State vs. Pima County: The dispute continues over FEMA pods

Federal pods are expected to be up and running early April
Posted at 11:01 PM, Mar 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-30 02:01:32-04

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Pima County leaders are back working with the agency to set up two federal pods in high-risk Latino communities, but the road getting there has been paved with controversy.

A dispute between the state and Pima County with both sides not really "talking" to each other.

It started after the state rejected FEMA's offer to run vaccine pods in Pima County.

Pima County got word of the state's concerns, but didn't get any official word until the Health Director Dr. Cara Christ and the Governor announced decisions and reasons through the media.

Supervisor Steve Christy broached the topic at the last board meeting.

"There's got to be some underlying reason that both parties, the state and Pima County, are not being fully transparent and divulging to the public," he said.

Days later, the state reversed it's decision, but with criticism and concerns.

In a letter to FEMA last week, the health director, Dr. Cara Christ, wrote the state will not help and criticized Pima County on how it's operating vaccine pods.

She wrote, "Bases on our recent experience with Pima County, we have concerns about their ability adequately support your site, given their inability to financially sustain other COVID-19 related public health activities they have chose to undertake, and have since billed the state for unapproved costs."

County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry fired back a response letter stating the county will not need the state's help and the count-run pods been successful so far.

He wrote, "I would like to correct one misunderstanding. The County has the complete ability to financially sustain COVID-19 related public health activities. We did not bill the State for unapproved costs."

He continued, "No further assistance from the State will be needed by Pima County in setting up the federal POD."

Board Supervisor Dr. Matt Heinz said, "This seems to be a little bit of that competitive turf thing. I don't know, but they're expressing lamost their expectation that Pima County would fail to be able to do these and work with FEMA. I think that was frankly hyperbolic and certainly inaccurate."

Supervisor Christy responded to Huckelberry's letter saying his "response raises more questions than answers about the dynamic between Pima County and the state, and as a result, the status of the relationship remains concerning."

The state has said all along that it prefers the feds give the vaccines to the state rather than set up federal pods. Dr. Christ writes, "We remain ready, willing and able to take the additional vaccine and administer it through our existing state sites."

The county says they are expected to begin administering doses at the federal PODS in early April.