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Morning Rundown: Thursday, July 29

Angela Gervasi

State Health Director To Leave Position; Leadership Plans Still Unclear

Dr. Cara Christ will resign next month after serving as the Ariz. Dept. of Health Services director for 13 years. Christ says she will transition into an executive position as chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield Arizona.

Gov. Doug Ducey says by the time she resigns Aug. 27, Christ will have served longer than any health director in state history.

“The past year has been unprecedented,” Christ wrote in a statement to ADHS staff.

Christ led the state’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year-and-a-half. She’s received criticism at times from public health advocates including former ADHS director Dr. Will Humble ?— most recently for the governor’s executive order barring certain COVID-19 mitigation precautions from schools and universities. Christ says additional news is forthcoming regarding ADHS leadership.

State health officials reported 1,759 new COVID-19 cases this morning; ADHS has confirmed more than 1,000 daily cases for the past 11 consecutive days, marking a continued uptick.

Authorities Confirm Death Of Cottonwood Teenager After Severe Flooding

Credit Yavapai County Sheriff's Office

The body of 16-year-old girl Faith Moore was recovered on the banks of the Verde River, Cottonwood Police Chief Steve Gessell announced Wednesday at a press conference. Moore was swept away by floodwaters Saturday night; she had contacted authorities after her vehicle became stranded in knee-high water. Moore’s disappearance prompted a days-long search from multiple agencies and volunteers. Gessell on Wednesday expressed gratitude for community members and thanked personnel and volunteers for their search efforts.

A statement from the Moore family was also released, thanking the community for helping to recover the teenager.

Navajo Nation Awaiting School Reopening Plans

The Navajo Nation is preparing for schools to reopen with in-person coursework as the new school year approaches. President Jonathan Nez says 75 schools have not yet submitted reopening plans to the Department of Diné Education; schools on the nation are required to set plans for remote, hybrid and in person instruction according to Nez’s office.

The Department of Diné Education is also requiring masks and social distances during any level of community spread, according to tribal guidelines released last month. It displays a contrast to Ariz. public schools, which fall under recently passed state legislation prohibiting mask mandates.

Mountain Line To Start Microtransit, Reports Sharp Ridership Decline

Flagstaff’s public transit authority plans to test a microtransit system beginning next month. Mountain Line officials say the pilot will serve commuters on the Huntington and Industrial corridor. The microtransit vehicles, typically smaller than public buses, will be made available to individuals who use a mobile app or call-in option on demand, according to Mountain Line. The public transit system has generally seen a sharp decline in ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, when the Mountain Line cut some of its riding options. Ridership in June 2021 is only about 57% of what the transit system reported in June 2019.

Flood Risks Continue On Hopi

Flooding has continued to impact the Hopi Nation with road closures and muddy conditions after a rise in monsoon activity. Tribal officials say affected villages include Moenkopi and Polacca, and that incident command teams are assessing windmills to ensure safe water hauling for residents.

Last night, the First Mesa Consolidated Villages Office warned of further flooding in the Polacca Wash. One death has been reported on the reservation amid the severe flooding; tribal law enforcement says one man was recovered from a submerged vehicle on Indian Route 6720 and pronounced dead Sunday; two additional adults were transported to the Tuba City Regional Health Care Center.

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