ICE Detention

Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees gather in the yard at the Eloy Detention Center in this 2017 photo. As of Aug. 5, ICE reported 248 detainees at Eloy had tested positive for COVID-19, the third-highest among ICE facilities nationwide. (File photo by Charlene Santiago/Cronkite News)

ELOY — The summer virus crisis in Arizona appears to be easing, but not for two Pinal County "prison towns."

The Arizona Department of Health Services reported 507 new cases of the coronavirus in the state Tuesday morning along with 15 deaths. That puts the state total of cases reported at 202,342 and deaths at 5,044.

In Pinal County, Eloy reported 51 new cases, bringing its total to 979, while Florence reported 13, bringing its total to 1,382. Overall the county reported only 66 new cases, so almost all were from the two communities.

Eloy and Florence are home to private, state and federal detention facilities with thousands of inmates and employees. It is unclear how many cases reported from the communities are from the prisons as the facilities are in charge of administering their own tests.

However, last week a large number of new cases reported in the Florence ZIP code may have prevented the county from reaching a benchmark that would have allowed the reopening of certain businesses, such as fitness centers and bars.

As of Tuesday, there were more than 25.3 million global infections and over 850,000 deaths, with the U.S. accounting for more than 6 million infections and 183,000 of the dead. About 68,000 of the U.S. deaths have come since the start of summer, with the number of American infections nearly tripling in the same period.

Texas alone amassed more than 10,000 virus deaths in July and August, Florida added over 7,600, and California recorded nearly 7,000. The Sun Belt also includes Arizona, New Mexico, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia.

Americans head into Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of summer, knowing the threat isn't gone as fall brings a return to school, college and sports.

Health experts pinned some of the blame for the summertime surge on Fourth of July parties and other gatherings, and now they worry that Labor Day will contribute to the virus's spread.

Diego Lozano, 28, of Phoenix, is among those who had his summer travel plans changed by the outbreak. Each year, he joins his parents and grandfather in visiting relatives in the Mexican state of Morelos. But for his grandfather, 75-year-old Lorenzo Lomas Perez, it was his final journey.

Perez died in late July at a Phoenix hospital of complications from COVID-19, and his family brought his remains with them to Mexico.

Because of coronavirus restrictions, there was no traditional open casket ceremony inside a church; the rites were held outside in the cemetery. Only relatives were allowed to attend, when normally the entire village would be expected to come.

“We put him in an urn and then we buried the urn,” Lozano said.

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