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County gets $1 million for COVID-19 rapid testing kits
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BISBEE — Although Cochise County does have COVID-19 rapid test machines through the Arizona Department of Health Services, rapid testing kits have been harder to acquire due to lack of funding, according to county Public Health Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Craig Janiszewski.

Now the county has $1 million thanks to a grant through ADHS that runs through Feb. 28 to use for COVID-19 rapid testing.

During the Oct. 27 meeting of the Board of Supervisors, Tom Borer, Ann English and Peggy Judd approved the grant that was applied for in July. It will supply thousands of rapid testing kits to facilities that have the machines across the county as requested by Janiszewski.

Increasing testing capacity in Cochise County will allow county officials to know where the virus is and can promote contact tracing. Janiszewski said the kits will allow the county to perform mass testing blitzes if needed.

English noted at the beginning of the pandemic the county had the machines, but no supplies for testing. The grant will enable rapid testing for high risk populations, congregate settings and essential workers.

Borer and English talked about the increase in positive cases in their districts. Both acknowledged positive cases in Douglas and Sierra Vista are on the rise.

English said, “The rise in Douglas doesn’t appear to be from the prison population. These are from community spread. A large portion of the populations of Bisbee and Douglas are good about wearing masks. We need to focus as well on washing hands and social distancing.”

In Sierra Vista, Borer agreed with English and reported, “A lot of people are wearing masks. Most businesses require masks, which is a good thing.”

Though there have been a number of outdoor events in Benson and Willcox, those testing positive remain low.

Judd said it was up to the residents to decide for themselves on the mask issue. “They’re adults. They make their own choices.”

According to the Cochise County Corona Virus Response Hub, as of Friday afternoon 26,546 tests have been administered with 6.3 percent of those positive. There were 185 active cases. There have been 74 deaths.

Janiszewski said in an interview the county has been working with local hospitals and clinics to help them find funding and testing equipment.

“We work with Chiricahua Community Health Clinics, Sierra Vista Medical Center, the Copper Queen Community Hospital and others. We are in constant contact with all our partners,” he added.

HAZMAT $44,807 grant approvedGabe Lavine, Director of Emergency Services, received approval of a $44,807 reallocation grant from the Pipelines Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, which annually funds support for emergency preparedness and response efforts in the county.

The money will be used to purchase two Chempro 100i monitors that can detect dangerous chemicals and help determine the location of such leaks. They will be used for training and to limit wear and tear on current machines.

They are used by more than a half dozen different agencies, including local fire departments and districts, County Public Works, County Engineering, County Public Health Emergency Preparedness and Environmental Health Services and the Office of Emergency Management, Lavine said.

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Law enforcement won't be present at polls Tuesday per state guidelines
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SIERRA VISTA — There won’t be any Sheriff’s deputies or Sierra Vista officers milling about polling locations on Tuesday to ensure that voters are not intimidated by anyone trying to sway their vote.

Police presence at polling stations is discouraged by the Arizona Secretary of State because it could make some voters feel intimidated, the state website shows.

And while the American Civil Liberties Union says voter intimidation is rare, it does occur, and local law enforcement officials say they’ll respond if summoned by polling officials.

Sierra Vista Police Chief Adam Thrasher echoed the secretary of state’s rules.

“Based on guidance from the secretary of state and county elections officers we will not have officers stationed at the polling places; however, we will have officers available to respond to reports of issues as they arise” Thrasher said Friday.

“I am not aware of any reports made about voter intimidation during early voting, although we have taken numerous reports of damage to political signs.”

Ditto for the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. Spokeswoman Carol Capas said deputies would not be present at polling locations, but would respond to any situations if needed.

So far, Cochise County elections officials have not heard of any voter intimidation toward people casting early ballots

“Everyone has been polite and patient so far,” said Cochise County Recorder David Stevens on Friday.

Of course, many polling places have political party observers. But according to state officials, they do exactly that — observe, and nothing more.

The secretary of state’s website says: “All political party observers are required to obtain credentials from their county political party chairperson and must present those credentials at their assigned voting location to observe inside the 75-foot limit. Generally, only one observer per political party is permitted in each voting location. A.R.S. § 16-515(B).”

“Observers shall not obstruct poll workers or the voting process, interact with voters, take videos or photos, act unprofessionally, or otherwise fail to obey the voting location inspector or rules established by the county. Party observers who violate these guidelines may have their credentials revoked by the county and be asked to leave.

“Non-credentialed observers, interest groups, candidates, and members of the media are not allowed within the 75-foot limit. Even if you intend to observe outside the 75-foot limit, observers shall not obstruct voting lines or the entrance to the voting location, or otherwise engage in any conduct that may have the effect of threatening, harassing, or intimidating voters.”

According to the ACLU, examples of intimidation may include:

• Aggressively questioning voters about their citizenship, criminal record or other qualifications to vote in a manner intended to interfere with the voters’ rights.

• Falsely presenting oneself as an elections official.

• Spreading false information about voter requirements, such as an ability to speak English, or the need to present certain types of photo identification.

• Displaying false or misleading signs about voter fraud and the related criminal penalties.

• Other harassment, particularly toward non-English speakers and voters of color.

The ACLU also says if someone experiences voter intimidation, he or she should immediately report it to a poll worker.

You can also call The Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE or 888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español); or the U.S. Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline: 800-253-3931; TTY line 877-267-8971.