KNAU's Morning Rundown: Monday, May 3

May 3, 2021

Overdose Deaths Rise Again In Yavapai County, April Report Says

Overdose deaths in Yavapai County rose by 22% last year, according to a recent analysis from the non-profit MATFORCE. The annual report — which cites data from the Yavapai County Medical Examiner’s Office — documented 82 overdose deaths in 2020. An estimated 31% of those deaths involved individuals under the age of 30. Four were younger than 18. The report reflects a countywide trend of rising overdose deaths in recent years.

Vaccine Availability Expands In AZ

State health officials are moving to expand vaccination accessibility as supply grows statewide. Local healthcare providers may now order the Moderna vaccine directly from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arizona’s seven state-run vaccination sites lifted their requirement for appointments last month — allowing walk-in patients. The state reports more than five million doses of vaccine have been administered so far statewide; 41.2% of the state’s total population has received at least one shot. 

Evacuation Lifts In Pine Lake As Fire Subsides

Mohave County officials have lifted an evacuation order for residents of Pine Lake as the Flag Fire continues to burn in the Hualapai Mountains. Hualapai Park remains closed. The Bureau of Land Management reported on Saturday the fire has burned around 1,280 acres and is 62% containment. BLM officials say the cause remains under investigation. Precipitation last week helped fire crews establish containment lines, though officials say fire danger remains high in the area. Mohave County estimates the cost of fighting the Flag Fire at around $2.5 million as of May 1.

Hopi Nation Enters Second Reopening Phase

The Hopi Nation has moved into its second reopening phase as vaccination rates rise and new cases of COVID-19 remain relatively low on the reservation. Chairman Timothy Nuvangyaoma last week signed an executive order loosening restrictions. The new order allows travel to resume on the reservation, though visitors are discouraged from entering the community; the phase also allows large gatherings under social distancing measures. 

“Schools and organized youth activities ... can reopen for all children if social distancing and infection control practices can be maintained,” the order also states.

 The tribe estimates more than 53% of residents have received a COVID-19 vaccine so far. Officials last week reported six recent cases in a two-week period, continuing a case rate far lower than the tribe’s January surge. 

Applications Open For Contested Lethal Bison Removal In Grand Canyon

The National Park Service is accepting applications for volunteers to participate in the lethal removal of bison from the Grand Canyon’s North Rim. Park Service officials say eligible applicants must pass a marksmanship test and possess firearm certification; the Park plans to select 25 people to hunt the bison. The animals were introduced to the Grand Canyon over a century ago as part of an unsuccessful breeding experiment; Park officials estimate nearly 90 bison have been relocated from the area in coordination  with Indigenous tribes. Nearly 120 have been killed through organized hunts by the Game and Fish Department. 

Flagstaff City Officials Discuss Alternate Response Funding 

Flagstaff Mayor Paul Deasy says the city will allocate $2.3 million over the next three years to bolster what he calls an “alternate response” to law enforcement. The funding, Deasy says, will support social workers and medics in responding to some 911 calls. The announcement came last week after an hours-long council meeting discussing policing; Deasy says the majority of the council did not support taking funding from the Flagstaff Police Department. The FPD last fall also began routing certain calls concerning mental health to Arizona’s Crisis Response Network. FPD reports an officer fatally shot a civilian once in the year 2017, once in 2018, and once in 2019.