The coronavirus is affecting the entire world, including the town of Gilbert. Here are the Gilbert, Maricopa County and statewide updates you need to know.
This story will be frequently updated with outbreak-related news and links to other in-depth coverage.
Gov. Doug Ducey announced an agreement March 26 with the state’s electrical utilities to continue to provide power to Arizona’s homes, hospitals and businesses while they face financial difficulties from the coronavirus fallout.
Under the agreement, Gilbert’s providers, Arizona Public Service and Salt River Project, along with Tucson Electric Power and six electric cooperatives hae agreed not to shut off power to anyone for lack of payment and to waive penalties, late fees and interest at this time.
The utility companies will work with their customers to provide flexible options for payment, as well as guidance and choice of rate and payment plans.
Customer service representatives will work with customers desiring to switch plans during this time.
Customer service representatives also are available for individualized service to the hospitals and health care providers.
The utilities have agreed to work with one another across the state to provide resources and coverage for one another to ensure continued reliable service. Resources will be available for rural cooperatives should their crews need supplementing.
Districts offering childcare for essential workers
Chandler USD announced March 25 that it will offer child care for workers in emergency or essential fields. To qualify for care, parents or guardians must be either a medical care worker, a senior care employee, a first responder, a pharmacist, a grocer or food delivery worker, or a member of the military. Valid proof of employment must be provided to the district.
Infants through students in sixth grade are eligible for care Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m.-7:30 p.m. at a cost of $25 per day, or $115 per week.
Gilbert Public Schools also is offering child care for first responders, health care and essential community workers who are needing to report to work. The program is for children ages 3-12. An employee ID will be required while dropping off your child to verify eligibility. The service will be at Spectrum Elementary School and Superstition Springs Elementary School. Program hours are 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. The cost is $125 per week.
Higley USD's Kids Club is operating 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., The cost is $20 a day, with a $25 registration fee for new families. Daily fees will be waived for parents who are first responders or health providers.
Gilbert parks signage
Gilbert has put signs up in its parks to remind people to keep 6 feet away from each other. Mayor Jenn Daniels said in her March 26 video message the No. 1 question she receives is why are so many people at the parks and why are they not practicing social distancing.
Updated March 26 3:34 p.m.
Licensing requirements deferred
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an Executive Order on March 26 that defers certain requirements for licensed professionals for six months.
Under the Executive Order, state agencies and boards will defer requirements to renew licenses that have an expiration date between March 1, 2020 and Sept. 1, 2020 by six months from the expiration date, unless those requirements can be completed online.
Additionally, they will defer requirements to complete continuing education by six months, unless those requirements can be completed online.
State agencies and boards also will suspend any rules that prevent or limit the amount of online or alternative learning hours permitted to issue or renew a license and will attempt to implement electronic or remote format examinations for licensure.
Additionally, state agencies and boards will issue provisional licenses to applicants who have met all other requirements of Arizona statute and administrative code but cannot take the exam because it isn’t provided via electronic or remote format.
At-home AP tests
The governor separately announced that the College Board is developing a new, at-home Advanced Placement, or AP, test. Students will be able to test on a computer or mobile device. More information is available at www.collegeboard.org.
Emissions testing waived for seniors
Gov. Ducey announced Arizona will waive emissions testing for up to one year for those 65 and older to reduce COVID-19 risk.
"This latest action is informed by guidance from public health experts," Ducey said in a news release. "People over age 65 are at higher risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and this is another way Arizona can help encourage social distancing and protect the health of our seniors."
The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality is currently accepting waiver applications for vehicle registration renewals due in March, April or May of 2020. Vehicle owners can apply at azdeq.gov/65waiver or by calling 620-771-3950 and pressing “0” to reach customer service.
Updated March 26 10:45 a.m.
Increasing hospital capacity
Gov. Doug Ducey ordered Arizona’s hospitals March 25 to increase capacity in preparation for a possible influx of patients from COVID-19.
From the executive order, hospitals must activate their facility emergency plans that were developed with funding from the Arizona Department of Health Services in case of a public health emergency.
The order requires hospitals to increase capacity by 25% by April 10 and 50% by April 24.
Hospitals also must implement processes to re-route non-critical patients to other providers and plans to optimize their staffing levels.
Pediatric hospitals must accept patients up to 21 years of age.
The governor also ordered Medicaid insurance plans to cover services provided through the expanded capacity and reimburse hospitals at rates equal to what would be provided without the expanded capacity.
In a release, ADHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said the state has a responsibility to prepare for the worst-case scenario with the pandemic.
“In Arizona, we are fortunate to have time to prepare, and we have a responsibility to bring additional hospital beds online, find needed supplies and identify critical equipment, including ventilators,” she said.
Updated March 26 10:11 a.m.
SRP issues aid
Salt River Project's Board of Directors approved more than $1 million in contributions to help SRP's residential and small business customers who are having difficulty paying their electric bills as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
SRP will provide $500,000 to Wildfire–formerly the Arizona Community Action Agency–which has been providing critical services to Arizona families since 1967. That is in addition to an annual $500,000 contribution SRP makes.
The SRP Board also approved an additional $500,000 in community contributions to several local non-profit organizations, including the Valley of the Sun United Way, Mesa United Way and the Arizona Community Foundation.
SRP's Board also approved $250,000 in contributions to support small businesses in its Valley service territory that are being directly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Updated March 26 9:30 a.m.
A fourth death due to COVID-19 has been reported in Maricopa County. The number of county cases March 26 was 299, up from 251 the day prior. The Arizona Department of Health Services updated the state's transmission level of COVID-19 to widespread. The state reports 508 cases in Arizona across 13 counties.
Updated March 25 5:03 p.m.
SBA loans for small businesses
Small businesses were encouraged to apply for Small Business Administration loans to help them through the coronavirus situation during a town of Gilbert-hosted conference call March 25.
SBA officials told the businesses to apply even if they did not seem to fit the typical parameters for a loan or if their credit was not what would be normally needed for a loan because of the extraordinary circumstances of the moment.
Town Manager Patrick Banger reminded the businesses that the town generally remains open for business even as municipal buildings are shut and Parks and Recreation classes are canceled. He said the town took in 167 permit applications in the past week.
No date for reopening
Mayor Jenn Daniels told businesses on the call and residents in her daily video message that she cannot say when businesses temporarily shuttered by the goverrnor will be free to reopen.
"I am sad to report we do not have a defined date, but stay tuned because obviously as the situation continues to develop, we will get more and more information," Daniels said on the March 25 video.
Parks remain open
On the March 24 video, Daniels said the town's parks remain open as they are considered essential services with people needing to get fresh air. She acknowledged that she has received emails from people concerned about the crowds at parks during a time when people are asked to keep a physical distance from each other.
"We are doing everything we can to step up cleaning and make sure those are sanitary places," Daniels said. "We also know you can't really keep social distancing among 3-year-olds. So we're doing the best that we can and encourage everyone to just be paying attention as their own kids are out there playing. Everyone needs the fresh air."
Gilbert map now includes nonprofits
The town of Gilbert's interactive map to show how residents can help businesses through the coronavirus situation now has been expanded to include nonprofits. Businesses and nonprofits can submit information to the town's Alex data portal and residents can access the map at https://alex.gilbertaz.gov/helpgilbert
Six meals Friday from Higley USD sites
Participants in the meal service program for children under age 18 at Higley USD sites will get six meals Friday, March 27—a breakfast and lunch for March 27-29. A child must be present during the pickup.
Senior meals grant
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded Arizona a $5.3 million grant to provide meals for older adults, Gov. Doug Ducey announced.
The money supports meal delivery programs and programs serving senior centers.
Updated March 25 10:43 a.m.
Telemedicine executive order
Gov. Ducey issued an executive order requiring health care insurance companies to expand telemedicine coverage for all services that would normally be covered for an in-person visit.
The order helps ensure that Arizonans who may be sick or under quarantine can access care from their homes and avoid potentially risky trips to a health care provider, according to a news release from the governor's office. It remains in effect until the termination of the declared public health emergency.
“Access to health care is crucial at a time like this,” Ducey said in the release. “This order will ensure that Arizonans can access care without having to leave home while freeing up much needed capacity for our health care providers and hospitals. It’s commonsense and helps ensure our most vulnerable continue to have access to care in a way that protects them and public health.”
Updated March 25 9:23 a.m.
Case count Maricopa County announced the number of COVID-19 cases in Maricopa County is now 251, up from 199 the previous day.
Updated March 24 5:12 p.m.
GPS remote learning
Gilbert Public Schools is set to open individual teacher Google Sites on March 30 as the district moves to remote learning in the wake of the coronavirus situation.
The district emailed families and posted on its website notice of the coming changes and how they will work.
Teachers are receiving training and professional development in online learning this week, according to the district, and many have started to reach out to their students.
GPS will use Google Education Suite, and other campus-specific collaborative tools, for remote learning. The use of individual teacher Google Sites, which can be accessed through the school directory on individual schools’ websites, is to give easy access to the information required for remote learning and to contact the teacher, according to the district.
Teachers will contact students and parents about educational activities specific to a subject or class/course. Principals will communicate with families regarding the distribution of paper materials to those without internet access.
Assignments at the pre-K-6 grade levels will be used to enhance learning, according to the district. Teachers will provide feedback about the learning, but there will not be grades for the assignments.
Grades for assignments at the 7-12 grade levels will only be used to improve a student’s grade.
All students in grades 7-12 already have a Chromebook device provided by the district. For grades K-6, representatives of the schools will contact families to address computer device needs.
Higley USD messaging
Higley USD said teachers are sending messages to families through ParentVUE, but that some of those messages are not making it to recipient's email addresses because of high volume.
Familes are asked to check their ParentVUE account directly for this communication. They can download the ParentVUE app to receive notifications or sign in on the Higley App to receive notifications. Families who need help with ParentVUE log-in are asked to call their school site.
Updated March 24 2:55 p.m.
Governor suspends rental evictions for 120 days
Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order March 24 delaying the enforcement of eviction orders for renters impacted by COVID-19.
The order applies to renters who are quarantining from COVID-19 or are facing economic hardship from the outbreak. It is in effect for 120 days.
The order follows similar federal action for Department of Housing and Urban Development-financed properties. The Federal Housing Finance Authority also directed Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to suspend foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days.
The Arizona Department of Housing offers assistance for Arizonans to make mortgage payments through Save Our Home AZ.
Updated March 24 10:19 a.m.
Childcare for essential workers
Gov. Doug Ducey and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman announced a partnership to launch Arizona Enrichment Centers beginning next week to offer childcare for the children of first responders, critical healthcare workers, and essential public sector workers, including child safety workers, according to a news release.
“This initiative will offer critical support for the women and men working on the front lines to respond to COVID-19,” Ducey said in the release. “We will continue to work with our outstanding school leaders all across Arizona to provide more capacity to serve these families.”
Key things to know about the Student Enrichment Centers:
Children and staff/volunteers will have their temperatures taken upon entering the enrichment center—anyone with a fever will not be admitted.
Volunteers/staff at the enrichment centers will wipe down surfaces frequently with disinfectant.
Each room will not exceed a safe maximum of students, supported by at least one adult; this will both allow for personalized attention and will meet social distancing needs.
Children will be offered a site based on their home address and their parent or caregiver’s eligibility.
Districts are working to select schools in close proximity to hospitals to add convenience for health care workers.
Centers will be open Monday through Friday. Hours may vary by location.
The environment will be safe and supportive, and staff will be prepared to respond to children’s social and emotional needs. All staff will complete background checks.
Children will be allowed to bring remote devices so they can work on schoolwork while at the centers.
Public-private partnership secures medical supplies
The state of Arizona has secured 1 million N-95 masks and other medical supplies through a public-private partnership, Gov. Doug Ducey announced.
The partnership is with the state, the BSTRONG Initiative with the Global Empowerment Mission, and the Verstandig Foundation.
The Verstandig Foundation from Grant Verstandig, chief digital officer of UnitedHealth Group, is donating the first 250,000 masks anticipated to be delivered within 10 days.
The BSTRONG Initiative from former reality television star Bethenny Frankel works with suppliers and charities to raise money and aid for victims of disaster.
This latest acquisition is in addition to the protective equipment the state will receive from the Strategic National Stockpile.
Here are a few more update from across the region:
Ducey announced the state has launched a new website that brings together resources for individuals, businesses and volunteer opportunities called Arizona Together. He also launched the AZ Coronavirus Relief Fund that supports organizations combating COVID-19, which is housed on the Arizona Together website.
Another death in Maricopa County
Maricopa County announced March 24 a third coronavirus patient in the county has died. The total case count is 199, up 60 from March 23.
Town meeting closed to the public
The Gilbert Town Council meets at 6:30 p.m. March 24, but the meeting is closed to public attendance. It can be watched live on local access cable Channel 11, through Gilbert Live online streaming, by conference call (1-415-655-0001, Access code: 803 641 419) and through WebEx audio.
The meeting will include the swearing in of new Council Member Bill Spence, who was appointed March 17 to replace Eddie Cook. The agenda can be found here.
Information from March 20-23 can be found here.
Information from March 16-20 can be found here.
Community Impact Newspaper Editor Alexa D'Angelo contributed to this report.