/ Modified apr 16, 2021 6:31 p.m.

News roundup: New administration brings changes to tribal nations, expert explains COVID variants

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, April 16.

Arizona COVID-19 cases: 7 days

Map shows COVID-19 cases and case rates over the week preceding the last update.

Credit: Nick O'Gara/AZPM. Sources: The New York Times, based on reports from state and local health agencies, Census Bureau. Case reports do not correspond to day of test.

Cases 852,570 | Deaths 17,153

On Friday, April 16, Arizona reported 845 new cases of COVID-19 and 30 additional deaths.


Tribal nations: Changes coming with the American Rescue Plan and a new federal administration

The Buzz

In the new federal COVID relief package, there's $31 billion set aside for federally-recognized tribes. This week on The Buzz spoke with Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland about what those funds mean for tribes in Arizona.

The Buzz also spoke to current and former tribal leaders about how they've used those funds and the value of diversity in government.

Listen to the full episode here.


COVID variants, mask studies, Sun Tran services

Arizona 360

A discussion with Dr. Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute, about current variants of COVID-19 and concerns about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine.

University of Arizona sociologist Dr. Jim Shockey explains factors that go into a person’s decision to wear or not wear a mask. Fellow sociologist Dr. Brian Bayer discusses discrepancies in enforcing mask policies at grocery stores.

After more than a year into the pandemic, Tony Paniagua reports on updated ridership numbers for Sun Tran.

Arizona Capitol Times reporter Julia Shumway provides an update on bills passed by the Legislature.

Watch the full episode here.


Coach Adia Barnes gets raise, contract extension

AZPM

Coach Adia Barnes, who guided the Wildcat women's basketball team to this year's NCAA finals, received a 2-year contract extension Thursday from the Arizona Board of Regents. Her contract now runs through 2026.

University of Arizona Athletic Director Dave Heeke praised Barnes' leadership.

The Wildcats reached new heights this year, playing in the N-C-A-A finals where they lost to Stanford by one point.

Barnes' base salary will grow from $580,000 next year to $770,000 starting in 2025. Bonuses for team performance will add to that total.

Learn more here.


Tuition costs hold steady for most Arizona college students.

AZPM

In-state undergraduate students will not see a tuition increase at any of Arizona's public universities under a plan the state Board of Regents approved Thursday.

All three university presidents proposed holding the line on resident tuition in light of the hardships posed by the pandemic.

University of Arizona president Robert Robbins called it a good plan.

Arizona State University is also keeping last year's rates for non-resident and graduate tuition, while the UA and NAU are raising costs by a little more than one percent.

Learn more here.


Navajo Nation reports almost half of its adult residents fully vaccinated

AZPM

The Navajo Nation has now fully vaccinated 91,278 people — almost half of its adult residents.

During a virtual town hall Wednesday Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said 43% of the adult population within the nation had been fully vaccinated.

The tribe reported Thursday there were 20 additional cases, but no new deaths—making it the fifth day without a reported death due to the disease, keeping the total at 1,262 deaths.

As of Friday, 30,355 cases have been recorded by the Navajo Department of Health. Tuesday it found the second case of the California variant of COVID-19, also known as B.1.429.


Jury trials resume in Pima County; differ from pre-pandemic

AP

Jury trials have resumed at Pima County Superior Court, but they are different from the way they were before the COVID-19 pandemic a year ago.

Instead of sitting together in a jury box, jurors now sit throughout the courtroom behind plexiglass partitions. It’s one of several new measures aimed at allowing trials to happen safely.

Court officials say crime victims and their families now have separate viewing areas outside the courtroom to limit the number of people inside. There is also a new questionnaire that allows potential jurors to raise COVID 19-based concerns.

Jurors aren't required to have a coronavirus vaccination. But everyone who comes to court must wear a mask, maintain social distancing and have their temperature checked.

Learn more here.


Arizona reports 845 additional COVID-19 cases, 30 deaths

AP

PHOENIX — Arizona on Friday reported 845 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases and 30 more deaths, topping the state’s latest seven-day rolling averages for both pandemic metrics.

The state's pandemic totals rose to 852,570 cases and 17,153 deaths, according to the Department of Health Services’ coronavirus dashboard.

The latest seven-day rolling average of daily new cases was 689.3 as of Wednesday, up over the previous two weeks from 600.7 on March 31. That's according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Meanwhile, the rolling average of daily deaths declined, dropping from 14.7 as of March 31 to 12.3 on Wednesday. COVID-19-related hospitalizations continued to range between 500 and 600.

Learn more here.


Navajo Nation reports no COVID-19 deaths for 5th day in row

AP

WINDOW ROCK — The Navajo Nation has reported 20 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, but no additional deaths for the fifth consecutive day.

The latest numbers released Thursday brought the pandemic totals on the tribe’s reservation to 30,338 cases and 1,262 known deaths.

Tribal officials had ordered a lockdown last weekend over fears that a new variant could drive another deadly surge. The Stay-At-Home order required all Navajo Nation residents to refrain from unnecessary travel to help limit the spread of the virus, including a new and more contagious strain.

So far, nearly 16,500 people on the Navajo Nation have recovered from COVID-19.

Learn more here.


Navajo Nation Approves Solar Projects For Local Communities

Fronteras Desk

The Navajo Nation has approved a couple of solar projects that will provide electricity to tribal communities.

For decades, a number of Navajos have lived in the shadow of power plants. But many of their homes lacked electricity. Some families burned leftover coal from a mine that fed the Navajo Generating Station. Both the mine and the power plant have closed.

The tribe recently announced plans for a 200 megawatt project near Cameron, and a 70 megawatt project in Red Mesa.

The Navajo Tribal Utility Authority is expected to bring electricity to hundreds of Navajo homes.


Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry names new CEO

AP

PHOENIX — The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry has named an attorney who is a former deputy chief of staff to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey as its new president and CEO.

The Chamber announced Thursday that Danny Seiden will start his new job early this summer.

He replaces Glenn Hamer, who left in February to lead the Texas Association of Business after serving as president and CEO of the state’s largest business group for 14 years.

Seiden is currently working as a corporate counsel and was Ducey’s deputy chief of staff from 2014 through 2018.

Learn more here.


Lawyers say Arizona’s fine over prison care could reach $23M

AP

PHOENIX — Lawyers representing Arizona prisoners say a third round of contempt of court fines against the state for failing to improve health care for incarcerated people could reach as high as $23 million.

The estimate on the maximum possible fine is $7 million higher than previously estimated because of what the attorneys said were their discoveries of additional instances of corrections officials not complying with a six-year-old settlement over the issue.

Corrections officials have been dogged by complaints that they have dragged their feet in fulfilling the state’s promises made in the settlement. Corrections officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Learn more here.

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