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COVID-19 in Arizona: Ducey says state will remain open, prepare for fall

Gov. Doug Ducey emphasized his commitment to keeping the state open in a “safe and healthy way” during a news conference Thursday, with no current plans for “dramatic changes” to be made despite “a gradual rise in cases.”

“Arizona’s economy is open, Arizona’s educational institutions are open, Arizona’s tourism institutions are open,” the second-term Republican said. “The expectation is that they are going to remain open.”

The number of deaths reported daily in Arizona peaked in mid-July, when more than 90 COVID-19 related deaths were being recorded on a daily basis. As of Friday, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 216,367 cases of COVID-19 and 5,587 deaths in the state. It said 1,713,405 tests for COVID-19 have been completed in public and private labs in Arizona, and 10.5% of tests have come back positive for the virus that causes the disease.

The presidents of Arizona’s three public universities – Arizona State University, University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University – joined Ducey on Thursday to discuss efforts to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus on campuses and across the state.

“Arizona’s progress to combat the coronavirus would not be possible without the partnerships we’ve forged along the way, with possibly none being more important than those with universities,” Ducey said. “Arizona’s universities are proving once again why they are some of the finest in the world.”

Ducey announced Arizona will invest $14 million to fight COVID-19 at all three universities, with $8 million provided for COVID-19 testing, wastewater testing and response efforts. ASU will receive $6 million to help develop a portable point-of-need test, which would provide results in minutes from a saliva sample.

Ducey said a rise in cases is expected this fall, but he attributed the rise in numbers to the added technology, which will allow for more testing and with faster results, and said as a whole the numbers show a slowing spread.

“What you should look at is our positivity rate, our hospital capacity, our ICU capacity, which are all at all-time lows,” Ducey said. “There’s things that we can do, just like we have been doing — socially distancing, wearing masks, washing hands. But Arizona’s open, and we’re going to remain open in a safe and healthy way.”

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Navajo Nation reissues shelter in place order

In response to clusters of positive cases on the reservation, Navajo leaders reissued a shelter in place order this week, including a weekend lockdown beginning Friday night. The order is a preventative measure to stop the spread of COVID-19 outside of these clusters to prevent the Navajo Nation’s health care system from being overwhelmed. Going forward, residents of the reservation are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible, avoid all non-essential travel and get immunized against influenza as soon as it’s safe to do so.

ASU to develop rapid saliva test

ASU announced that researchers a part of its Biodesign Institute received $6 million from the state of Arizona to develop a portable, saliva-based test that delivers results in 20 minutes. Working prototypes are expected in six months, according to a university news release.

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