed by state mandate to mitigate the spread of novel coronavirus COVID-19, MUSD students and their families were taking a scheduled two-week holiday. The mandate initially was for March 16-27.

Not until Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman announced the extension of the closure to April 10 did the coronavirus officially impact the district, which has an enrollment of over 6,800 students, but contingency plans were forming.

Wednesday, the governing board has scheduled a special meeting comprised only of a resolution allowing the closing of all schools “until further notice.” That is already the case, and the teaching staff is still coming back to school Monday to put the distance-learning plan into action.

How long that will last is the question.

“We’re obviously paying close attention to what the CDC says, what the state officials say and what the Pinal County health official say,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said. “We are welcoming over 8,000 people every day. The health and wellness of all 8,000-plus has been our primary goal – before COVID, it was our primary goal.”

She said the resolution gives her the ability to respond quickly without having a special board meeting every day.

Lopeman is no stranger to unexpected school closures. As soon as she came on board as superintendent of Maricopa Unified School District two years ago, the #RedForEd campaign drew teachers out of the classroom to picket at the state Legislature for restoration of funding.

“I showed up in Maricopa, and everybody left,” she said.

Coronavirus is, of course, a very different situation with an indefinite end.

If the state opts to extend school closures beyond April 10, even to beyond the scheduled end of the school year, the distance-learning program will continue.

Lopeman said teachers will be providing resources and online platforms as often as possible to keep students engaged. Starting Monday, they will be learning what that means for their specific courses of study.

The students and teachers also have the weight off their shoulders of school assessments, which have been canceled across the country. Lopeman called it a do-over that is in the best interest of the kids as well as the faculty.

An important part of Wednesday’s resolution reads: “Governing Board finds that it is in the best interest of the District and serves a public purpose to continue to pay its employees for the time period of the school closure in order to maintain order in the community, reduce employee turnover, allow employees to care for the needs of their families, meet its contractual obligations and increase morale for District employees during a time of national crisis.”

March 13, the last day of school before spring break and two days before the state announced school closures, Lopeman addressed the school family through a YouTube video to explain the district’s approach, including cleaning and disinfecting procedures and what possible closures might mean.

Last week, the school announced it would begin distributing free Grab & Go meals to its students at all campuses.

Brian Petersheim
Brian Petersheim

By Brian Petersheim

With the Pandemic of the Coronavirus affecting the health of people around the world, buying and selling a home in our small slice of paradise known as the City of Maricopa will probably change in the upcoming months.

Unfortunately, we are in uncharted territory with this pandemic. No one is sure about how long this may last or how bad it may get.

As this article is written, there are no “stay at home” orders in place for this state or the city, so like many other industries, the real estate market is still up and running, albeit with some precautions in place.

Some buyers and sellers of homes may not be able to postpone their moving plans. For instance, if a renter’s lease is up at a certain point and they are unable to extend it; or a buyer’s company is transferring them into or out of the Valley, they will need to secure housing at a specific time period.

What is going to happen to the local real estate market in the near future?

Honestly, no one is sure, since we are in uncharted territory.

Currently, there are only 184 homes for sale in the City of Maricopa, while “normal” inventory is approximately 300-325 homes available.

We are still in a seller’s market based on the low inventory; the wild card will be the demand for homes in the next several months.

I have spoken to many local real estate agents over the last several days, and all of them are having a variety of responses.  One of them had listings cancel, two had new listings that received offers quickly, and one of them had buyers cancel due to a job temporarily shutting down.

Here are a few tips for sellers and buyers to help ensure that they and others are protected from the coronavirus:

For Sellers:

  1. Set up hand sanitizing station, gloves, booties near the front door. Put small trash can near table
  2. Open all doors before showings and sanitize knobs after showing
  3. Leave cabinet and closet doors open and any other space a buyer may normally open during a showing
  4. Turn on any lights, lamps and light switches before showing starts
  5. Open blinds/drapes so buyers do not need to open them to see the view.

For Buyers

  1. Always bring your own sanitizer in case it is not provided
  2. Use your own car while driving to showings. No car pools
  3. Wear booties or shoe covers if provided in a property
  4. Refrain for touching ANY surfaces while in the property
  5. Ask your agent if he/she can set up a virtual tour using video streaming/facetime

In closing, there are some safety precautions that can be put in place to help reduce the chance of exposure to the Coronavirus

Brian Petersheim is a local Maricopa Real Estate agent with Homesmart Success



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Electrical District No. 3

In order to help contain the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Electrical District No. 3 (ED3) has decided to temporarily close all customer service offices as of Thursday, March 26, to the public until further notice. ED3 feels the safety and health of our customers, employees and the community is our priority. ED3 has multiple programs in place to assist customers during this time of need.

ED3 encourages customers to call 520-424-9021 to discuss bill payment options. Customers have the availability to go to Walmart or Fry’s Marketplace to make cash or credit/debit payments at either location. Customers can also make payments online at (www.ed3online.org) or on the District’s mobile app that can be used remotely.

The District wants you to know we will continue to follow the guidance and expertise of local and national health officials as new information gets released to the public.

As a reminder, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control & Prevention), some of the best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses are to practice everyday preventive behaviors such as staying home when sick, covering coughs and sneezes, consistently washing hands with soap and water, and thoroughly cleaning frequently touched work surfaces.

Please contact ED3 Customer Service at (520) 424-9021 if you require assistance.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has donated 15 pallets of food to the Ak-Chin Indian Community, which will distribute it to the Community’s elders and families in need.

“We are glad that we were able to donate this food to the Ak-Chin Indian Community and that they will be able to provide this support to their tribal elders and needy families,” said Robert Livingston, general manager.  “The impact of COVID-19 is being felt around the Community and this donation will go a long way in assisting their most vulnerable members.”

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino has temporarily closed its resort and casino effective through at least April 2.

A clogged pump that occurred a few months ago in the Global Water system (yes, those are Mardi Gras beads). Submitted

By Bob McGovern

The run on toilet paper during the coronavirus pandemic is leading to another crisis – in the sewer system.

It’s actually a heightened problem all over America as panicky shoppers have descended on the paper-goods aisles in their neighborhood supermarkets, pharmacies and big-box stores and leaving nary a sheet of the precious paper behind.

Unlucky residents finding empty shelves are apparently reaching for alternatives, including wipes, paper towels, facial tissues, and cloth towels or rags, and flushing them down the toilet.

But wipes – including the “flushable” variety as well as baby and sanitizing wipes – and other cleaning materials clog pipes and pumps and can result in sewer system back-ups.

In Maricopa, the problem pre-dates the coronavirus outbreak, but one official says the ongoing crisis will likely serve to exacerbate the situation.

“This is always an issue, not just an issue at this point in time,” said Jon Corwin, vice president and general manager of Global Water. “We haven’t had a specific issue since the onset of COVID-19, but it’s likely just a matter of time.”

Designed to be stronger than your Charmin toilet paper, wipes and cleaning cloths do not break down in water. That means as wastewater travels through the sewer system, they can collect in a mass of wastewater debris, clogging pumps in the system and possibly damaging treatment equipment. (Costly repairs, of course, are passed onto rate payers.)

“We made a capital investment in 2019 to install some equipment to help screen wipes and other debris and that is helping protect some of our pumps and other equipment, but the screen doesn’t protect everything,” Corwin said.

By the way, there’s a good chance that all those non-toilet paper products being flushed don’t even make it to the wastewater collection system, causing blockages in the pipes in your homes. That nightmare scenario includes backed-up toilets, sinks and showers, and an expensive bill from the plumber you’ll need to call to stop the madness. (The average cost of unclogging a sewer main is about $550.)

You can avoid all that with one simple rule: only toilet paper gets flushed.

Everything else – all types of wipes, paper towels, feminine products, facial tissues, cloths and rags, included – gets pitched into the trash.

Lines of customers became common this week at the Arizona Law Dawgs gun store. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera


Business owners say panic buying and food shortage led to an increase in sales of firearms and meat cuts.

Arizona Law Dawgs and The Box Meat Shop have seen their businesses impacted by consumers worried about what is to come from the spread of COVID-19. The two storefronts, which are next to each other on Hathaway Avenue, have seen lines of customers outside their doors every morning for the past week.

Both shops cite COVID-19 fears and ripple effects for their increase in sales.

Customers at The Box Meat Store quadrupled this week as meats ran short in grocery stores. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Arizona Law Dawgs is a firearm and tactical-weapons shop that has been owned by John Callaway II and his wife Jennifer for seven years.

“It’s panic. They’re panic-buying,” Callaway said. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen next. Some of the other states are experiencing people getting robbed.”

Jennifer Callaway agreed COVID-19 was driving an uptick in customers, something she has never seen before in the business over seven years of operation.

“They’re concerned about somebody kicking in their door,” Jennifer said, “and they want to be ready.”

The average number of customers the store is seeing per day has doubled since the beginning of the week.

“The past couple of days have had us wiped out,” said Anthony, a long-time employee of Arizona Law Dawgs. Anthony chose to withhold his last name from publication.

Jennifer Callaway

Anthony has worked the counter with customers all week, describing it as, “wild,” saying patience goes a long way in the store.

“I had one guy who was a little impatient. He started yelling at me and wanting to come in and get out with a firearm,” Anthony said. “I had to tell him, yelling at me is not going to speed the process up at all. He has to respect the process and have patience when we’re already overwhelmed.”

There has been a shortage of multiple handguns, including 9mm and 10mm, and background checks have had trouble running. Earlier in the week, the store had to close early due to an issue with running background checks.

“The system is overwhelmed with the amount of people buying nationwide. So, you might get people who could normally proceed, but they just get delayed because it’s backed up,” Jennifer Callaway said.

Wait times for a pending background check can take as long as four days.

In the store, there have been shortages of almost all ammo, including 9mm, .223 rem, 5.56 mm, .38 special and .357 magnum.

John Callaway

“My distributors are five to six days behind,” Callaway said. “Supply chains are out of stock. I do sales online; I’ve had to refund three of them because product just sold too quickly. [Restocking] has been a never-ending battle. I tried to stay ahead of the curve, and starting yesterday the curve got heavy. It’s challenging to me because I always want to succeed and it feels like I failed a little because I can’t keep up with the demand of the customers.”

The Callaway’s are encouraging people to come in to the store to get the most up-to-date grasp on what is available in the store at any time.

“The money is good now, but what’s going to happen when all this is over? Everybody has their firearms and their ammo, we’re going to see a decrease in sales.” Jennifer said.

Meanwhile, next door at The Box Meat Shop, the year-old storefront fills in the gaps where other stores have run out of food due to so-called panic-buying. Karen Pozzolo works in the store, owned by her husband Luis.

Karen and Belen Pozzolo

“Customers are coming from everywhere, all over Maricopa, outside of Maricopa, a lot of new customers,” Pozzolo said. “It’s to be expected because there is no meat in town, so we’re the only ones who have anything to buy for everybody.”

The shop now sees a line out the door every morning at opening.

According to Belen Pozzolo, Karen and Luis’ daughter, there have been nearly four times the normal number of customers purchasing meats, also beginning early in the past week.

“I feel like my parents are just trying to be nice because they know what it’s like to have to struggle. So they would rather help other people in this situation,” Belen said.

The Pozzolos work quickly to keep the cases stocked at the high-end meat store. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

The Box Meat Shop has seen business go up in a positive way because they are able to provide food for the community without worries of distributors running low, according to Pozzolo. The store is restocked two to three times a day as needed. So far, there have been no issues in restocking for the shop.

“Yes, we’re having good business, but it’s a good feeling to provide for everybody,” Pozzolo said. “Some people don’t have anything, some mothers are working all day and they don’t have time to go and get some meat, so we’re here for everybody.”

Pozzolo said prices are expected to go up slightly for meats starting Monday.

Arizona Law Dawgs is not expecting their prices to go up on anything in the store as of now.

“Those of the people that bought guns, be safe.” John said, “Remember the basic gun rules. If you’re going to buy a firearm, it’s a tool and you have to know how to use that tool. A lot of people who have purchased out of fear need to get training and learn how to use a firearm correctly.”

Staying stocked has been a struggle this week for Arizona Law Dawgs. Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Photo by Joycelyn Cabrera

Mayor Christian Price declared a state of emergency Friday afternoon in an effort to mitigate the impact of the novel coronavirus COVID-19 that has killed one Arizonan and infected dozens more.

Backed by four members of Maricopa City Council, Price said he understands the frustration caused by misinformation about the virus and the government response to it.

“One of the things you can’t know is how the actual the recommendations will come down and affect you in that very moment,” he said. “One of those things we’ve been dealing with is what does this look like on the ground for Maricopa.”

The City gradually reduced, canceled or closed programs and buildings. Copper Sky, City Hall and the library have all been closed. Price said he’s heard from many residents, some saying the City was overreacting and others saying the City hasn’t gone far enough.

Councilmember Rich Vitiello said most of the people he talked to at Copper Sky were not happy with the closure of the recreational facility.

The proclamation authorizes the mayor or City Manager Rick Horst to close the City’s public buildings, limit hours,cancel or postpone City events among other things. The city manager can also “obtain financial and other forms of aid, relief and assistance from federal, state and county authorities.”

The declaration reiterates Gov. Doug Ducey’s order closing all bars, movie theaters and gyms and limiting restaurants to drive-through, curbside pickup or delivery.

Price said the emergency declaration was due now because the city has crossed from state recommendation to mandate and the City wanted to do so in a “fast and orderly fashion.”

Afterward, Price, a financial advisor, said though COVID-19 is causing a financial crisis across the country with layoffs and closures, residents could look for the opportunities arising – besides the opportunity to spend more time with their families. Just as the great recession created a new reality, he said, the fallout from the virus impact could lead to an entrepreneurial revival.

“A lot of benefit could come from it as well,” he said.

Current recommendations of the CDC, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Pinal County Health Department:

  1. Use social distancing and avoid groups of ten or more people; and
  2. Avoid contact with those with elevated risks associated with COVID-19; and
  3. Stay home and contact your medical provider if you or others in your household feel sick; and
  4. Stay home and away from other people if you are an older person or you have a serious underlying condition that can put you at increased risk, for example, a condition that impairs your lung or heart function or weakens your immune system; and
  5. Practice good personal hygiene, such as regularly washing your hands, avoid touching your face, sneezing into a tissue or the inside of your elbow, and frequently disinfecting.

Horst said he has navigated around 40 states of emergency, between California earthquakes and Florida hurricanes, in his previous work.

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Gov. Doug Ducey today announced more strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. Those actions include activating the National Guard to assist grocery stores and food banks with re-stocking shelves.

Many food banks are short on volunteers. Grocery stores like Fry’s and Bashas’ have been reaching out to hire temporary employees during the high demand.

“This is an all-in effort,” Ducey said. “We are determined to take all necessary precautions to address this outbreak and will continue to act with urgency to protect public health.”

Besides using the National Guard to ensure food access, Ducey’s executive orders include halting all elective surgeries in the state to free up medical resources and increase hospital capacity.

An executive order also requires restaurants in counties with confirmed COVID-19 cases to provide dine-out options only. All bars, theaters and gyms must close. Pinal County has 10 confirmed cases.

Additionally, the Governor’s directive allows manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers to buy back unopened products from restaurants, bars and clubs.

Arizona Department of Transportation will delay expiration dates on driver licenses, a move mean to ensure those over age 65 do not need to visit MVD offices during a public health emergency. The policy also applies to commercial drivers.


Local casinos are shutting the slots for a little while.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, owned by Ak-Chin Indian Community, announced its closure starting at 4 a.m. March 19 and running through April 2. Earlier, Gila River Indian Community announced the closure of its three casinos – Wild Horse Pass, Lone Butte and Vee Quiva – effective 4 a.m. March 18 and lasting two weeks.

“The Ak-Chin Indian Community and the management team of Harrah’s Ak-Chin have decided to temporarily close the casino and hotel to mitigate the potential for COVID-19 at our property,” said Robert Livingston, general manager.

Gila River Gaming Enterprises noted it may open soon if deemed appropriate, at which point it will notify its guests.

“As a gaming and hospitality leader in Arizona, we felt it was in everyone’s best interest to be proactive and close our hotels and casinos to do our part to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19),” said Kenneth Manuel, CEO of Gila River Hotels & Casinos. “We have been actively following the guidelines and best practices set forth from the CDC, WHO and the Arizona Department of Health Services. While there have been no reported cases of coronavirus at any Gila River Hotels & Casinos property as of today, this was an ethical decision to protect our team members and our guests.”

At Harrah’s Ak-Chin during the temporary closure, employees will continue to be paid and their benefits eligibility will not be interrupted for up to two weeks without needing to use any vacation or sick time.

“We had implemented ‘social distancing’ protocol and enhanced cleaning procedures this past weekend, but as one of the largest employers in Pinal County and to ensure the health and safety of our employees and guests, the Council and our local management team here felt this was our best option to continue to flatten the curve of this virus,” Livingston said.

Reservations during this temporary closure will be cancelled and guests will receive a full refund for any hotel deposit. Those with third-party reservations through travel agencies or other travel partners should reach out to the third party directly to cancel. Dining and spa reservations have also been cancelled.

The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin had already announced show postponements through the end of the month. Gary Allan, who was scheduled to appear on April 3 has been postponed as well.

Pinal County Public Health Department
Pinal County Public Health Department can confirm three new cases have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Pinal County.
The first is a female in her 30s, who is isolated at home and recovering.
The second is a female in her 30s, no connection to the first, who is isolated at home and recovering.
The third case is a female in her 80s, who is hospitalized and recovering in an area hospital.
Pinal County Public Health department cannot stress enough some key basic safety guidelines to follow, in order to stay healthy and limit the spread of COVID-19:
  • Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
  • Use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) when soap and water are not available
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Make sure you and the people around you cover your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose the tissue in the trash. If you don’t have a tissue available, cough or sneeze into your bent elbow
  • Maintain at least six feet distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing
  • Stay home when you are sick
For the latest information about COVID-19, its symptoms, and advice on ways to prevent infection, please visit  azhealth.gov/COVID19  or  pinal.gov/publichealth

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

As companies and organizations have temporarily altered the way they do business during the novel coronavirus outbreak, the City of Maricopa has had to do the same.

It is limiting some operations and even canceling some events that were planned in the coming weeks.

Copper Sky Multigenerational Center:

  • As of 5 p.m. March 20, the facility is closed until further notice.

Maricopa Public Library:

  • As of 5 p.m. March 20, the facility is closed until further notice.
  • Some programs to be available online.


  • The Color Run has been canceled by the City.


City Hall:

  • The facility will close March 23 and switch to curbside service.
  • Telecommuting meetings will be established as appropriate.
  • Residents are asked to conduct City business via electronic format whenever possible.

Emergency Services:

  • Police and fire departments will maintain a normal schedule.
  • All first responders are provided information from the health department related to COVID-19 and carry a mask and glove as a matter of practice.
  • MFMD is following stringent infectious disease protocols, already in place.
  • No interruption in service is anticipated.

Encouraging all to do their part:

  • Follow directions of state and local authorities.The City of Maricopa is subject to the direction of the State of Arizona and Pinal County and currently has only limited authority regarding private events or other jurisdictions.
  • If you feel sick, stay home. Do not go to work or mingle in public. Call your health provider.
  • If your children are sick, keep them at home. Do not send them to school, ball practice or other activities or events where people gather.
  • If you are an older person with a serious underlying health condition that can put you at increased risk, stay home and away from other people.
  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Limit gatherings to fewer than 10 people.

Check for contacts and other information

Orbitel Communications has suspended in-person payments due to the coronavirus.

“At this time, no one knows how severe this outbreak will be. Given this uncertainty, and the fact that the seasonal influenza (flu) virus is also widespread, we are taking proactive steps to limit the spread of illness,” the company announced to its customers.

Customers are asked to pay online, by mail or by phone.

In reiterating precautions to take during the outbreak – stay home when sick, wash hands frequently, etc. – Orbitel also said its service technicians are equipped with disposable boot covers when the enter homes. Some employees may wear gloves and masks while conducting their work.

Electric and water utilities have also made adjustments during the pandemic.

From Orbitel:
We ask that our customers utilize one of the many other convenient payment options: 

  • Online at www.customer.orbitelcom.com
  • Mail to P.O Box 69196, Baltimore, Maryland 21264-9196
  • Phone – 800-998-8084
  • Dropbox located outside Orbitel offices in Sun Lakes and Maricopa

We are following CDC recommendations such as requiring employees to:

  • Stay at home if they are experiencing respiratory symptoms, 
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water and make use of alcohol-based sanitizers, 
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as telephones, keyboards and tools. 
  • Also, service technicians who enter homes are also equipped with disposable boots covers.
  • In addition, you may notice employees such as installers, in-home repair technicians, and front lobby personnel wearing gloves and/or masks as they perform their day-to-day activities.

We will continue to closely monitor the situation. Protecting the health of our customers, employees, visitors to our facility, and others is our utmost priority. Together, we can limit the risk of spreading illness in the workplace and community. Thank you, The Orbitel Communications Team

Thank you, 

The Orbitel Communications Team



Dollar General, which has a store on Papago Road south of Maricopa, and Bashas’ announced this week they will dedicate a shopping hour for senior shoppers as part of their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting this week, Bashas’ and its affiliates Food City and AJ’s grocery stores in Arizona will open an hour early, from 5 to 6 a.m., each Wednesday just for shoppers age 65 and up. Shoppers will be required to show a valid I.D. at the door. If there is a need for a caretaker, one caretaker is welcome but will not be allowed to shop for themselves.

Most Bashas’ stores temporarily have regular hours of 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“In an effort to continue to support and closely monitor health, we are providing additional cleaning resources, encouraging anyone who does not feel well to stay at home and providing regular updates on important CDC guidelines and recommendations,” President and CEO Trey Basha said in a letter to customers.

The Maricopa store also starting limiting shoppers to just one purchase per item.

Dollar General is dedicating its first hour of operation to senior shoppers every day. All DG stores across the country also plan to close an hour earlier than their normal schedules to allow more time for cleaning and restocking.

Other customers are encouraged to plan their shopping trips around this window of time to allow the most susceptible customers in our communities the ability to shop during the first hour that stores are open.

“We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO. “During these unprecedented times, Dollar General is diligently working to meet the ongoing needs of our customers and communities.”

Dollar General will closer an hour earlier than usual each day.

Meanwhile, Fry’s Food Stores have adjusted their hours of operation for most stores to 6 a.m.-10 p.m., and Walmart, which is usually open 24 in Maricopa, has been closing overnight.


With the full support of the Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino announced effective immediately it will temporarily close The Spa. The casino is also canceling its sixth annual Poker Run, which was to have been April 11.

Spa Director Melissa Tuanaki, said the closure “is a precautionary step to protect employees and guests. The Spa at Harrah’s Ak-Chin is a healing space where health and wellness are at the forefront of everything we do. Temporarily closing The Spa is the right step toward keeping employees and community members safe and healthy.”

Guests with current reservations will be notified about the temporary closure and will receive a full refund for any deposit.

The cancellation of the 5K Poker Run is a direct result of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommendation against holding any events or group gatherings of 50 or more people across the United States over the next eight weeks.

“Caring for the safety and well-being of our employees, guests and community has always been our top priority,” said Robert Livingston, general manager.  “While we’re disappointed that we have to cancel the event, we know it’s the right things to do.”

Individuals registered for the 5K Poker Run will receive a refund on the card used at purchase.  Please allow up to three weeks for processing.

During this time, Harrah’s will continue to monitor the World Health Organization, the CDC and local health agencies for the latest developments relating to COVID-19 and will continue to follow the guidance of local and state government and public health officials.

Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced Sunday the closures of all public schools in the state through March 27 as a safety measure against COVID-19.


“The health and safety of all our students is our top priority,” Ducey said in the video announcement.

Hoffman said the state had heard concerns from many school administrators about staffing and possible absences.

Maricopa Unified School already had a planned two-week Spring Break during the time of the statewide closure, as did Heritage Academy. Sequoia Pathway Academy is in the middle of a two-week break.

Leading Edge Academy earlier announced a network-wide extension of Spring Break through March 23, but that will now extend through March 27. Legacy Traditional School had announced an extended Spring Break through March 20 at three campuses, which is also altered by the state decision. The LTS network had already canceled gatherings such as field trips through April 10.

“Legacy will be providing meals for in-need students during this extended break,” the charter school announced to its members. “Breakfast and lunch will be served in grab-and-go bags and will be available for pick-up from 8 to 9 a.m. for breakfast and from 12 to 1 p.m. for lunch.”

The state, too, is working to keep boxed meals available for students during the time schools are closed. It would be an early start to the summer food service program through USDA.

The state announcement included an effort to provide childcare options that may be announced later. Families are discouraged from leaving children in the care of elderly adults, a group who appear to be the most vulnerable to the coronavirus.

“We are asking schools to please adhere to the following measures during this period of closure:
* School administrators should make every effort to provide continued education learning opportunities through online resources or materials that can be sent home.
* School administrators should develop a plan to continue breakfast and lunch services for Arizona students.
* As demand rises on healthcare professionals and first responders, schools should expand child care programs currently available to ensure minimal disruption to these critical jobs as a result of the school closure.
* When school resumes, school administrators should develop and implement precautions to ensure schools are a safe learning environment, including social distancing measures, regular intervals for administrators to wash and sanitize their hands, and guidance on how to properly and frequently sanitize election equipment and common surfaces.”



Of Arizona’s nine positive and presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, five are in Pinal County, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. Community spread is considered minimal.

Three of the cases of novel coronavirus are in Maricopa County, and one is in Pima County.

ADHS has the current Public Health Recommendations:
-No recommendations to cancel mass gatherings at this time
-No recommendations to close schools at this time
-No current changes to your normal business activities. Telework and other alternatives can be considered.
-Increase hand hygiene (wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds)
-Stay home when you are sick
-Implement visitor screening for healthcare facilities and congregate settings.

Confirmed positive: 3
Presumptive positive: 6
Tested: 143
Pending results: 40


Gov. Doug Ducey announces Declaration of Emergency and Executive Order.

 Gov. Doug Ducey today issued a Declaration of Emergency and an Executive Order to combat the continued spread of COVID-19 and to reduce financial burdens on Arizonans by lowering healthcare costs associated with the virus.

Arizona Department of Health Services has reported two confirmed cases of COVID-19, a form of coronavirus, and seven presumptive positive cases, including two in one household in Pinal County. The state has tested 100 people and is awaiting results on 32.

“While our state is not currently facing the number of cases we’ve seen in some other states, we are anticipating additional positive cases — and we’re not taking any chances,” Ducey said. “Arizonans should not panic — our approach will be calm and steady. This Emergency Declaration and Executive Order continue our effort to protect public health and save lives.”

The declaration states the outbreak “presents conditions in Arizona which are or are likely to be beyond the control of the services,k personnel, equipment and facilities of any single county, city or town, and which require the combined efforts of the state and the political subdivision and thus justifies a declaration of a State of Emergency.”

The declaration makes the Arizona Department of Health Services the central entity responsible for coordinating emergency response in the state and allows the state to access $500,000 in emergency funds. Among other things, the executive order waives all copays, coinsurance and deductibles for COVID-19 diagnostic testing.

“Arizona’s entire public health system has been working non-stop since we identified the first case of COVID-19 in January to mitigate the spread of this disease in Arizona,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “The emergency declaration and executive order that Gov. Ducey signed today will give Arizona additional resources and authority to respond to this outbreak.”

March 2, Arizona became one of the first states in the nation to be certified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to test for COVID-19. March 4, the state received $500,000 in federal funding to support COVID-19 response, providing immediate access to resources for a limited number of states and local jurisdictions impacted by the outbreak.

The CEO of Arizona Health Care Association expressed gratitude for the action to help its member facilities avoid or contain the virus.

“We have asked for higher standards and today we have them,” David Voepel said. “Because our senior population is especially vulnerable to severe complications of a COVID-19 infection, it is a prudent precaution to restrict visitation and to stringently apply infection control protocols. We must continue extreme vigilance since fatality rates in people over the age of 75 are estimated at around 20%.”



The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) and the Pinal County Public Health Department confirmed today that two Pinal County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Both cases are from the same household as the current Pinal County case.

State and local public health are currently investigating the cases.

ADHS expects additional cases of COVID-19 in Arizona and is advising residents to follow infection prevention guidelines. The best way to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases is to:

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
• Stay home when you are sick.
• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure to the virus and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Those considered at risk for contracting the virus are individuals with travel to an area where COVID-19 is spreading or individuals in close contact with a person under investigation for COVID-19.

If you recently traveled to an area where COVID-19 is spreading and have developed fever with cough or shortness of breath within 14 days of your travel or have had contact with someone who is suspected to have COVID-19, stay home and call your healthcare provider. If you do not have a healthcare provider, you may need to be seen at your local hospital emergency room/urgent care center. Please call the emergency room/urgent care center to get instructions before going in.

For the latest information about COVID-19, visit azhealth.gov/COVID19


HIGHLIGHTS from today’s press conference with Pinal County Health Services Director Dr. Shauna McIsaac and Maricopa County Medical Director for Disease Control Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine regarding COVID-19 in Arizona:

— The latest (third) Arizona patient with  COVID-19 is a Pinal County resident who is a healthcare worker in Maricopa County.

— State lab confirmed the diagnosis of presumptive positive Thursday night.

— The patient is hospitalized in Maricopa County in stable condition.

— The patient stayed home while she was sick and “did not expose very many people at all” because she was vigilant about staying home.

— The patient has not traveled to any coronavirus hot spots, and investigators have not yet found contact with a person who had traveled to those areas.

— The third patient with COVID-19 is the first sign of community spread, a fact that changes public health response. Now, “we all need to do our part to slow the spread” – keep sick people away from others.

— Close contacts have been interviewed and are being monitored for signs of symptoms.

— If you have not been contacted by public health, you are not a close contact.

— “Per CDC recommendations, we are no longer going to keep healthcare workers home after they are exposed to COVID-19.” They are required to monitor themselves for symptoms and stay home if those symptoms develop.

— People are infectious to others when they actually show the symptoms of COVID-19.

— If you have symptoms of anything, go home.

— To control the spread:
>>Wash hands frequently and for 20 seconds, using soap.
>>Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, which are the way the germs enter your body.
>>If you are sick, please stay home.

— Only share accurate information, such as from state and county health departments and Center for Disease Control (CDC.gov)

— It’s a little more contagious than the flu, and there is no treatment or a vaccine.

— Kids have milder illness and do not seem to be at risk of severe disease.

— Older adults have higher risk of complications.

— The worst symptoms tend to appear in the second week of illness.

— The vast majority of those who contract COVID-19 will have mild symptoms and completely recover without any treatment.

— Public health authorities are obligated to maintain absolute confidentiality and will not share information that can be used to identify a patient unless it’s important to the public’s health.

— Arizona’s healthcare systems have resource limitations.