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TUCSON (AP) — Arizona’s second most populous county is prodding its workforce to get COVID-19 vaccinations by requiring employees who refuse the shots to pay more for their health insurance.

The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to make unvaccinated employees lose discounts amounting to about $1,570 annually, local news outlets reported.

Supervisor Steve Christy voted in opposition, saying it was wrong and illegal to penalize unvaccinated workers.

The board previously authorized $300 bonuses plus three days of paid time off for county workers who have been vaccinated.

Supervisor Matt Heinz before Tuesday’s meeting had requested agenda items to consider requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for all state-licensed health workers who work in Pima County, which includes metro Tucson, and re-imposing indoor mask mandates countywide. He dropped both ideas, saying they lacked support among fellow board members.

In other developments:

  • Arizona on Wednesday reported 2,222 newly confirmed COVID-19 infection cases and 26 more deaths, increasing the state’s pandemic totals to 1,037,012 confirmed cases and 19,079 deaths.

Pinal County reported 447 new cases with two additional deaths. That brings the county total to 64,611 positive cases with 957 deaths.

The number of virus-related hospitalizations during the current surge continued to gradually increase with 2,090 COVID-19 patients occupying hospital beds as of Tuesday, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

That’s over half of the peak hospitalizations during the 2020 summer surge and about two-fifths of the pandemic peak during last winter’s surge.

  • The Mohave County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to authorize the hiring of two new two public health workers to track the pandemic and educate the public about COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations.

The board voted 4-1 Tuesday to authorize hiring an epidemiologist and a community health education specialist after at least one board member questioned whether the positions were necessary, The Miner reported.

Public Health Director Denise Burley said her department would encourage residents to get vaccinations and to talk with their medical providers,

Supervisor Hildy Angius voted to authorize the hirings but said many people distrust information provided by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A suburban Phoenix school district is using $3 million of COVID-19 relief funds to install air scrubbers in all of its schools

  • to remove unhealthy particles floating in the air, KNXV-TV reported.

The Dysert Unified School District’s installation of 2,700 scrubbers will have other benefits, said Ken Ricks, assistant superintendent of business services.

“We always have a flu season, we always have sick times. This helps in that environment,” said Hicks. “It takes particulates out of the air and creates healthier air. So, yes, it’s going to continue to have benefits moving forward.”

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