Arizona governor requests Trump make disaster declaration

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona's governor on Wednesday asked President Donald Trump to issue a major disaster declaration for the state as it braces for a surge of coronavirus cases.

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Gov. Doug Ducey said the move is needed to trigger higher federal aid and resources. A declaration would add funding for more mental health care, unemployment and food assistance, the tribal health response and other state efforts.

Ducey also urged understanding as people and small businesses face due dates for bills such as mortgages, rent and utilities with the start of a new month.

“The world has changed since March 1," Ducey tweeted. He said no family, individual or business should face eviction or lose critical services because of hardships caused by the coronavirus.

“It's basic decency," he said.

Thomas Pristow, Coconino County's chief health officer, cited what he said is a staggering national model to project COVID-19 cases in a renewed request to shut down Grand Canyon National Park. The federal government approved the request Wednesday.

Arizona on Wednesday reported at least 1,413 coronavirus cases and 29 deaths, a rise of more than 120 cases and five fatalities from the previous day.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

An emergency rule approved by the state Board of Education on Tuesday means public high school seniors can receive a diploma or academic credit despite school closures through the end of the school year due to outbreak, KJZZ reported.

The emergency rule gives local school officials discretion to decide whether a student should receive a diploma or academic credit but says instruction time lost due to school closure can't be the sole reason to not issue a diploma or academic credit.

While officials can consider students’ completion of educational opportunities offered during the closures, they can't under the rule deny a diploma or credit to a student whose school didn't offer distance-learning and if the student was on track academically before the closure.

In Flagstaff, a laid-off restaurant employee has asked a court to throw out COVID-19 prevention orders issued by Ducey and Flagstaff Mayor Coral Evans in mid-March that restricted restaurants to takeout and drive-thru services.

Joseph McGhee said he lost his job as a result of the orders. He argued the orders were an unconstitutional overreach that was “based upon nothing more than manifest mass hysteria utterly unsupported by any measure of valid scientific fact.”

McGhee's lawsuit was filed a week ago, before Ducey issued a broader stay-at-home order. Restaurants remain restricted to take-out services. Another Flagstaff restaurant worker who filed the lawsuit with McGhee now plans to drop out of the case.

“As a former small business owner, the governor understands the impact these public health decisions have on real people and on the economy,” said Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak. “They aren't made lightly. But his top priority right now is managing the pandemic and saving lives.”

Jessica Drum, spokeswoman for the city of Flagstaff, declined to comment on the lawsuit.