A late-July spike in Pima County COVID-19 cases shown on the Arizona Department of Health COVID-19 webpage shows ... 642 cases, the highest number of cases by far that month.
On July 2, Barbara Hudson died in the San Carlos Unit in Perryville Women’s Prison in Goodyear. Before her death, she sought medical care for shortness of breath and chest pain, said Kim Crecca, convenor of the Diocesan Prison Ministry, who has volunteered at Perryville and communicates often with prisoners.
Crecca is part of the Arizona Interfaith Network, a group of faith-based leaders across the state that organizes people for social and economic improvement.
“We feel that her death is a rallying cry, not only to help with the release of inmates as possible but also about the underlying conditions there that make them really vulnerable to the virus,” Crecca said.
“It was alarming very early on in our conversations with the state about how they were not addressing the asymptomatic nature of the virus,” said Joe Rubio, lead organizer of the Arizona Interfaith Network.
The faith groups started meeting with Department of Corrections Director David Shinn in April and less often with Dr. Cara Christ, Arizona Department of Health Services director, to discuss what the state could do to better protect inmates from the virus.
“No one who is incarcerated should have a death sentence by virus, but particularly those who are incarcerated for low-level offenses,” [Episcopal Bishop Jennifer] Reddall said. “They should not be put in a place where they’re going to die because of some infraction."
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Tucson Prison Inmates Say Close Conditions, Slow Test Results Spread COVID-19, Arizona Daily Star [pdf]
With 50% of prisoners testing positive for COVID-10 in one prison alone, and after several conversations with the Governor, DOC Director and Director of Health Services, Valley Interfaith Project leaders are calling for rapid testing of prisoners across Arizona.
"Your current testing plan for the state’s prisons, which just commenced, is too drawn out," Valley Interfaith Project leaders said in a letter to Shinn on Wednesday. "The rapid spread of the virus and the still ongoing unevenness of response by your Department will lead to more loss of life without drastic and immediate interventions."
Arizona Prison Stories, Valley Interfaith Project
After hundreds of VIP clergy and leaders, through a petition with their state Arizona Interfaith Network (AIN), called on Governor Ducey to extend the Stay-at-Home order past April 30, the Governor announced an extension of the Executive Order, with gradual loosening of current restrictions over coming weeks.
Clergy representatives of AIN responded with a statement of cautious approval:
"May 15 could very well be a premature re-opening of the state, but we appreciate that the state will proceed cautiously and in accord with CDC guidelines. We could face a disastrous rebound of the Covid-19 crisis if we are not careful and vigilant. This is no time for false optimism. There is only one path to safety and that is an escalation of testing capacity."
Arizona Interfaith Network Applauds Continuation of State Order, Arizona Interfaith Network [pdf]
Ducey Extends Stay-At-Home Order Through May 15 But Eases Some Restrictions on Businesses, The Arizona Republic [pdf]
Hundreds of Arizona religious leaders urged Gov. Doug Ducey to extend his stay-at-home order.
Ducey’s executive order, made over a month ago, is set to expire at midnight on Thursday, unless the governor modifies or extends it.
In a letter organized by the Arizona Interfaith Network, [including Valley Interfaith Project and Pima County Interfaith] religious leaders praised Ducey for issuing the order in the first place. Now the governor must avoid the “false calculus” that pits Arizona’s economy against peoples’ lives, they wrote.
"The economy should serve the common good and promote dignified, safe work, particularly for the most vulnerable,” the letter states. “This a moral decision, not just a business decision. We must do all we can to save lives; life is irreplaceable.”
Ducey faces pressure from Republican leaders in Arizona, including the head of the Arizona GOP, to reopen the economy as soon as possible.
But faith leaders stated that Ducey should rely on clear and convincing science — that means robust testing and contact tracing — to decide when it’s safe to reopen Arizona’s economy.
“The coronavirus will only be contained by broad testing and the application of our best public health measures,” they wrote. “The disease will not cooperate with deadlines imposed by us. It will not respond to political calculations or wishful thinking, and neither should the state of Arizona.”
Religious Leaders Urge Ducey To Extend Stay-At-Home Order, KJZZ Radio [pdf]
Governor Ducey: The Stay-at-Home Order Saves Lives, Arizona Interfaith Network
Key legislative allies in attendance vowed to to protect Medicaid expansion that was won in 2013, re-connect public school funding to inflation and advance new legislation for Respite Care, all part of VIP's 2015 Human Development agenda.
Those that participated in the assembly include: Rep. John Kavanaugh (District 23), Jeff Schwartz and Paula Pennypacker; Effie Carlson, Jay Lawrence, and Bob Littefield; and Michelle Ugenti. District 28 candidates included Senator Adam Driggs and Kelli Butler; and House candidates Rep. Eric Meyer, Rep. Kaye Brophy-McGee and Mary Hamway.Read more
As part of a long-term regional economic development strategy, Valley Interfaith Project leader Monica Dorcey testified at a Maricopa Community College District board meeting to support increasing local investment in the community colleges. "These community colleges are the best driver of economic development that we have," said Dorcey, who is also a member of the board of Arizona Career Pathways, a non-profit job-training program that has a partnership with the community colleges.Read more
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