COVID-19 more prevalent in Graham County’s younger population

- David Bell Graph/Gila Valley Central

SAFFORD — Younger people continue to be the group experiencing the greatest number of COVID-19 cases in the Gila Valley.

Forty-three percent of all the cases in Graham County since the start of the pandemic involve people ages 20- to 44-years-old, while 22 percent involve those 20 years old and younger.

Graham County Health Department announced 15 new cases Tuesday, with seven of the cases in those 20-44 and four in those 20 and younger.

“The nature of this virus is that, when people congregate, it spreads. That’s just what it does,” Health Department Director Brian Douglas told the Safford School Board last week. “We have been finding some issues with sports — with close contact (and) with the transportation to get to out-of-town games. When they’re on the bus two or three hours away and two or three hours back, that does create exposure.”

Of the new cases, eight involve residents on the San Carlos Apache Reservation, four are in Safford, two in Thatcher and one in Pima.

Graham County’s total is at 1,053, with 262 of the cases considered active and there have been 27 deaths.

Greenlee County Health Department reported seven new cases late Monday evening, the eighth time this month new cases have been announced. There have been 22 new cases in Greenlee County since October 1.

Greenlee County’s total is at 81, with 22 of the cases considered active. There have been two deaths.

Graham County Health Department, in conjunction with the Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, will conduct another testing blitz using the saliva collection method Friday, Oct. 23, at Graham County Fairgrounds.

Appointments for Saturday’s free testing blitz — from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Graham County Fairgrounds — are strongly encouraged.

To reserve a time, log in at and enter the agency code SALIVATEST. Once logged-in to the portal, click on “Appointments” to schedule a time. Arrive no more than 15 minutes before scheduled.

Requirements of the saliva test include:

• One must wear a protective face covering — either cloth or surgical mask

• Bring the QR code received after scheduling a test appointment

• 30 minutes before the appointment, rinse the mouth with plain water for 20-30 seconds and then spit the water out

• Do not eat, drink (even water), smoke, vape or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to the appointment time (any of these factors may cause an invalid test and/or the test may be rejected by clinical personnel at site collection)

• Staying well hydrated by drinking water the day before and up to 30 minutes prior to the test will speed the saliva collection process.

Results will be available at the online portal about 48 hours after the test.