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News related to the Covid-19 Pandemic

Our Lady of Grace Church Maricopa
The sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace Roman Catholic Church. Holy Communion will be distributed Sunday in an outdoor tent and Masses in the church will resume – with limited capacity – on Pentecost Sunday. Photo by Victor Moreno

President Trump declared churches and other places of worship “essential” on Friday and called on them to open their doors, but at least one Maricopa congregation is taking a measured approach.

Trump stated he would override any governors who do not allow churches to reopen, but it was unclear if he had any real authority to do so.

While Arizona never moved to officially close churches, synagogues and mosques during the governor’s stay at home order to prevent the spread of coronavirus, most followed recommendations and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many places of worship made their own decisions to close during the pandemic, some taking their services online.

Some city churches found themselves without a place to gather. When it decided to shutter schools, the Maricopa Unified School District canceled contracts with the 11 religious organizations in the city that were renting its facilities for Sunday services and other activities.

At least one Maricopa church was sticking to its plan, despite Trump’s urging.

The Rev. Jay Luczak, pastor at Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church, said the president’s declaration has not affected plans to move forward cautiously, and the parish will continue to practice CDC guidelines for adapted worship.

“Our plan has been approved already,” he said. “We have five pages of guidelines we are using to keep everyone safe. We are planning to have Communion outside this Sunday and resuming Mass on Pentecost Sunday (May 31st).”

Holy Communion will be distributed Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, under a tent from 9 to 9:15 a.m. or 11 to 11:15 a.m. for parishioners who have watched the live-streamed Mass, at home, on internet or TV.

Luczak said indoor Masses next weekend will be held from Friday to Monday as gatherings are limited to 80-100 people. The church will sanitize after every service. In addition to live-streaming Masses, the church has offered outdoor confessions.

CDC guidelines ask churches to consider:

  • Spacing out seating for attendees who are not in the same party to at least six feet apart when possible; consider limiting seating to alternate rows.
  • Encourage use of a cloth face covering at all gatherings and when in the building.
  • Adding additional services to the weekly schedule to enhance physical distancing and holding services and gatherings in a large, well-ventilated area or outdoors.
  • Whether gatherings may need to have limited attendance, be held virtually, or suspended if physical distancing is difficult. This includes worship services, funerals, weddings, religious education classes, youth events, support groups, and any other programming.
  • Continuing to live-stream worship services and providing drive-in services.

While excited to see worship in the church building about to start again, Luczak is still apprehensive that things will go back to how they were pre-pandemic.

“Hopefully we’ll get back to normal, but who knows,” he said.

How Maricopa Unified School District will open for the new school year remains a thorny question for the governing board.

It will be the topic of conversation at the regular board meeting May 27 at 6:30 p.m.

In a note to families and staff Thursday, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman encouraged all to tune into the meeting on the district’s YouTube channel.

“There is no playbook for times like these,” she said. “However, the lessons we’ve learned over the past two months will inform a sustainable blueprint for educating the children of Maricopa with care and new understanding.”

The new school year is currently scheduled to begin July 23.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention offered decision-making tools to schools pondering whether to open. They include the ability to screen students and employees, train staff and provide ongoing monitoring.

The CDC also offered advice on reopening, but those guidelines have received pushback from school districts when discussing “modified layouts.” That included creating distance between children on school buses, such as “seat children one child per row, skip rows.” It also suggested placing desks at least six feet apart, using staggered scheduling and closing most communal spaces.

In the bathrooms, it suggested placing plastic flexible screens between sinks if the sinks are not six feet apart.

The CDC has emphasized the guidelines are advice, not rules.

Though the state has offered re-opening guidance to several trades, organizations and churches, it has not yet added schools.

American Flag
Flags at Arizona state buildings will fly at half-staff through sunset Sunday.

Flags at all state buildings in Arizona will be lowered to half-staff until sunset Sunday to honor victims of the coronavirus pandemic.

Gov. Doug Ducey’s order was done in conjunction with President Trump’s proclamation honoring the victims. Individuals, businesses and other organizations are encouraged to join in the tribute.

Through Friday morning, nearly 1.6 million Americans have contracted the virus, and more than 95,000 have died from it, according to Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. More than 15,600 Arizonans have contracted the virus and 775 of those were fatal, according to the state Department of Health Services COVID-19 dashboard.

The presidential proclamation, issued Friday morning, read, in part:

“Our Nation mourns for every life lost to the coronavirus pandemic, and we share in the suffering of all those who endured pain and illness from the outbreak. Through our grief, America stands steadfast and united against the invisible enemy. May God be with the victims of this pandemic and bring aid and comfort to their families and friends.”

The proclamation calls the lowering of the flags “a mark of solemn respect” for the victims.

More areas in the Copper Sky Aquatic Center are opening May 30. Photo by Kyle Norby

After the previous opening of the lap pool, more features at Copper Sky Aquatic Center are set to open May 30 starting at 1 p.m., according to the City of Maricopa.

The swimming pools at Copper Sky were among the City’s earliest casualties to COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Along with the competition pool, the re-opening includes the leisure pool, water slide and climbing wall. Swim lessons and open swim will be available. The announcement came late Thursday.

Amenities remaining closed are Lazy River, the splash pad and the vortex.

Management has reduced the deck furniture and spread it out, in accordance with guidelines from the Governor’s Office. No more than 100 people will be allowed in the aquatic center at a time.

The center will be open in two-hour increments. Operating times will be 1-3 p.m., 3:30-5:30 p.m. and 6-8 p.m.

Pathway graduate Fatima Mohammed waits with her family before a graduation ceremony in the parking lot. Photo by Victor Moreno
Micah McEvers with his family. Photo by Victor Moreno

It was a tightly organized, drive-in graduation ceremony for Sequoia Pathway Academy graduates Wednesday.

Seniors and their families arrived in a line of cars off Whisker Road and were assigned their parking space to make sure they were in alphabetical order. The vehicles were social distanced with a parking space in between and faced the entry to the elementary school doubling as a dais. Some seniors mingled, carefully, before the ceremony began, but most stayed near their cars with their families.

Beyond a distribution of diplomas, the event heard speeches from Valedictorian Leah Peterson and Salutatorian Brielle Duff, who previously recorded their thoughts about their last, tumultuous year of high school to be shown on two large outdoor screens. Pathway Schools (Edkey) CEO Mark Plitzuweit also had recorded comments for all graduates in the system.A ceremony that typically would be in a crowded gymnasium was a little more subdued and a little more complicated while a little more whimsical as applause came in the form of honking horns.

Unspoken but the cause of the standoffishness was COVID-19, which had closed the school, and all Arizona’s public schools, after the third quarter. The class of about 60 had come through the turmoil of a first semester that saw dramatic staff turnover, but things seemed to have settled into a new normal before coronavirus came on the scene. Principal Markchele Kamson, who came to her post mid-year, told the graduates the school had to make the effort for a graduation “because you absolutely deserve it.”

After turning their tassels, the seniors strode one-by-one down the sidewalk while family members drove beside them and took pictures of them receiving their diploma from Kamson. The new graduates then hopped in their vehicles and drove away.

Ross Reopening May 2020
Shoppers wait in line on Wednesday afternoon to get inside the Ross Dress for Less store in Maricopa. The store was having a reopening sale. Photo by Bob McGovern

The sale was on Wednesday at Ross Dress for Less and shoppers waited in line for close to an hour to get inside for the bargains.

They would wait again for the chance to get back outside with their goods.

“My mom said they had opened and there was a big sale today,” said Jenny Gomez, 39, of Maricopa, standing with her mother, Julie Gomez, on the sidewalk outside the retail store. “So we decided to come check it out.”

About 1:45 p.m., the Gomezes were last in a line of about 40 shoppers waiting to get through the front doors. They were nonplussed about the 45-minute wait ahead, about half of which would be spent under the midday sun.

The crowd at the reopening sale was no mystery to them.

“People have been cooped up,” said Jenny, who admitted they shopped often at Ross before the pandemic.

With dozens of cars in the parking lot, store security was letting shoppers inside only as others came out. About half of those in line outside wore coverings over their faces. Some practiced social distancing, while others didn’t seem to care.

Dresses that typically cost $30 were selling for $3 to $6. Chaise lounges were discounted by about 66%.

Inside, shoppers queued up with their purchases – some with multiple carts – funneled into one of eight-or-so cash registers. It was about another 40 minutes from getting in line to paying for merchandise.

Brian Davis, 39, of Maricopa, was standing in line outside to kill time while he waited for his wife’s car to be tinted. But he did have a goal: new shoes.

“There is nowhere to buy them,” he said.

He had already waited about 20 minutes, and had at least that long to reach the doors, but the New Jersey transplant exuded a coolness and patience that befitted his military training as a member of the National Guard.

“I’m used to waiting,” he said. “I stand in a line until it goes away.”

Kylia Simmons, 17, was waiting in line for two.

Eleven weeks pregnant, she passed the time outside so she could buy clothes – roomier clothes – inside.

“My stomach is starting to grow,” she said with a smile.

A big Ross fan who has missed shopping there the past two months, Simmons said she wasn’t that worried about staying safe out in public.

Like many other retail stores deemed non-essential, Ross shuttered its doors in March when Gov. Doug Ducey declared a stay at home order to stem the spread of coronavirus. Wednesday was its official reopening.

The store, which opened in July 2018 at 20595 N. John Wayne Parkway in the Edison Pointe shopping center, is open all week from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Face mask distribution
InMaricopa will hand out free face masks on Wednesday from 9 to 10 a.m.

Since the Friday expiration of the stay-at-home order, it seems like many Maricopans are exercising caution and limiting their trips out.

But if you need to get out, InMaricopa will again distribute free surgical-style masks to help you and your family stay safe.

Face masks will be handed out from 9 to 10 a.m. Wednesday 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 when they go out in public during the health crisis. 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. (See video below from one of our distributions.)

We encourage all residents who do not have face mask protection to stop by this morning.

Pinal County of Supervisors (from left) Pete Rios, Anthony Smith, Mike Goodman, Stephen Miller and Todd House

Railing against Gov. Doug Ducey, the Pinal County Board of Supervisors is preparing a lawsuit against the federal government.

Right now our governor is systematically choosing to exclude 25% of our entire state’s population and effectively saying, ‘You don’t matter.’

At issue is the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s wording in its written guidance for distributing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds. By using the word “may” instead of “shall,” the guidance allows governors to distribute funds almost any way they like.

Arizona received $2.8 billion. City and counties with population over 500,000 could receive their money directly from the federal government. Maricopa County, Pima County and the cities of Phoenix, Mesa and Tucson received about $1 billion all together. Ducey is allotting the other $1.9 billion to the state coffers.

Supervisors were furious that Pinal, which has a population of about 463,000, and 12 other counties are receiving nothing at this point. County leaders say they have also received little personal response from the Governor’s Office. Pinal County’s government expenses to battle coronavirus was estimated at just under $8 million.

The board, composed of four Republicans and one Democrat, met in a special meeting Friday. To a man, they expressed frustration and anger at Ducey, a Republican.

“Time’s up,” said Supervisor Todd House. “We gave him his chance.”

Though he said he usually favors negotiation over litigation, the state has been dismissive of Pinal County and its growth as an “economic powerhouse.”

CARES Act funding is not to be a tool to balance the state’s budget.

Chairman Anthony Smith, Maricopa, said he was “troubled” by the governor saying the state has a “revenue and budget problem.” Smith said that sounded too much like the state may be moving toward sweeping some of the CARES funds for state budget, as has happened in the past to highway funding and education funding during the recession.

“CARES Act funding is not to be a tool to balance the state’s budget,” Smith said.

Supervisor Mike Goodman said residents and municipalities are hurting, and he had to stand up for them. He said there are indications half a million people may be unemployed over the next two months.

“I’m all in on this one,” he said. “Politics set aside, I don’t care. We need to move forward.”

Before discussing the issue, the supervisors heard several government leaders, business owners and nonprofit organizations explaining their needs and the long rolls of red tape needed to go through the federal process of getting CARES funds. They asked for help from the county to ease that process.

This is a nice, big wound that we’ve got to heal.

Wendy Webb, executive director of F.O.R. Maricopa, said the food bank has seen 40% more people over the past couple of weeks. She said they knew they were “a little bit behind” in resources before the pandemic hit, but COVID-19 has exposed how much F.O.R. really lacks.

Wanting to provide fresh vegetables and fruit, Webb went shopping in local grocery aisles, becoming fast friends with 99-Cent stores and Dollar Trees in the process. She said F.O.R. Maricopa spent thousands of dollars on paper products and cleaning products, masks and gloves for clients unable to get out.

And the end it is not in sight.

“This is a nice, big wound that we’ve got to heal,” Webb said.

After it was announced hundreds of thousands of dollars were going to the state’s food banks, she said it became apparent that money was going only to three main food banks – St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, Feeding America and United Food Bank. There are no distribution centers for the funds in Pinal County.

Webb described the process of applying to United, including a 33-page form and the requirement to turn over their data.

Maricopa Vice Mayor Nancy Smith, who put together the city committee known as Copa Cares 2020, which puts much of its focus on F.O.R. Maricopa, said dealing with United required significant hoops to jump through and red tape to get around. And the government itself was no easy task.

“As soon as the governor announced $1 million to help with food supply, we were on top of it,” she said.

This whole thing, I knew it was going to be a disaster.

They filled out the paperwork, supplying the information about F.O.R. Maricopa’s current and expected needs, and filed everything as requested.

“We never heard from them,” Nancy Smith said. “Five weeks later I’m asking the question, ‘OK, what’s become of this?’”

She was redirected to United Food Bank and still has not received funds.

Supervisor Steve Miller said businesses will start “dropping like flies” soon. He said the CARES funds should go directly to businesses and employees around the state so they don’t have to burden the unemployment rolls.

“This whole thing, I knew it was going to be a disaster,” Miller said.

Supervisor Pete Rios, the lone Democrat, said he was cautious about a lawsuit. “That may be a helluva long time,” he said. After the supervisors met in executive session with County Attorney Kent Volkmer, Rios voted with the rest of the board to go forward with suing the Treasury Department.

In open session, Volkmer said his office could prove the federal guidance was arbitrary and should not have given state leaders such leeway. By his calculations, if Pinal County were to be treated to the same formula as Maricopa County based on population, Pinal would receive more than $69 million.

Volkmer, a Republican, said the Governor’s Office would not respond to requests for a conversation on the issue. “We were rebuffed.”

He also virtually called Ducey a bully after saying the county wants to continue to appeal to his “sense of righteousness.”

“If he’s gonna be a bully, you’ve got to punch a bully in the face,” Volkmer said.

He said other unfunded counties are welcome to come on board the suit.

The unanimous vote to sue the Treasury Department includes an amendment sending a letter to the governor and local legislators explaining the decision.

“I believe the message we are sending is, every Arizonan counts,” Volkmer said. “Not just those that live in Maricopa County; not just those that live in Pima County, but every single person that lives in the state of Arizona matters. They count and have the right to be treated fairly. And right now our governor is systematically choosing to exclude 25% of our entire state’s population and effectively saying, ‘You don’t matter.’”

Cat Klinzing and her son, Jacob, play games on Friday morning during the reopening of the UltraStar Multi-tainment Complex. Photos by Kyle Norby

As the first customer through the doors Friday morning at UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, four-year-old Jacob Klinzing was headed to play games in the arcade.

With a card loaded up by his mother, Cat, he was ready to play the Walking Dead video game and skeeball.

The Klinzings, who live in Acacia Crossing, were one of several families who visited UltraStar as the entertainment complex reopened after being closed for two months to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

The complex welcomed a handful of bowlers, diners and others with procedures in place to safeguard the health of patrons and employees, including physical distancing, sanitizer stations and matching face masks for workers.

“When I said we were going out, he was so excited, grabbing his shoes,” said Klinzing, who said her family had been “really good” following Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order, which expires today. She said she had been particularly careful about her son’s health, staying at home and out of the grocery store, for example.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t feel safe,” she said.

At the Ten Pins Down bowling center, the first two bowlers to check in at the counter – under an electronic sign that said “We’ve Missed You!” – immediately reached for the hand sanitizer.

Peggy Whitaker, 66, and her husband, Jeff, 64, wore masks on their faces as they prepared to bowl after a long hiatus. They had their lane for an hour.

The Whitakers, who live in Cobblestone Farms, said they typically bowl 3-4 times weekly and play in leagues at UltraStar.

Peggy Whitaker bowling
Peggy Whitaker of Maricopa chats with an employee on Friday morning at the bowling alley at UltraStar.

“This is wonderful,” Peggy said. “It opened just in time. It’s a great time to come.”

Still, they were taking necessary precautions. “We are taking care of ourselves,” she said.

But she added that others remained concerned about being out and about during the pandemic.

“All the women I know are scared to death, because they are in my age bracket,” she said.

Peggy was especially looking forward to rolling the ball again – with her left arm.

A natural lefty kegler, she had replacement surgery on that shoulder 18 months ago, and spent much of her rehabilitation bowling instead with her right arm. On Friday, she was ready to try out the new shoulder.

“It’s going to be fun,” she said.

Alyssa and Mili Kajtaz saw the reopening as an opportunity to get their two young sons out of their Maricopa Meadows home.

Bentley Kajtaz, 8, bowls at UltraStar on Friday.

“We thought we would let the kids have some fun,” said Mili, father of Bentley, 8, and Liam, 6, as they prepared to bowl. “I love the bowling alley,” the younger boy said.

The family stayed home during the governor’s order and the boys had “no interaction with anybody,” Mili said.

In the 347 Grill, which was greeting diners after being closed since mid-March, the Charli and Nick Kaltved were celebrating their son, Kekoa, 11, for Student of the Month honors at Pima Butte Elementary School. Two of their six grandchildren, Matt and Jake, were helping them celebrate.

As the Maricopa family – with face masks in their pockets – waited for lunch to arrive at their table, Nick said he and his wife have been working essential jobs through the stay-at-home order. They prioritize their family’s safety, he said.

Earlier this morning, gamblers lined up for the reopening at the adjacent Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino.

As a television chopper overhead broadcast live images, a couple hundred people waited in the sun for the doors to open at 9 a.m.

Asked what brought her to Harrah’s to wait in line, Liz Taylor of the Phoenix area responded quickly: “Gambling.”

“We haven’t been able to gamble since March 17,” her friend, JoEllen Geary, added.

When the doors finally opened, the crowd cheered.

Harrah's Ak-Chin reopening
A line of gamblers waits for the doors to open on Friday morning at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino, which was closed two months ago to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Gamblers at Harrah’s will play slots and blackjack on a casino floor reconfigured to promote  social distancing. Banks of slot machines have been arranged to keep players at least six feet from one another, the casino had said earlier. There will be limited seating at blackjack tables.

Other protocol includes hand-sanitizing stations available throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service.

The vast majority of gamblers waiting to enter the casino did not wear face masks.

The resort and hotel tower guest rooms will open Friday evening.

Not all amenities will be open, including The Poker Room, Keno and Bingo. Some venues remain closed as well, including the Events Center, Valet and the Spa and Fitness Center.

Some casino eateries will be open with social-distancing protocols in place, including Chop Block & Brew, Agaves, Copper Cactus and Dunkin Donuts.

The Kaltved Family celebrates Friday with lunch at the 347 Grill. The restaurant and some other attractions at UltraStar were open for business.

Santa Rosa Elementary staff left upbeat messages on the school fence during the closure. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

School is officially still in session, but Maricopa Unified School District is deciding how it will start next school year in the wake of COVID-19.

The 2020-21 school year is expected to start July 23. Wednesday, Superintendent Tracey Lopeman told the governing board there are currently three options being weighed, and all will have some baggage attached.

“We’ve been thinking about that since the middle of March,” Lopeman said. “What are we going to do in July? And it’s a head-scratcher, for sure.”

Traditional schooling at the district’s various campuses is the first option and the one most districts have as a goal. To have students back in class would require additional training, safety and cleanliness procedures.

Other options are to continue distance learning or a hybrid of traditional and online. Lopeman said if the district were to continue the distance-learning program it has been using since the end of spring break, it would be a different version.

Currently, most distance learning lacks accountability and feedback from students, she said. It has also limited student advancement, with only high school students able to improve their grades in the final quarter because those grades impact their future advancement.

Middle school parent Jennifer Reyna has not been happy with the limitations.


Students in grades K-8

  • Students receive printed materials and a calendar to help pace their activities. Teachers provide consistent instructional support and guidance through email or phone.  
  • While no fourth quarter grades will be calculated for K-8 students, teachers will provide regular feedback and document progress to keep scholars academically on-track.

Students in grades 9-11

  • Students have the opportunity to improve their semester grade by creating a plan with their teachers to redo assignments from prior to the closure. 

Students in grade 12

  • Seniors may choose to improve their semester grade by completing assignments during the school closure which are graded by their teachers.  If seniors choose not to complete assignments during this time, their semester grade will be calculated on work completed prior to the school closure.  

“Keeping third-quarter grades the same will impact my child,” Reyna said. “She was working so hard to improve her final grade, and now nothing will be counted.”

The district shared with InMaricopa the information it sent to parents to explain why administrators made the decision: “In MUSD, a significant number of students do not have the ability to access and submit assignments through an electronic format. Asking students to physically submit paper documents to be graded and returned places students, their families, and teachers in circumstances that could compromise their health and safety. For this reason and because of disparities in electronic access, we cannot offer a grading system for students in K-8 that is equitable while preserving the safety of families and staff.”

Reyna, whose child is in sixth grade at Maricopa Wells Middle School, said teachers had also expressed frustrations to her about not being able to award credit.

“So just in my daughter’s situation, she had two F’s and two D’s. Even though she will move on to seventh grade, she will have to repeat sixth-grade-level work for the first semester on those four classes,” she said. “But if they were to count the fourth quarter, she would be right on track.”

Lopeman said MUSD is doing the “work, research and collaboration” to find a model that will work best for everyone for the new school year. She said she wants it to better define accountability.

That could include a hybrid of brick-and-mortar class-time and online learning. The hybrid model, which would allow athletic participation like the traditional model, would also require extra athletic sanitization and a modified schedule. Lopeman said she expects to get more guidance from the state by the beginning of June.

Whatever the new school year looks like, it will likely include waiving some state and federal education laws.

UltraStar Multi-tainment Center
The UltraStar Multi-tainment Center has been closed since late March in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It will reopen Friday. Photo by Bob McGovern

After weeks in the dark, some attractions at the UltraStar Multi-tainment Center at Ak-Chin Circle will reopen their doors on Friday.

At 11 a.m., the 347 Grill restaurant and Ten Pins Down bowling alley will open for business, as will the Play ‘N Win Game Center arcade and Urban Arena Laser Tag, management said. The movie theater is not reopening at this time.

The center has updated and enhanced its protocols and procedures to safeguard the health and safety of both guests and employees, according to the announcement of the reopening.

Copper Sky pool, gym to reopen on Saturday

“We continue to monitor and review guidance that comes from state and federal government and public health agencies, and we will adjust our plans as necessary to adhere to changing guidelines,” it said.

UltraStar said it has made the following employee changes:

  • Employees will be checked before symptoms before their shifts.
  • Employees will follow a new “20-20 Rule,” requiring them to wash their hands at least every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
  • Where appropriate, employees coming into contact with food will wear gloves and masks.

In addition, all employees have been re-certified to new safety, sanitation and social distancing standards.

The 347 Grill and bowling alley are regularly and rigorously sanitized, according to management. And the restaurant has changed its floor plan to provide appropriate social distancing and will adopt use of one-time menus. Sanitizer dispensers have been installed in all open areas of the Multi-tainment Center.

The Movies Under The Stars program in the Amphitheater is scheduled to return May 25.

After approval from the tribal council, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino announced earlier this week that it would roll out its reopening at 9 a.m. Friday.

Both the entertainment center and the casino gradually closed down its amenities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in March. The council has kept employees on payroll during the shutdown.

The casino floor has been rearranged to allow social distancing. The Poker Room, Keno and BINGO will not be open. The Events Center, Valet, Spa and Fitness Center will also remain closed at this time.

The slot machine banks are arranged “to allow for proper social distancing and with limited seating at Blackjack tables,” according to the casino’s information. There will be hand-sanitizing stations throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service.

The resort and hotel tower guestrooms will also open, beginning Friday evening.

Some of the casino eateries, including includes Chop Block & Brew, Agaves, Copper Cactus and Dunkin Donuts, will welcome diners – with social-distancing protocols in place. The Buffet, Oak & Fork and Laurel Lounge are not yet scheduled to reopen.

Raquel Hendrickson contributed to this story.

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

This was updated May 14 with additional information from the city.

The competition pool at Copper Sky Multigenerational Center in Maricopa will reopen on Saturday with restrictions.

The pool will be open from 7 a.m. to noon on Saturday and Sunday for lap swimming only, and then from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting Monday. An announcement will be made in the future about open swimming.

Also reopening Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., is the fitness floor and indoor track. Gym patrons can expect reduced capacity, fewer pieces of equipment and potential wait times for access due to compliance with social distancing and sanitization guidelines, the city said. If the facility reaches capacity, patrons will be admitted as others leave.

Public restrooms at Copper Sky (and Pacana) parks will be open. Gym restrooms will also be open, but showers and locker rooms will be unavailable, so patrons should be prepared to change offsite. Childwatch, group fitness and activity rooms not be unavailable.

Upon their first return visit, patrons will have to check in to Member Services to reactivate their membership and can utilize self check-in thereafter.

There is no evidence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, that coronavirus can be spread to people through water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas.

But when Copper Sky and other public pools in Maricopa reopen, swimmers will be expected to stay at least 6 feet away from others, refrain from touching eyes, nose or mouth, and use hand sanitizer when getting out of the water. In addition, they should leave their face mask with their towel when in the pool so they have no problems breathing in the water.

People at higher risk for severe illness – including adults 65 and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions – should avoid visiting pools.

Patrons should also be prepared for the following modifications:

  • Patrons are required to comply with staff and posted signage, which will provide direction for social distancing and hygiene practices in accordance with state and federal guidance.
  • Patrons are required to thoroughly wipe down gym equipment prior to and after use with provided cleaning supplies.
  • Patrons at higher risk for severe illness are asked to stay home.
  • Upon leaving the gym, use hand sanitizer. When you get home, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

If patron exhibits visible symptoms of COVID-19 listed below, they may be asked to leave facility. Persons displaying the following signs are asked not to enter the building:

  • A cough (defined as new onset of cough within previous 14 days)
  • Fever over 100.4°F
  • Shortness of breath
  • Contact with someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 within the past 14 days
  • A household member with respiratory or fever symptoms

On Tuesday, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced that gyms, pools spas and massage therapy can begin today with implementation of public health protections and CDC guidelines.

Ducey said Wednesday his stay-at-home order will expire Friday because pandemic data indicates declining symptoms, declining percentage of positive tests, adequate hospital capacity and expanded testing.

It will be replaced by a new executive order (pdf), “Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger,” that focuses on vulnerable individuals, he said.

Orbitel Maricopa
Orbitel is extending its Keep American Connected pledge through June 30.

Orbitel Communications has extended its FCC Keep Americans Connected pledge through June 30.

The pledge was made by more than 700 media companies who committed to support their residential and small business customers during the pandemic by waiving late fees and not terminating service because of an inability to pay. The original pledge expired April 30.

As an early adopter, Orbitel decided to extend it commitment to customers and small businesses to June 30. The extension includes:

  • Temporary suspension of service disconnections due to failure to pay
  • Waiver of late fees for customers
  • Office lobby hours by appointment only
  • Suspension of in-person payments
  • Expansion of phone technical support to resolve as many issues as possible before dispatching a technician

“While we continue to see the impact of the pandemic in Arizona, we are optimistic that things are heading in the right direction,” said John Schurz, Orbitel’s president and general manager. “Having said that, we believe some of our customers are still in need of this kind of support.”

Orbitel has helped residents in other ways during the pandemic, including partnering with the City of Maricopa Parks and Recreations to support the Copper Sky Recreation Complex and make online eSport activities free to residents during the months of May and June. The cable TV and internet provider also supports F.O.R. Maricopa, the local food bank, as well as the Chamber of Commerce.

Pinal County Superior Court

The day Gov. Doug Ducey announced the lifting of “Stay Home” orders by the end of the week, Pinal County Superior Court clarified the restrictions on its operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The overall policy: “While keeping the courts operational and available to the community, all proceedings must be consistent with any policy directives from federal, state and local public health authorities.”

The court is making some hearings available via telephone or video while other “non-essential” hearings are being rescheduled.

Arizona Supreme Court Administrative Order No. 2020-75 requires anyone entering the courthouse to wear a mask or facial covering. Proceedings that must be in person are limited to attorneys, parties, victims, witnesses, jurors, court personnel “and other necessary persons.” The court is maintaining social-distancing requirements.

Those who enter the courthouse will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms. If you cannot enter the courthouse because of symptoms or illness, court personnel are expected to provide you with a phone number or alternative way to complete your business.

The court described some of its current health-safety measures: “deep-cleaning and disinfecting main public areas and courtrooms, regularly wiping down the trays and belt at security checkpoints, additional cleaning and disinfecting of high-touch areas and minimizing the number of court customers permitted in elevators.”

Copper Sky Swim Girl
Copper Sky lifeguard Rebecca Montes plays with Emilia Perez. The city expects to announced Wednesday its reopening plan for the pool at gym at the complex. File photo by Victor Moreno

Gyms and pools can reopen on Wednesday with implementation of public health protections and CDC guidelines, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced in a Tuesday afternoon news conference.

Arizona is headed in the right direction, Ducey said.

“This is a green light for the way to move forward to being out of the pandemic,” he said. “We are going to proceed with caution.

“The objective is to return stronger as a state,” he added, noting that the idea of social distancing is not going away.

City of Maricopa officials are working Tuesday afternoon on evaluating guidelines for a reopening plan of the gym and pool at the Copper Sky Multigenerational Center, according to Ellen Buddington, communications and events manager in the city’s Community Services Department.

The city plans to announce Wednesday a response and timeline for reopening of the recreational complex and aquatic center, she said.

Lee Feiles, owner of ATA Martial Arts Studio, said while he wasn’t completely surprised at the announcement, he said gyms “were given no warning ahead of time.”

He had already set a goal of May 25 but may accelerate his game plan by a week or so to prepare his gym to meet all guidelines. That means limiting the number of clients to 10 at a time and maximizing social distancing. He said they will also be sanitizing before and after each group training.

Feiles said about half of his clientele continued to participate through his online program on a temporary basis. However, some have been without jobs, and he’s uncertain when they will be able to take classes again. Others, he said, “fell off the face of the earth.”

So, he does not know how much of his clientele he will have to rebuild.

Though he can open his doors tomorrow and knows some gyms in town are ready to do so, he wants to be measured and cautious. That is an echo of an approach espoused by the governor.

“This is a green light to continue going forward on the way out of this pandemic,” Ducey said. “It is not a green light to speed. This is a green light to proceed, and we’re going to proceed with caution.”

Spas and massage therapists can also reopen starting Wednesday.

There is no evidence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, that coronavirus can be spread to people through water in pools, hot tubs, spas, or water play areas.

But when Copper Sky and other public pools in Maricopa open, patrons will be expected to stay at least 6 feet away from others, refrain from touching eyes, nose or mouth, and use hand sanitizer when getting out of the water. In addition, they should leave their face mask with their towel when in the pool so they have no problems breathing in the water.

People at higher risk for severe illness – including adults 65 and older and those with serious underlying medical conditions – should avoid visiting pools.

Pool operators are required to maintain physical distancing, to the extent possible, and provide additional space between pool chairs at community pools to promote distancing. They also most provide access to soap and water for handwashing or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer at stations around the pool for use by employees and clients. Pools should require lifeguards and other employees to regularly wash their hands for at least 20 seconds.

Ducey said his stay-at-home order will expire Friday because the data indicates declining symptoms, declining percentage of positive tests, adequate hospital capacity and expanded testing.

It will be replaced by a new executive order (pdf), “Stay Healthy, Return Smarter, Return Stronger,” that focuses on vulnerable individuals, he said.

After Friday, there will be a limited reopening of major league sports, but without fans, again with the implementation of public health protections and CDC guidelines, the governor indicated.

With a hint at how future economic data may play out, Ducey said there has been a “complete crush on the system” in unemployment claims and said the state was trying to fix the system to get out from under being overwhelmed. At the same time, he said 80% of Arizona’s workforce did not suffer job loss or a decrease in pay.

Castigated on the subject in a previous news conference, the governor and Dr. Cara Christ, director of the state’s health department, said there is a focus on long-term care facilities and prisons.

After a “testing blitz,” which started slowly three weeks ago, the state has watched the percentage of positive cases decrease the last two weeks. The blitz had aimed for 20,000 tests per weekend but had only about 5,400 the first weekend. Christ said that was followed by 20,000 and then 30,000 when the previous weekly average had been about 11,000.

In Arizona, 562 people have died as a result of COVID-19.

Raquel Hendrickson contributed to this report.

After approval from the tribal council, Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is rolling out its reopening starting Friday at 9 a.m.

The casino had gradually closed down its amenities to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in March. The council has kept employees on payroll during the shutdown.

“Over the past several weeks the Tribal Council, along with Caesars management, have been monitoring the situation here in Arizona and across the country, making sure we had the best and most accurate information needed to re-open the casino,” said General Manager Robert Livingston in a news release today. “We look forward to welcoming back our casino guests in the coming days.”

The casino floor has been rearranged to allow social distancing. The Poker Room, Keno and BINGO will not be open. The Events Center, Valet, Spa and Fitness Center will also remain closed at this time.

The slot machine banks are arranged “to allow for proper social distancing and with limited seating at Blackjack tables,” according to the casino’s information. There will be hand-sanitizing stations throughout the casino floor, masks for all employees and increased cleaning service.

The resort and hotel tower guestrooms will also open, beginning Friday evening.

Some of the eateries will be open with social-distancing protocols in place. That includes Chop Block & Brew, Agaves, Copper Cactus and Dunkin Donuts. Still not open are The Buffet, Oak & Fork and Laurel Lounge

An Adopt-a-Senior page for upcoming high school graduates has spread joy around Maricopa.

The first week we created it, the support of this community was infectious.

With more than 600 graduating high school seniors living in Maricopa, the announcement that schools were closed for the year due to coronavirus and there would be no standard graduation ceremonies was stinging for the community.

Three women, all mothers of seniors attending Maricopa High School, wanted to make sure the teens weren’t “swept under the rug.” They started a Facebook page, “City of Maricopa Adopt a Senior 2020,” to give them a little extra support and love.

Jodi Levy launched the page April 21 after chatting with her friend Kasi Johnson. Christina Dryden, who met them on the MHS Parents page, came on board, and all three became administrators as the page quickly drew 635 members.

They opened it to all high school seniors in town, no matter what school they attended or if they were homeschooled. At least one of them is handling the page at all times, answering questions and watching for duplicate entries.

“These kids, this is their milestone,” Levy said. “They’ve worked so hard to get to that graduation day for this to be taken away. I mean, it’s nobody’s fault. It happens. They just need to be shown, ‘We understand what you’re going through; we’re here for you.'”

Parents or friends or the seniors themselves can post a photo and information about a senior to be adopted. Other community members can then look for names that are “not adopted” and claim them. That means private messaging the poster and finding out what is wanted or needed by the senior.

Surprises have included snacks, gift baskets, balloons, yard signs, gift cards and more.

“The parents post the pictures once they get their little surprise or whatever their adoptee has brought to them, and it just melts your heart to see what this page is doing for these kids who thought they lost everything,” Johnson said.

They have seen people who don’t have kids in school come on the page to adopt one or two, or more. They have seen friends adopting friends.

Levy said the circumstances hit some seniors harder than others and sometimes hit parents harder than the kids.

“Everyone, no matter what your story, we’re here for you,” she said. “We see what you’re going through. We’re so proud that you guys got to this moment and you’re just pushing through in this crazy, freaking time.”

The page has kept pace with the number of “adoptees,” and Johnson said they are trying to reach more seniors.

“I just sob. The first week we created it, the support of this community was infectious,” she said. “Everybody was jumping on board. Seniors were getting adopted multiple times. Some had two, three, four people that adopted them. Just to show them that they love them and see their reactions.”

Dryden said the situation is bigger than just being able to walk across a stage and get a diploma. Each senior has had their individual challenges and struggles and accomplishments to reach the graduation milestone. Some have serious medical conditions. Some have terrible family situations. Some have had serious academic struggles. Some are the only child in their family, and parents were left with a mountain of disappointment.

“Every kid’s got a story and a history to their journey,” Dryden said.

Levy said they want to have a big push on the page on graduation day, whatever form that takes, to show the seniors how much they are appreciated.

“We just wanted to lift spirits for these seniors,” Dryden said. “That’s what it amounts to.”

InMaricopa staffer Jaime Harrison hands out face masks. There will be another free distribution from 8 to 10 a.m. Wednesday in the InMaricopa parking lot at 44400 W. Honeycutt Road.

Even as Gov. Doug Ducey extended his stay-at-home order through May 15, he began to relax some of the restrictions in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

This week, more retail stores statewide are reopening for business, including in-store shopping, as well as appointment-based services, including medical and dental offices. The continuation of proper social distancing and stepped-up hygiene is part of that process.

As more people venture out, InMaricopa wants to help you and your family stay safe, so we are planning another free distribution of surgical-style masks from 8 to 10 a.m. today, 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 when they go out in public during the health crisis. 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.

As a result, InMaricopa has had three recent distributions, handing out hundreds of masks to people who needed them. (See video below from one of our distributions.)

We encourage all residents who do not have face mask protection to stop by this morning.

To continue to grow our local coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Maricopa in the difficult weeks to come while continuing our day-to-day newsgathering, we are partnering with the Local Media Association’s foundation to ask our readers to help with a tax-deductible donation at InMaricopa.com/LocalCoverage.

The Ak-Chin Indian Community and multiple other tribes have filed suit against the U.S. Treasury Department and seek a federal court order to release $8 billion in promised but overdue COVID-19 relief funding.

The money was allotted as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help native tribes respond to the COVID-19 crisis. The legislation mandated the U.S. Treasury Department disburse the funds no later than April 26. The relief funding is needed to avert economic and fiscal devastation, as tribal businesses and gaming facilities remain shuttered and tribal governments have shouldered significant added costs in responding to the public health crisis.

“All that we ask is for the timely release of federal relief aid that was promised so that the Ak-Chin Indian Community and other Tribal governments may respond to this unprecedented crisis,” said Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel. “Indian Country has suffered disproportionately under this pandemic. As with other tribes, we’ve declared an emergency and closed tribal businesses and gaming enterprises in order to mitigate the outbreak. Without swift federal assistance, we will have no choice but to furlough tribal employees and make cuts to essential services our people depend upon.

“If the Treasury Department will not honor its promise of relief to native peoples during their time of need, we trust a federal court will make this right.”

Tribal plaintiffs in the case are Ak-Chin Indian Community; Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians; Chickasaw Nation; Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; Cherokee Nation; Northern Arapaho Tribe of the Wind River Reservation; Snoqualmie Indian Tribe; and Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation.

High school seniors across the country saw their final year implode as COVID-19 stripped away many of the spring events that normally put a big exclamation point on the achievement of graduation. But that hasn’t stopped these outstanding seniors from pursuing their goals. So far, they have earned over $7.7 million in scholarships. At Maricopa High School, 440 seniors have special honors and distinctions and 165 are senior award recipients.
MHS’s virtual Senior Awards Night video: https://youtu.be/UZ3wb1fKK7Y

Freya Abraham
Maricopa High School
The valedictorian of MHS Class of 2020 spent all her school years in Maricopa. Her career goal is to be a pediatric neurologist, working in healthcare advocacy and public policy. She has earned the highest GPA in MHS history and was named the mathematics and AP Student of the Year. She also earned the most local, state and national honors in school history.
How are you achieving your career goal? Attending University of Arizona as a Baird Scholar, attend best possible medical school for neurology. I participated in Banner Health volunteer, T-Gen Bioscience Leadership Program, Maricopa STEM club, job shadow medical professionals, Project Puente Microbiology intern [anticipated], many hours spent researching and applying, JSA director of expansion (policy exposure) and DECA (marketing and presentation skills).
Greatest achievement: National and state scholarships and awards including National Merit finalist, Presidential Scholar candidate, Coca-Cola semi-finalist, Flinn semifinalist. Winning second place in the world for Business Marketing Services at DECA’s 2018 International Career Development Conference, being on the international stage and making friends from across the country.
COVID-19: I’m not frustrated with anyone or anything in particular, except maybe for myself for paying for things too far in advance. It’s hard to believe in the intensity of my losses when I see death counts rising and the struggles of healthcare workers worldwide. I feel blessed to have the option to stay home with my family and be safe; I didn’t realize that was a privilege before.

Riley Bell
Maricopa High School
A Maricopa native, Riley is a noted dancer who performed with the MHS dance and theater troupes this year. She received an Academic Excellence award. She plans to become a hospital pharmacist.
How are you achieving your career goal? I plan to attend CAC to finish my general studies, then transfer to U of A. From there I plan to do pharmacy school.
Greatest achievement: Assuming the role of president of MHS’s dance company and choreographing countless dance pieces throughout my high school career. My favorite memories from high school are a collection of the hours and hours of rehearsing for recital with my dance family.
COVID-19: With the cancellation of the remainder of our senior year, I regret not taking advantage of the time I had left; I wish I would have cherished it more. The biggest sting is not having a “senior-spring recital.” I have been preparing myself for years for my last time on stage and I was not ready to say goodbye.

Cassandra Bonah
Maricopa High School
A Maricopa native, Cassandra participated in student council and plans to be a general physician for low-income and marginalized communities and eventually run for public office to encourage healthcare reform.
How are you achieving your career goal? Obtain a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences and a minor in law and society at NAU to eventually attend medical school. I currently take AP and Honors courses to prepare myself for the rigor and intensity of university and medical school. I also spend my time volunteering to help low-income communities through church.
Greatest accomplishment: Being awarded the Martin Luther King Jr. Dream award. It felt nice to be recognized in the name of someone I respect and admire so much. My favorite memory has been Mr. MHS. I was a part of the student council committee for it and seeing it all come together was just amazing.
COVID-19: It was difficult at first to come to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t be able to enjoy my senior prom or walk the stage at graduation due to COVID-19. However, it’s nice to see the Class of 2020 in MUSD, as well as all over Arizona, recognizing one another and supporting each other through this. It’s comforting to know that we’re all in this together.

Brielle Duff
Sequoia Pathway
Brielle has lived in Maricopa less than a year after moving from Kentucky. She is graduating from Pathway as salutatorian of the Class of 2020. She is pursuing a career in music.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have been accepted into Western Kentucky University’s music program, which I will be attending in the fall, and I am dedicating myself to my music.

Greatest achievement: Overcoming the obstacles in my life that held me back from my potential. It felt freeing and satisfying. If I had stayed in that situation, I would still be trapped in my own belief that I couldn’t achieve anything worthwhile with my life. Now I am on my way to making an impact.
COVID-19: It has hindered me from getting the benefits of classroom learning, but it has allowed me more time to spend with family and work on my career interest. While losing educational hours is a loss, the virtual learning has allowed me to work on my own schedule and increase my self-discipline.

Roberto Esqueda Quintana
Maricopa High School
Originally from Chihuahua, Mexico, Roberto has lived in Maricopa 11 years and played four seasons of MHS football. His career goal is to help preserve buildings for centuries to come.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have applied for many scholarships and have started diving deep into the field and what I will have to learn in college. Attend ASU and get my degree in architecture.
Greatest achievement: Being able to succeed in Honors and AP classes while being a multi-sport varsity athlete and having many
hours of community service throughout my high school career.
COVID-19: It is quite sad; a lot of things were taken from me, but I have no doubt in my mind that we will pull through and find a way to please everyone.

Yasmeen Hanania
Maricopa High School
Yasmeen has spent all her school years in Maricopa, moving with her family from California when she was 4. She plans to attend ASU W.P. Carey School of Business to be an entrepreneur and study political science to enter government.
How are you achieving your career goal? I have interned with City Hall before and have campaigned for my State Officer position with Arizona DECA. I also am taking marketing and have participated and helped run Market Day at Maricopa High School and have presented my business idea to entrepreneurs to get advice and connections to start my business.
Greatest achievement: Becoming a state officer for Arizona DECA, representing District 9 and being able to be a part of an organization that has helped shape me and has prepared me for my future and being able to give back to my members and hold conferences and events for them. Also qualifying for ICDC the last two years and getting glass at State.
COVID-19: We have worked so hard and accomplished so much and the fact that all the rewards we get for our accomplishments that other graduates were able to get have been taken away by a disease is extremely devastating, but I understand that it is for our safety and that the Class of 2020 is still going to be the best graduating class.

Angello Hernandez de la Peña
Maricopa High School
Gianni discovered computer programming in middle school and now has set his sights on becoming a software engineer at a large company. What he’ll be doing, he said, depends on whether he goes to graduate school. He was named MHS science Student of the Year and was admitted to Harvard College.
How are you achieving your career goal? I will study computer science at Harvard and possibly pursue Artificial Intelligence for graduate school, depending on my interest by that time. I also plan to minor in history or political science. I have already learned to program in Python, C++ and Java. 
Greatest achievement: Being accepted to Harvard. Other than that, I would say my greatest accomplishment has been my acceptance to and participation in the SAMS summer program at Carnegie Mellon last year. The program helped me immensely through the college application process and made me even more excited to pursue computer science in college.
COVID-19: School shutting down has made it difficult to stay motivated about my classes. Being stuck inside all day without any in-person contact with my friends takes a toll after a while. I’m also disappointed I won’t be able to see my friends speak at graduation or walk on stage. However, I understand this is all being done to protect the safety of ourselves and others. I hope the situation clears in time for the next school year to begin and our city is not hit heavily by the pandemic.

Haley Lemon
Maricopa High School
A 12-year student in Maricopa, Haley has had a diverse high school experience and has diverse plans for her future. She was named the drama and theatre arts Student of the Year and is the salutatorian of MHS Class of 2020.
How are you achieving your career goal? I am going to NAU in the fall and the plan is to begin with an associate degree studying in the fields of English, studio art and/or forestry. I will then serve a mission with my church and return to school to complete my bachelor’s and go from there. I am a person who feels obligated to constantly be working on myself. I work hard to do my best morally, academically and creatively in all areas of my life, and I hope that effort is enough to give me the opportunities of growth and experience I would like to have in life.
Greatest achievement: I was amazingly lucky to be able to be both the president of the internationally recognized MHS Theatre Company and the salutatorian of the Class of 2020. I consider both of these opportunities in such high regard I cannot pick which one is greater.
COVID-19: I think it has made me realize something very important about how I should treat the rest of my life. When I first realized my senior year had basically ended, I wrestled a lot with the knowledge that the show I was waiting months to direct was cancelled, that I would get no chance to give a speech to thousands of people like I had dreamed of, that I wouldn’t get the senior week I was so excited for and that no one else in my class would either. I realized the titles were pointless, but the effort I put into them and the growth I received from them wasn’t. I did what I could, and though the physical rewards I don’t get to experience, I do get to go into the rest of my life knowing I have the capacity to always try my best and be personally successful just for my own peace of mind.

Juan Marquez
Maricopa High School
A native Californian, Juan and his family moved to Maricopa in 2019, and he found a way to excel in a new school for his senior year. He plans to attend Grand Canyon University while working for Proof Pest Control.
How are you achieving your career goal? My career goal is to find something that makes me happy, so I don’t work a day in my life. I am practicing yoga, reading books on interesting topics, and searching for my heart’s desires.
Greatest achievement: Becoming Mr. MHS, joining the wrestling team and being able to start at a new place and still do good. My favorite memory from high school is the interaction between students and all the smiles and laughs that took place.
COVID-19: It hasn’t stopped me. I’m still having a blast. There is always a good side and bad side. It matters what you look at and become.

Leah Peterson
Sequoia Pathway
A native Maricopan, Leah is the valedictorian of her class at Pathway. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, which inspired her to set her career goal toward being a nurse.
How are you achieving your career goal? When I was diagnosed, I spent some time in the ICU and it gave me insight and made me feel very thankful for the nurses who watched and took care of me as well as reassuring me in a hard time. I hope to be this way to someone else in the future. The steps I am taking to reach this is going to a university. I have been accepted into Grand Canyon University and will start classes that will prepare me for being a nurse. I was also accepted into their Honors College which will provide me many opportunities as well.
Greatest achievement: Becoming valedictorian of my graduating class. School has never been easy for me, and I have had to work really hard to get to where I am. My advice for others would be no matter what your goals are just try your best and work hard at it. You won’t be disappointed by the results.
COVID-19: It has affected my senior year tremendously. It’s sad that I may not see my classmates again and may not have a prom or graduation or be able to have the same experiences as other senior classes before me. I hope I will be able to have a graduation when things get back to normal. 

Elijah Quinto
Maricopa High School
A standout on the color guard auxiliary for his school’s marching band, Elijah came to Maricopa five years ago. He plans to teach high school science and wants to be part of a professional-level color guard. He was named one of just six Winterguard Arizona scholarship recipients.
How are you achieving your career goal? Finishing high school and starting CAC classes in fall of 2020.
Greatest achievement: Being promoted at work to become a shift lead at Dutch Bros. My favorite memory of high school would be all the times during band and band competitions. I think getting a caption in our auxiliary section was my favorite part.
COVID-19: I unfortunately let go of high school after we learned our winterguard season would be cut short due to COVID-19, therefore I lost hope in all aspects of life in terms of finishing the last year of my formal education. I know, however, that I will still strive for my own education in the future and if that means online school, then we must change our norm.

Alex-Ann Velasco
Maricopa High School
A self-described Army brat, Alex-Ann came to Maricopa her sophomore year. With a wide array of talents exhibited at MHS, she plans to hone her studies to become an obstetrician.
How are you achieving your career goal? Studying biomedical science in the Honors College at Northern Arizona University. I will use my biomedical science degree to meet all my prerequisite requirements for medical school.

Greatest achievement: My costume designs competing at the Central Arizona Festival of Theatre and qualifying to compete at the International Thespian Festival. Also, reading “The Flea” by John Donne in my sophomore honors English class or getting on the roof for the first time as the Fiddler in last year’s production of Fiddler on the Roof.
COVID-19: Events like graduation, senior awards night, cap decorating, prom and even dress shopping were things I looked forward to for years. I understand it is better to take extra precautions for our safety than to risk anyone getting seriously sick or worse. But it is still a bummer to check your phone after a shower to see more has been canceled in what seems to be the blink of an eye. We worked hard for years to earn all the fun senior activities that we no longer get.

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

347Grill Coronavirus
Restaurants like the 347 Grill at UltraStar will be able to welcome back eat-in diners beginning May 11.

Dine-in restaurants in Mariocopa and elsewhere in Arizona will be able to reopen beginning next week.

In his weekly news conference Monday on the state’s response to coronavirus, Gov. Doug Ducey put restaurants on notice that they will be able to welcome back dine-in patrons next Monday, May 11. The governor’s stay-at-home order is currently set to expire May 15, but could be extended.

Parties will be limited to 10 diners and restaurants will operate at reduced occupancy and capacity, Ducey said. Restaurant employees will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before the start of every shift.

Ducey said he is working with the industry to provide proper guidance on implementing public health protections and guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Protection, including physical distancing and limiting areas where employees and customers may congregate.

In addition, restaurants would need to implement comprehensive sanitation protocols.

Restaurants are encouraged to continue delivery and curbside service.

Barber shops and salons may reopen beginning Friday, using the same guidance on public health protection and CDC guidelines, and comprehensive sanitation protocols.

In addition, shops and salons will be required to provide cloth face coverings to employees and customers. Waiting and service areas should promote appropriate physical distancing.

The state also recommends operating by appointment only to manage occupancy levels.

“Get your haircut, get something to eat, and head home,” Ducey told residents on Monday. “That’s where it’s safest.”

A new executive order by Ducey requires long-term care facilities to notify next-of-kin for any resident who tests positive for the virus, or has been exposed to somebody who is positive. It also requires facilities to disclose any previous or active COVID-19 cases to any approved applicant from a prospective resident.

According to media reports, relatives of some nursing home residents had complained that the facilities refused to disclose information about incidences of coronavirus among residents and employees.

From left, John Schurz of Orbitel, Troy Mauser of Allstate (with family Brayden, Kathy and Lauryn), and Vanessa McDill of StateFarm.


By Fran Lyons

During unparalleled and uncertain times of the coronavirus pandemic, Maricopa businesses, like the community at large, adopted the phrase, “We are all in this together.” The “business as usual” mantra was halted for most during a “stay at home” statewide mandate, and many creatively adapted to the challenge.

Corporate offices and smaller local businesses offering what has been deemed essential services in town have all felt the effects of the major shift to a “new normal” and have responded from their personal perspectives.

“Before our focus was primarily about our customers and our team members. Now that has shifted to include everyone,” said John Schurz, president and general manager of Orbitel Communications. “We’re here to help keep all members of our communities safe. Our goal is to create a family culture where everybody feels connected.”

Ray Nieves, owner of 911 Air Repair, has been as busy as ever and said people are seeing the positive side of shopping local. He has added more precautions in work that usually requires him and his staff to be inside customer homes.

“We are following CDC guidelines with PPE and have also added shoe covers for extra protection. Being safe is our main focus even if it is difficult to talk to customers with a mask on,” he said. “We try to keep conversations outside while still honoring the six-foot distance requirement. Also, our invoicing process is online which makes the transaction less complicated.”

Schurz said his technicians in the field are also wearing gloves and masks and using sanitizing products to meet CDC guidelines.

“We have also provided thermometers for techs to use daily to monitor for fever,” he said.

And, like many businesses, some of his team members are working from home.

Vanessa McDill of State Farm Insurance said her top priority is the safety of her staff, customers and family members.

“Initially two of us were working out of our homes, while two worked in the office with it closed to the public,” she said. “We were able to get everyone working remotely without significant disruption to our customers. There are many pros and cons to this ever-evolving situation. It is obviously a huge pro that we were all able to be set up to work from home and continue taking care of our customers while protecting ourselves and our families.”

Depending on the business, there is some confusion left by federal legislation and by statewide executive orders, including Gov. Doug Ducey’s “stay at home” order for nonessential workers.

Troy Mauser, local agent for Allstate Insurance Company, said he tries to keep ahead of client questions while working from home himself.

“Wow, these are crazy times,” he said. “Just about everyone has to work at home – ‘stay at home’ – by the governor’s orders. We all have questions. We all want answers. No one can say for sure what the next day will bring. While we all seek a solution that no one can provide at this time, we are resolved to give you support and help for your situation.”

Mauser said Allstate recognized fewer of its customers are on the roads and “no one is doing what they normally do.” That led to a discount program for at least a couple months.

“All customers with Allstate auto insurance will receive a discount of 15% off of their premiums for the months of April and May,” he said. “This is our payback program to help you move forward. To provide relief. No one knows exactly what the future will present.”

Instead of driving, many people have been at home, mostly on the Internet, whether for work or to kill time. Orbitel has felt the pressure of that surge.

“By staying ahead of the curve, we have also been working with vendors to increase service capabilities during this time of massive Internet usage,” Schurz said. “We have also expanded our messaging to our internal staff members so that everyone is connected and included. A rising tide lifts all boats.”

Maricopans are also becoming more aware of the air they share.

Nieves said his customers have become more interested in an air-purification system he has offered for some time that is designed to filter viruses, bacteria and other pollutants.

“We have even extended our special offer for purchase,” he said. “This process of dealing with this virus is like a reset button. It seems to me that people are looking at things differently. It has opened their eyes.”

Even with adaptive measures, small businesses have labored to get through the dark days of the pandemic, leaning on customer support like never before.

McDill said it was clear “Stay Home” had very different impacts on various customers, with some feeling not change and other struggling with loss of work and income and well as missing out on family gatherings like vacations and weddings.

“While we are all making the best of this situation,” she said, “we are looking forward to getting back into the office.”

This story appears, in part, in the May issue of InMariopa.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey coronavirus update
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announces Wednesday the extension of his stay-at-home order through May 15. (Source: Arizona Department of Health Services, via YouTube)

The state is urging retail stores to test their employees for coronavirus symptoms before the shift as non-essential retail stores get ready to resume partial operations next week.

On Wednesday Gov. Doug Ducey extended his stay-at-home order for the coronavirus pandemic through May 15. On Friday, his office issued guidelines for businesses and their customers as they are permitted to begin reopening on May 8.

Customers are advised to follow the recommendations on social distancing and hygiene of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and urged to stay home if sick and order online or use curbside pickup, if possible. In addition:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from others while shopping and waiting in line
  • Wear a cloth covering over the mouth and nose when out in public
  • When you do have to shop in-store, go during hours when fewer people will be there (early morning or late night, for example)
  • Those at higher risk for severe illness should ask if the store has special hours for shoppers at higher risk
  • Disinfect the shopping cart, with disinfecting wipes, if possible
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth
  • If possible, use touchless payment (without touching money, a card or keypad). If you must, use hand sanitizer right after
  • Use hand sanitizer when leaving a store. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you get home

The state Department of Health Services recommends that retail stores implement employee screening for coronavirus symptoms before their shifts start. In addition, they are asked to:

  • Maintain physical distancing
  • Operate with reduced occupancy and capacity based on the size of the store, with special emphasis on limiting places where employees and customers can congregate
  • Implement comprehensive sanitation protocols
  • Continue providing options for delivery or curbside service even if customers are allowed inside a store
  • Close fitting rooms at clothing stores, meeting rooms and other enclosed spaces accessible to customers
  • Consider making face coverings available to employees and visitors to wear in-store

On Wednesday, Ducey announced a goal to resume dine-in services at restaurants in May. Additional guidance being developed in coordination with public health officials will be issued in the coming days, his office said. The City of Maricopa is reopening select parks and recreational facilities beginning Friday.

To continue to grow our local coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Maricopa in the difficult weeks to come while continuing our day-to-day newsgathering, we are partnering with the Local Media Association’s foundation to ask our readers to help with a tax-deductible donation at InMaricopa.com/LocalCoverage.

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

Editor’s Note: InMaricopa.com is publishing the author’s letter to city councilmembers, and copied to local media, in the interest of transparency. As we prepared to publish the letter Wednesday afternoon, the author let us know he did not want it published as an opinion article. We respected his request. He subsequently talked to another media outlet about the letter, so we feel compelled to publish now to show InMaricopa is being transparent on the issue.

Hi Councilmembers,

I am writing to you in response to Councilmember Vincent Manfredi’s post on Facebook. He is supporting the idea of opening up the city’s amenities, even while the Governor still has a Stay at Home order active. He is further urging members on Facebook to email this address, perhaps in hopes of creating public pressure on you to open up these activities again.

I am disgusted.

I am a homeowner in a large community, whose amenities have been closed during this pandemic. I fully support this closure and the closure of the city’s amenities to ensure that the public remains safe (or as safe as can be). It is simply a false choice to suggest that “If you don’t think that they should NOT be open my suggestion would be, don’t use them” as he suggests in his statement. The false choice is that if you do not agree with him, that opening public amenities during a pandemic and active Stay at Home order is a fine thing to do, that you just don’t participate.

According to demographic numbers, approximately 30% of our City’s population is over the age of 50. This puts our city more at risk than Tempe, Chandler, and Gilbert due to the amount of adults that are at a higher risk to contract serious health issues from COVID19. This does not even include those members outside this range who are at a higher risk due to preexisting health conditions (of which, my family has several). City residents look to it’s leadership in times of crisis. I think we all agree here that we are in unprecedented times. I could cite other state Governors opening up their states in what some would call a “premature” fashion. But these are not other states. This is Arizona.

The fact is that Governor Ducey still has an active Stay at Home order, with restrictions starting to ease slowly over the coming weeks. Councilmember Manfredi, in his attached statement, is using a Political, Public page. One might argue due to the title and names he uses that it is his Official Councilmember profile. If so, I find it extremely disheartening that a representative from the City of Maricopa would use their Official Councilmember page to advocate for the direct violation of an Executive Order that is designed to protect its inhabitants during a health crisis.

I am not saying that there is not a time or place for getting some fresh air; of course there is. In my neighborhood one can drive around the block and see plenty of people who are running or exercising. Unlike using many of the city’s amenities, there are areas to naturally stay away from others. The fear of many is that by opening up the city amenities, you create an opportunity for a petri dish of disease. I know that Maricopa does not want to be seen as having an outbreak occur because of something entirely preventable. One example of this mistake would be in New Orleans, LA; where that city was inundated by sick residents flooding their hospitals after gatherings occurred. This is an extreme example of course, because there was also a parade involved. But we can’t handle even a fraction of a percentage of that rush in our local Banner clinic.

In closing, I support the continued closure of the city of Maricopa’s amenities. Should the Council act with caution, history will judge your actions kindly. Should the Council act with haste, there is a short term gain, with the possibility of a longer, larger term loss.

Feel free to reach out with any followup concerns or questions. I have lived in this great city since 2006. While that may not be as long as many residents, I do not want Maricopa to be the example – for all the wrong reasons.


Andrew Miller

Maricopa Resident

Full disclosure: Councilmember Vincent Manfredi is minority owner of InMaricopa.

The City of Maricopa had closed the dog park at Copper Sky.

The city of Maricopa will begin this weekend to reopen parks and recreational facilities closed or restricted as part of the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Residents can expect the following facilities to reopen in the next couple of days:

  • The dog park
  • Ramadas and shade structures to provide protection from the sun and heat
  • Playgrounds and skate park
  • Tennis and pickleball courts
  • Athletic fields, with the exception of baseball and softball fields at Copper Sky
  • Resumption of all curbside library services

The majority of the facilities will open by close of business Friday, and all facilities will be open by Sunday with a few possible exceptions, including the dog park, the city said.

“We have been using this time to make repairs to the dog park to include new irrigation and drinking water at both pet and human fountains,” the city said in its announcement late Thursday afternoon. “We hope these limited openings will provide a positive outlet for the residents of Maricopa.”

The city also will be scheduling Drive-In Movie Nights, with guests remaining in their cars with distancing requirements in place.

All restrooms will remain closed.

“I have been advocating for this for weeks, so I am happy we found a way to make it happen!” said Councilmember Vincent Manfredi. “I trust that our residents will remember to adhere to social distancing, use hand sanitizer and if possible to wear a mask. The City of Maricopa is moving forward and trying to get back to normalcy. It will take months before we are back 100%, but it is a start.”

The city said it reserves the right to close any facility if patrons ignore or refuse to follow established rules governing public safety as set forth by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Office of the Governor.

Councilmember Vincent Manfredi is minority owner of InMaricopa.

Adapting for COVID-19 may have long reach

Maricopa teachers (from left) Maria Pour, Ellen Zoretic and Paul Krigbaum are among hundreds teaching from home during COVID-19.

“This is a crazy time, and I don’t think any of us expected to ever be teaching like this.”

The things that our kids are concerned about go from funny to heartbreaking.

Stephanie Arturet is one of hundreds of Maricopa teachers who made a dramatic shift to educating their students online for the last two months of the school year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. A third-grade teacher at Santa Cruz Elementary School, she is also helping her own children with their online classes at home.

“It’s not easy, especially while I’m doing school with my own two kids, both of whom are MUSD students,” she said. “But we want the best for our students and are figuring it out as we go.”

Shannon Hull, who teaches Blended Learning at Desert Wind Middle School, said the toughest impact of not returning to school was the lack of closure and not getting to say goodbye to students and staff.

“When teachers found out we were closing the doors for the rest of the school year, the first thought was not about math or English or science; it was all about the end-of-year field trips, the graduations, the promotions, prom, senior nights for baseball, softball and track, etc. – all these life events that our seniors will now miss. All of the end-of-year activities we all plan for our students are now gone.”

Instead, everyone had to find a way to stay connected and keep teaching. Everyone went virtual.

Posting videos on Google Classroom and communicating with students and parents via ClassDojo are the new normal. Maricopa Unified School District purchased workbooks for all students in math and English with a schedule for completion by the end of May. After a Santa Cruz staff meeting to clarify the dos and don’ts, Arturet created a calendar and activities.

“I also want to post some videos about content we would be covering now, math especially, and assigning some practice activities, games and challenges to put those skills to use,” Arturet said. “I’ve posted a multiplication fact game through Kahoot.com for students to compete in and plan to do this a couple times a week. It’s an activity we use in class a lot, and they love the competition aspect.”

Some classes demand a little more tactile activity, such as cooking, physical education, art and music.

When I open my email now, it is from a student, and they are sharing their cooking pictures with me. So awesome.

For Sequoia Pathway students, culinary coach David Smith basically hosts his own cooking show. The class preps for a new recipe during the week, seeing a video on the dish and reading an explanation of the recipe and ingredients.

Then Thursday is cooking day, or, as Smith puts on his lesson calendar, COOKING DAY! That is when he posts his full cooking video so students can watch before they start cooking at home.

“I like to make my cooking videos fun and engaging so they will hopefully be inspired to cook something during this time,” Smith said. “So far, the students are responding very well. When I open my email now, it is from a student, and they are sharing their cooking pictures with me. So awesome.”

Paul Krigbaum, who teaches PE at Maricopa Elementary School, said reaching students is the biggest challenge. He also uses ClassDojo.

“I could make a calendar, but how do I know they’re actually doing that?” he said.

So, he created 5-7-minute videos every day of workouts the students (and their parents) can do at home, knowing most will not have the same equipment at the house that they would have at school. He posts them on his “Get Fit with Coach K” Facebook page, and parents respond by posting photos or videos of their children working out.

A Tobata workout will have throwing and tossing. Kids have created their own exercise course with sidewalk chalk. Krigbaum has created a ball from duct tape for a game of hamper ball. He’s been happy to see 110-200 views a day. His exercise challenges have prizes of jump ropes and Gatorade.

He sees ways to incorporate what he is doing temporarily into his regular lesson plans when “normal” school begins again.

Pima Butte PE teacher Jesus Leyva also set up his students with a program and videos.

“I’ve created a Google Classroom where I post weekly skills that students will be working on for that week,” he said. “I have also created YouTube videos to accompany the skills being taught for the week. This provides the students an opportunity to see me give instruction on their iPad, tablet, laptop or electronic device that they are accessing their lessons with. The students post their comments and share their thoughts on the Google Classroom page.”

Hopefully, that leads to more independent musicianship for students and more at-home practice, which is a top goal for any music educator.

Music teacher Ivan Pour also sees a future for elements of the distance-learning curriculum beyond the pandemic.

“I’ve been wanting kids to use SmartMusic more and this is an opportunity to get more kids connected and comfortable on the system,” said Pour, who chairs the Fine Arts Department at Maricopa High School. “I’m also learning a lot about making videos and live online events. Since I’m more comfortable with it, when we get back, I will probably have a more robust selection of online resources for them to use at home than before. Hopefully, that leads to more independent musicianship for students and more at-home practice, which is a top goal for any music educator.”

SmartMusic, which has made its entire catalogue free, is an online practice platform Pour calls “a very cool practice resource.” Band students are expected to use their time working on their individual playing. They have two assignment each week, one a playing assignment and one “virtual concert attendance” using streaming platforms to watch symphonies, bands, opera, etc. Pour encourages them to listen to music they normally don’t hear or play.

Pima Butte Elementary art teacher Ellen Zoretic uses Google Classroom, ClassDojo, email and phone calls to stay connected to her families.

“In my Google Classroom I post videos I’ve recorded of myself teaching the students art lessons as well as reading them art books,” Zoretic said. “I have an extra activity section where I have uploaded links to art games online, printable coloring pages, virtual museum tours and other ideas to keep busy and be creative.”

One of those ideas was creating a color-wheel challenge. Students had to find household items of every color of the rainbow and put them in a circle in their categorized color ranges. “They loved that project!”

She found another way to keep students engaged by reading Diane Alber’s “I’m Not Just a Scribble” while her bird sat on her shoulder as a special guest. She maintains Facebook and Instagram accounts to connect and show student artwork.

“One thing that I think is interesting is that our Blended Learning students at both middle schools are at a distinct advantage with the new online learning that is now happening across the nation and world,” Hull said. “Our students already received their schoolwork online, so this doesn’t change. Our students are also already used to doing research on their own and not needing that direct instruction that most teachers do on a daily basis.”

What’s changed is Hull is teaching her Blended Learning students from her computer table at home instead of in a classroom. She’s making WeVideo math content to post on Google Classroom. In language arts, weekly assignments include blogs or vlogs, where students can express themselves in a safe environment.

“And the things that our kids are concerned about go from funny to heartbreaking,” she said. “Most are concerned about food in the house, parent’s jobs, taking care of siblings, worrying about grandparents’ health. But the biggest thing our students talk about is not seeing friends and teachers and wondering if we will see each other at all before school starts next year.”

At Maricopa Wells Middle School, seventh and eighth grade history teacher Shelby Rostas keeps her students engaged with daily tasks using Google Classroom.

  • Multi-media Mondays
    “I will post a video for you to watch and respond to, a movie that I suggest you watch (if you can find it on Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Youtube), a short video called “This Week in History” as well as the CNN10 for the day.”
  • Time Travel Tuesdays
    “I will post a short reading comprehension article on topics that cover the basics of American History with a few questions to answer, a virtual field trip for you to explore and comment on, and the CNN10 link for the day.”
  • Wacky Wednesday Writing
    “I will post a journal prompt for you to respond to as well as the CNN10 link.”
  • Thankful for Thinkers Thursday
    “I will post a short biography on someone from history with questions for you to answer, and the CNN10 link for the day.”
  • Fun Fact Friday
    “I will post a fun fact and ask you to do some independent research to discover the 5W’s & H on each topic (Who did it impact, What is important about it, Where was it created or happening, When it was created or happening, Why it matters now, and How it has impacted society), as well as the CNN10 link for the day.”

Graphic design teacher Maria Pour said she wants her MHS students to feel they are at least connected with her. It’s been a learning experience for her, too, as she created her own YouTube channel, showing students her home studio and posting enrichment lessons.

“Throughout our entire school year, we’ve used Google Classroom to submit student work, so that has continued as usual and offered the students some stability when it comes to Graphic Art & Design,” she said.

Through the school’s main software vendor and in-house information-technology expert, students were set up with the Adobe Creative Suite at home. Maria Pour said that gave her graphic designers a creative outlet and opportunity to master technical skills.

“I’ve done a Livestream for my students, which felt awkward for me until my students began submitting comments, feedback and jokes through my e-mail,” she said. “It was a wonderful way for me to feel connected to them again.”

I make sure and leave a personal note for them, to let them know I appreciate their work.

Enna Post is the K-5 technology teacher at Saddleback Elementary. She normally would see students twice a week 30 minutes at a time.

“Now with the Distant Learning method, I’m reviewing their computer skills, combining files and video tutorials,” she said. “When students finish and turn in their work, I can see it in Google Classroom. I make sure and leave a personal note for them, to let them know I appreciate their work.”

The program allows her to explain and show the students basic skills like copy/paste and text editing. They can hear her voice and follow along as she moves objects or creates graphics.

Hull said the technology aspect of Blended Learning may get new attention when this vast experiment is over.

“I think now more people will look to our Blended Learning model of how to better integrate online and in-person teaching for the new world we live in.”

Old-fashioned communication still has a place, too. Arturet said she is continuing to connect with kids the way she always has, even by “snail mail.”

“I’ve mailed all of my class postcards and plan to do that every two weeks or so,” she said. “It’s something I do during the year sometimes, and they’re always super excited to get their own mail.”

More than anything, teachers want to see their kids in person again.

“All this is keeping us moving in a bad situation,” Ivan Pour said. “Nothing is the same as in-person ensemble rehearsal. It’s not the same. I can’t wait to run a full rehearsal with my students again. I miss them.”

This story appears, in part, in the May issue of InMaricopa.

Butterfield Elementary teachers posted notes outside the school where children picking up daily meals can read how much they are missed.

To continue to grow our local coverage of COVID-19’s impact on Maricopa in the difficult weeks to come while continuing our day-to-day newsgathering, we are partnering with the Local Media Association’s foundation to ask our readers to help with a tax-deductible donation at GiveButter.com/inmaricopa.

The Events Center at Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino

The Events Center at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino is reworking its entertainment schedule as COVID-19 has caused cancellations and postponements of several shows.

Here is the current status of scheduled events.

Josh Turner will be rescheduling his performance, but no date has been determined. It is the second time he has had to reschedule at The Events Center after a previous date was postponed due to the death of a crewmember. More information will be provided as soon as it is available. Ticketholders should retain their tickets until a new date is announced.

The Gary Allan show, scheduled for April 3, has been rescheduled to Friday, Oct. 9. Tickets for the original date will be valid for the rescheduled date. Refunds available at the point of purchase for those ticket buyers unable to attend the new date.

Chris D’Elia has been rescheduled to Saturday, Nov. 28. Updated Presale/On Sale timeline is to follow once available, as this show is not yet on sale.

Rob Lowe: Stories I Only Tell My Friends LIVE, scheduled for May 22, has been postponed. More information will be provided as soon as it is available. Ticketholders should retain their tickets until a new date is announced.

The Kevin James show, scheduled for May 30, has been cancelled due to the current COVID-19 crisis. All tickets for the May 30 show have been automatically refunded from the original point of sale.

Ken Jeong, scheduled for July 10, has been postponed. More information will be provided as soon as it is available. Ticketholders should retain their tickets until a new date is announced.

Martina McBride, scheduled for June 12, has been postponed. More information will be provided as soon as it is available. Ticketholders should retain their tickets until a new date is announced.

The Medicaid agency in Arizona will help sustain health care providers during the coronavirus pandemic by advancing more than $41 million in scheduled payments.

The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, which administers Medicaid for the state, will make the payments to hospitals, primary care providers, behavioral health outpatient providers and justice clinic providers who participate in its Targeted Investments (TI) program, according to the office of Gov. Doug Ducey.

“Arizona’s hospitals, doctors and behavioral health professionals have supported those in need during the COVID-19 health emergency and well before,” Ducey said in a statement. “AHCCCS is providing these payments ahead of schedule so we can ensure these health care providers and professionals can continue to serve Arizonans without interruption. My thanks to frontline workers and health care professionals across the state working around the clock to protect public health and safety.”

More than 100 providers were scheduled to receive previously allocated funds in the fall. They will get a portion of that funding – expected in early May – for demonstrating enhanced care coordination as part of the five-year TI initiative supporting the integration of physical and behavioral health services.

More than 106 provider organizations will receive a portion of the funds they were scheduled to receive in the fall of 2020 as a part of their successful participation in the five-year Targeted Investments initiative, which supports providers as they integrate physical and behavioral health services. The program rewards participants for meeting certain quality metrics demonstrating enhanced care coordination within and across providers and clinic settings.

As of January, more than 1.6 million Arizona residents received Medicaid, according to Medicaid.gov. As of this month, 79,781 Pinal County residents qualified for the medical assistance, according to healthinsurance.org.

The agency has taken other steps to lend financial support to health care providers in the state, including $5.3 million in additional payments to critical access hospitals.

Gov. Doug Ducey announced an effort to test 30,000-60,000 Arizonans for coronavirus during the next three weekends.

Arizona Department of Heath Services is heading the campaign being called Arizona Testing Blitz. The goal is to test up to 20,000 each weekend beginning May 2.

This Saturday’s testing sites so far:

Banner Health, 1826 W McDowell Road, Phoenix

Banner Health, 7007 W Happy Valley Road, Peoria,

Banner Health, 965 E Germann Road, Gilbert

Banner Health, 525 W Brown Road, Mesa

Banner, 265 W. Ina Road, Tucson

Walgreens, 10315 E. Broadway Blvd., Tucson

Walgreens, 5385 N. Dysart Road, El Mirage

More sites are being added daily. Learn more and pre-register here

There will be drive-through or onsite testing will be available. Testing will be available to anyone who thinks they have been exposed to and could be infected with COVID-19. Criteria are set by each testing site.

“Arizona has placed an emphasis on ramping up testing, but we need more,” Ducey said. “As our healthcare partners develop a more reliable supply of testing materials, we’re working together to take testing availability to the next level.”

The testing blitz begins as Arizona edges toward reopening some parts of the economy. The governor’s executive order regarding “Stay Home” expire April 30. Ducey has not indicated plans to extend closures.

As of today, Arizona has a total of 6,716 confirmed cases. Commercial labs, hospital labs and the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory continue to provide diagnostic testing and have performed 66,543 tests to date.



Ak-Chin Chairman Robert Miguel (left) and Harrah's Ak-Chin Casino General Manager Robert Livingston
The Ak-Chin Indian Community Tribal Council has once again approved funding that will extend payroll for its employees for another two weeks, through May 14.
The nearly 1,500 employees work for the Tribe’s enterprises, including those that work for the Tribal government as well as Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino and UltraStar Multi-tainment Center employees.
“As we continue to monitor the situation regarding COVID-19 in order to re-open our enterprises, the Tribal Council has advised management at Harrah’s Ak-Chin, at UltraStar and our tribal administration to remain closed through May 14,” said Robert Miguel, chairman of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.  “As such, our Tribal Council has authorized another two weeks payroll funding for all employees at our enterprises.”
“Words cannot express how grateful we are to the Tribal Council for their generosity during this time,” said Robert Livingston, general manager of Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino. “We have been evaluating our re-opening protocols and putting in place social distancing measures that will be deployed once we are open.  To know our teams are taken care of financially for another two weeks is a tribute to the importance the Council places on all its tribal employees.”
For Harrah’s employees, the approved funding also covers health insurance benefits for those employees currently enrolled in Caesars’ benefit plans throughout the temporary closure.