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Maricopa completely sold out of surgical masks amid virus fears
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — With fears of the new coronavirus, COVID-19, on the rise across the United States many are taking precautions, including buying surgical masks in bulk.

PinalCentral called the Walmart, Walgreens, CVS, Fry’s and Bashas stores in Maricopa to find out their supply level. While some employees said their stores could get restocking shipments Friday, many were unsure if there would be more surgical masks.

An employee for CVS said they get their masks from China and did not think they would be getting more any time soon.

“It’s indefinite. China quit issuing them,” the employee said. “That’s where CVS gets them from. We don’t know when we’ll get more. We’re sold out.”

At Walgreens, a manager who wished to remain anonymous said the store had sold out that week and wasn’t sure when more would be in stock.

“We’re not for sure because some of them were actually on backorder because I’ve been selling a bunch of them. So I’m not sure when we’re gonna get them,” she said. “On Friday we might get some. I’m not positive, though.”

At Walmart, a salesperson said she’d stocked an entire endcap of masks and sold the last three boxes that morning. She also wasn’t sure when more would be in stock.

As of publication, only Ace Hardware had a few packs of respiratory masks left on the shelf — a different kind of mask than surgical.

Meanwhile, on Amazon, prices of medical masks skyrocketed to more than $200 for a pack of 100, or $98 for 50 masks. Many didn’t have a shipment date or, if they did, it was three to five weeks out.

Though it is clear that Maricopans are worried about the spread of the virus, there are many debates as to how effective face masks are at preventing the spread of contagious illnesses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not believe a healthy person needs to wear a face mask unless they are coming into contact with an infected person.

“CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a face mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases, including COVID-19,” the CDC wrote on its website. “Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others. The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).”

The CDC believes the virus is spread person-to-person via respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes or coughs, though it is still unsure if COVID-19 can be passed through contact.

“It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the CDC wrote on its website.

As is the case with all respiratory viruses, the “CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue.”

The only reported case of COVID-19 in Arizona was a man living in Tempe who had recently returned from Wuhan, China. An Arizona State University student, he was quarantined last month and released last week virus-free.

At present, the CDC says there are 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. However, the CDC warns that schools, hospitals and businesses should begin preparing for a possible pandemic.

“It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen anymore but rather more of a question of exactly when this will happen,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a news briefing.

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Salsa Fest back with new Salsapalooza, featuring heavy metal mariachi
 ksawyer  / 

MARICOPA — For the 16th year in a row, the city of Maricopa is preparing to put on its now-biggest event of the year, the Salsa Festival.

On Saturday, the salsa competitors will offer tasty samples for guests to place on their trays and will also be entered in a salsa contest. This year, Salsa Fest has hired a judging company, committed to making sure the judging is fair and accurate. Salsas will be double-blind tasted by a panel of judges and randomly selected audience members.

Judges include Josie Ippolito, president and owner of My Nana’s Best Tasting Tortilla Chips, and “Mad Coyote Joe” Daigneault, cookbook author and host of the Emmy Award-winning program “The Sonoran Grill.”

The competitors for top prizes are mainly locals with a few outsiders in the mix. City of Maricopa, Santa Cruz Elementary School, UltraStar Multi-tainment Center, Salsa Patron, Etsitty Salsa, Hay Salsa Lovers, 7th Son Salsa, Great American Barbecue, Playa Tequila Salsa Cantina, Lolo’s Mild Salsa, 2Dudes Salsa, Cooking From Roots Catering and Tango Mango Salsa are all duking it out one salsa sample at a time.

Attendees can buy a tray of tortilla chips for $1 and take it around to the many salsa vendors in attendance.

The fest will be held from noon to 8 p.m. Saturday at Copper Sky Regional Park. Those interested in attending are encouraged to take one of the free shuttles because parking is limited.

Prepaid parking is $5, and $10 the day of at Copper Sky. Complimentary shuttles will run 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. from Maricopa Elementary School, Saddleback Elementary School, Maricopa Wells Middle School and Maricopa High School.

In addition to the traditional salsa tasting, the free event will feature a new Salsapalooza concert with three performers. Supernatural, a Santana cover band, will kick the night off, followed by Karla Perezas with the Selena Show — known around the world as “the top Selena tribute artist” — and a particularly exciting band called Metalachi. The heavy metal-mariachi fusion group has been around since 1982 and, though the five band members have changed since then, their aesthetic is the same.

“There’s been so many different things that inspire us,” said Paco Halen, band member for Metalachi. “We listen to different music, different artists all the time so we’re always getting inspired. We heard this song by Iron Maiden, and we’re like, ‘Oh, wow, that would be really cool as a mariachi song.’ Or a song by Metallica like ‘Oh, we can put some hot sauce on that,’ you know. Over the years it has been progressing and getting better and better and we’re fine-tuning things. We’re excited to keep this train rolling.”

Band members include Vega De La Rockha, El Cucuy, Paco Halen, Kiko Cane and Warren Moscow with a new hard-core violinist named “Queen” Kyla Vera. All of the members grew up playing traditional mariachi in and around Hollywood but were strangers until they answered the call to join the band on Craigslist.

Halen, a seven-year veteran of the band, sees many similarities between mariachi and metal musically and also the crowds they draw.

“Well, they both like to party, that’s a fact. People who listen (to) and play both types of music are party animals,” Halen said, laughing. “They’re obviously using different instrumentation, but there’s a lot of similarities in the music. Both types of music are very percussive.”

They’ll be showing off their musical skills live on stage at Copper Sky, where spectators can enjoy their spicy mix of metal and mariachi for free and maybe some spicy salsa, too.

“We’re excited to be able to play in front of everyone who’s there and honestly, I’m a spice lover. I love spicy salsa,” Halen said. “I’m really excited to try out some of the different types of salsa you guys have there. I’m ready for my (rear end) to be on fire.”

With the addition of these three live performances, and the removal of a few fairground novelties, the city of Maricopa is hoping to move away from a traditional festival concept.

“(We’re) trying to draw more regional appeal,” said Ellen Buddington, head of special events and marketing for the city. “What we’re doing right now is trying to attract more tourism in Maricopa, especially with a draw like Metalachi. … They have a large fan base. So we’re hoping that we’ll put Maricopa on the map.”

In addition to the concert, there will be a beer garden, lawn games and a hot wings eating contest.

The Salsa Festival has changed a lot since its inception and humble beginnings. Buddington is excited to see the direction the event is going and anticipates it will only grow larger with each passing year.

“I’m excited to see the new format this year. … I think it was much more of a neighborhood event at its origins,” Buddington said. “(It) used to be much more of a neighborhood community event, and now it’s just getting bigger into where it’s become our biggest event of the year.”

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2 arrested for murder of CG area man found near Maricopa

MARICOPA — Two men were arrested Friday for killing a Casa Grande area man and dumping his body in the Santa Cruz Wash near Maricopa.

Robin Franklin, 37, and John Radcliff, 36, were arrested on first-degree murder Friday in connection with the death of Troy Beebe, 48, of Casa Grande.

On Thursday shortly before 10 a.m., the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office received a call about a deceased man found in the Santa Cruz Wash off Anderson Road, just south of Maricopa-Casa Grande Highway.

That body was later identified as Beebe’s.

“Through our investigation, we determined Mr. Beebe had been the victim of a vehicular assault near his home. His body was then relocated to the wash, which is where our Deputies located Mr. Beebe deceased,” said PCSO spokeswoman Lauren Reimer.

PCSO detectives arrested the two suspects in connection with the case.

Franklin and Radcliff were booked into the Pinal County Adult Detention Center in Florence.

“Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Beebe, as they deal with the loss of a loved one,” said Sheriff Mark Lamb said in a statement Friday. “I want to thank all of our staff involved in investigating this case. Within hours, they were able to track down both suspects and take them into custody. Hopefully, this will bring the victim’s family some closure.”

In June 2010, Franklin was arrested after the shooting death of Benjamin Franklin in Picacho. Robin Franklin was wounded with several gunshots and was flown to Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix for treatment. He was eventually convicted of aggravated assault.

Franklin and Radcliff are both being held without bond.

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Pumas capture another championship with enough heroics to go around

PHOENIX — For eight years, the Sequoia Pathway Pumas have been a force to be reckoned with in girls basketball. In what was the end of an era, they went out as they have always aspired to be and so often become: champions.

For the second straight year, the Pumas hugged each other on the court at Talking Stick Resort Arena having won a Canyon Athletic Association state championship, this time in Division III. The win capped off an undefeated season, but it did not come easy. In fact, they needed plenty of heroics from many different places to defeat East Valley Athletes for Christ 46-43.

That role was filled by first-year Puma, senior Che’leez Smith-Ralph, who put together a performance for the ages to win the Most Valuable Player. She finished with 27 points and 26 rebounds. Those stats don’t even account for her presence around the rim that steadied the Pathway ship all game.

It was filled by Iniko Green-Burton, who as only an 8th-grader stepped up to the free throw line with less than a minute left in the game and gave her team the lead for the final time.

And of course, it was filled with Aleina Estrada, the soul of the team who took every inbounds pass with the lead knowing she would be fouled and knowing should would make the free throws. She hit all four to seal the game.

“Everybody had a part. Everybody did,” said Pathway coach Dee Estrada. “Whether they were the dribbler, the shooter, the rebounder, setting picks, everybody had a job and I think that’s why we won this game. Everybody was able to go out there and display their unique talent, whatever that may be.”

Before the game settled into a tightly contested match, the first quarter was all about a series of runs. EVAC — an association of East Valley homeschool students — scored the first seven points of the game as the Pumas turned the ball over their first three possessions.

“Honestly, I just think they were nervous,” Dee Estrada said. “I think they realized at the end of the day it’s just basketball and we came here for one reason and that’s to represent Maricopa. … The only advice I had for them was to realize once it’s gone it’s gone, so just go out there and play basketball.”

Thanks to Aleina Estrada’s ball handling and Smith-Ralph’s control of the glass, Pathway was able to match that and tie it at 7, including five straight by the latter. Then the Eagles once again scored seven straight to close out the quarter.

After falling behind eight early in the second, the Pumas were in need of another run, and they got exactly that to tie the game at 15. Their first lead came with four minutes left in the half, and they kept it all the way to intermission, leading 23-22. Smith-Ralph had 11 points and 15 rebounds at halftime.

“I had to come out here and work hard,” Smith-Ralph said. “I had to make sure I got my team ready and make sure they stayed motivated. … I had to stay true on defense and roll low. Once I realized what they were doing, I was able to block my side off.”

The game slowed down quite a bit in the third, as both teams cracked down on defense and didn’t allow any separation to take place. That said, Pathway was able to hold on by once again controlling the paint and not turning the ball over too often.

It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Eagles started to put some buckets together and come surging back. They took the lead with 4:30 left in the game, and looked set to pull away thanks to some timely 3-pointers by Allison Miller and Ella Hoover.

It was then that the nerves started to set in for the Pumas desperate to defend their title.

“When you block out all the crowd and don’t listen to what everybody else is saying, just focus on your game, it works out,” Smith-Ralph said.

With that attitude, the Puma defense stayed strong and allowed their captain, Aleina Estrada, to take control of the pace. She tied the game at 40 with 1:10 left. Then Green-Burton showed Pathway’s future has plenty of poise by taking the lead with a free throw.

“She’s going to go on to do great things,” Dee Estrada said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it is to be pulled up as an eighth grader and having to step up a game to the level of girls who are 17 and 18.”

After that, it was all about defense and getting the captain the ball, and she delivered on her teammates’ trust by knocking down all four free throws she took in the final minute.

“That was the total gameplan at the end,” Dee Estrada said. “Just give the ball to Aleina and let them foul her so we can get to the line. She works on her free throws all the time, so that’s what we knew we needed to do.”

This is the end of an era in many different ways for Pathway. Not only was it the final game for Aleina Estrada, Smith-Ralph, Destiny Rosales and Aaliyah Scott, but it’s also the final bow for the team in the Canyon Athletic Association as the school prepares to play in the larger Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Their coach doesn’t know what the future has in store for the program in AIA. That all remains to be seen. But she is sure that they have accomplished more than even what three state championships in eight years might indicate. She could only describe it as a blessing.

“My goal was never to make a superstar basketball player,” Dee Estrada said. “The intention that I’ve always had in my mind was to build good people for our community — good women, good mothers, sisters, daughters. These girls can go out there and continue their education, go to college, and just be good people who will someday come back and give back to the community. You know, the fact that they ended up being superstar basketball players, that’s just a plus.”