Graham County has submitted over 100 specimens for COVID-19 testing and we are fortunate and pleased to report we have had only 2 positive cases. Upon discovery of the first positive case our County Health Department took immediate and effective action in quarantining several individuals and families and testing symptomatic individuals who had direct contact with the positive test. As a result of those efforts the positive cases were contained and we are pleased to report the 2 positive cases have fully recovered.
With that said, around the State the positive numbers continue to grow and right now it is more important than ever to take protective and cautious efforts. Thank you Graham County residents for doing your part! Please continue to social distance, wash your hands, clean high touch areas and stay home except to attend to essential activities and services as outlined by the Governor’s office. Graham County’s #1 priority is the health and safety of our community. Thank you again for all you’re doing as we try our best to protect ourselves, our families and our community.
In response to COVID-19 we have taken multiple layers of action throughout the County, here are some examples by Department of our efforts:
The Board of Supervisors has worked very closely with the City of Safford, Town of Thatcher and the Town of Pima in sharing information and partnering together to provide the best protection plan together for the community. Although schools and non-essential businesses have closed and residents are strongly advised to restrict social activities, Graham County’s Government continues to offer essential services to its citizens. In a 03-18-2020 memo, the Board of Supervisor’s office advised County employees that County offices would remain open for business. Administrative employees who were ill, with compromised health conditions or were primary care givers would be allowed to work from home.
Access to the County General Services Building which houses the Board of Supervisors, Treasurer, Assessor, Recorder, Engineering, Planning and Zoning as well as the Superintendent of Schools has changed to limit COVID-19 exposure. Where possible, business is conducted over the phone or by e-mail. When personal service is needed citizens can call the department number posted at the GSA building entrance. They are then greeted at the door and receive customer service from an employee.
Board of Supervisors meetings are held the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month at 8:00 a.m. Remote attendance by phone, 928-428-8980 is recommended but members of the public may attend in person if social distancing is used. Since March 17 the Supervisors have received as many as 4 briefings a day from Governor Ducey, the AZ Congressional Delegation, the White House, FEMA, National County Associations and Graham County Health and other departments. The Board of Supervisor’s office has led the County in making informed decisions regarding personnel leave policies, maintaining essential government services and protecting public health.
The Graham County Health and Emergency Management Department is the point of the spear for the County’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. They prepared for years for a County wide emergency and secured personal protective equipment and even some ventilators in preparation for this type of crisis. Prior to the first case in Pima they had met with local physicians, the hospital and managers for Pima, Thatcher, Safford and the County to review a unified and coordinated response. They continue to monitor the hospitals in Safford and Peridot as well as the physician’s office and healthcare facilities at jails and prisons for testing, reporting and epidemiologic follow up. Medical supplies from the Strategic National Stockpile, the State Of Arizona and FEMA are received by Graham County and then distributed to health facilities.
As the pandemic progresses, the Graham County Health Department will share information about limiting exposure and effective cleaning countermeasures on the Graham County Webpage. Current information can be found at https://www.graham.az.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=181
The Graham County Sheriff’s Office and Jail public entrance has been closed. In person visits from family members have been curtailed to protect the staff and jail population from exposure to the COVID-19 Virus. Video and phone visits are still available. All detention officers, sheriff’s office staff and deputy’s as well as new arrivals to the jail are tested daily for symptoms by the nursing staff. Misdemeanor and other minor offenders are cited, evaluated and released with a court appearance rather than be incarcerated
The Graham County Superior Court’s preventative measures to reduce COVID-19 exposure include conducting preliminary hearings for jail residents by video conference. This eliminates transporting inmates to and from the jail. Family members and the public may still attend Superior Court proceedings in person if social distancing allows.
The Clerk of the Court’s office has closed access to its office but is conducting business through their reception window. Information on making online payments and downloading forms are available on the Clerk’s web page.
The Graham County Probation Department located on Main Street has a temporary reception and processing area at the exterior entrance to the building to limit exposure to the staff and probationers. As required, the probationer is escorted inside to a private area for interviews and drug testing.
Justice Of The Peace Courts 1 and 2 are liberally granting requests from attorneys, defendants and law enforcement for continuances/postponements based on illness. A video system and teleconferencing are utilized when possible. Social distancing measures are used to prevent large gatherings of spectators. Glass shields have been installed at the clerk’s counters.
The Graham County Fairground Park, paths, playing fields and pondsare currently open. The playgrounds and basketball courts along with the restrooms are temporarily closed. Reservations for building, ramada and field rentals are not being accepted at this time. Full refunds for April and May 2020 facility rentals are available. While future formal reservations with deposits are not being accepted, “save the date” entries for future Fairground events are being penciled onto the calendar. Finally, contacting the Fairgrounds by phone, e-mail or mail is preferred but personal service is still available.
The Graham County Recorder and Assessors Offices continue providing all services to remote and in person clients. Customers are encouraged to utilize the Graham County drop box located in the GSA buildings East parking lot for documents that can be dropped off.
The Planning and Zoning and Engineering departments continue utilizing phone, mail and emails. To keep planning projects moving, notary service for easement documents is available at the General Service’s front door.
The Graham County School Superintendent (GCCSS) communicated early with the Pima School Superintendent when a middle school employee tested positive for COVID-19. During subsequent meetings with school superintendents, the health department & hospital staff, plans to test and isolate school personnel and students exposed to the virus were made. When Governor Ducey announced school closures through March 27 and later the remainder of the school year the GCSS began working with school districts and Sparklight to increase the connectivity of children without the internet or laptops in their homes as well as sharing information on how to access school lunches during the rest of the school year.
The Graham County Fair is scheduled to be held October 8th to 11th. Preparations for exhibitors, entertainment, vendors, the talent show, parade and carnival are underway. Graham County will be ready to socialize and celebrate working together to conquer the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clerk Of The Court Recall Election May 19th – Conducting the Arizona 2020 primary and general elections by mail have been discussed but not authorized at the state level. The current plan for Graham County Voters is to continue to mail out early ballots and open polls for voters on election day.
Payment Of 2nd Half Property Tax – Although many federal, state and utility payment deadlines have been extended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham County’s 2nd half of 2019 property tax deadline have not at this time and will be considered delinquent May 5th. School districts, EAC, fire districts and Graham County services depend on the timely payment of property taxes.
2020 Census – Graham County along with Thatcher, Safford and Pima are working through social media, advertising and networking with its school, social services and church partners to encourage enrollment in the 2020 Census. The deadline for enrolling has been extended since census workers going door to door is on hold. As of April 4th approximately 32% of Graham County residents have been counted. This lags behind Arizona’s 42% and the US 44% rate.