Gila Valley considering mask mandate

- David Bell Graph/Gila Valley Central

THATCHER — With the number of new COVID-19 cases continuing to climb, and the infection rate skyrocketing, the governing bodies throughout the Gila Valley are considering taking action.

“We have to make decisions on what we’re going to do. And one of them, based on the recommendation of Brian (Douglas, director of the Graham County Health Department) is that we do a mandate on masking,” said Pima Mayor C.B. Fletcher. “The Pima Town Council is having an emergency meeting Monday evening at 6 p.m. at Town Hall and this is the agenda item: whether to support a mandate to wear a mask or do a support measure to the Board of Supervisors saying, ‘Yes, we support this program.’ ”

In addition, the communities are considering an educational blitz to help people understand the impact of safe behavior, which includes physical distancing and reducing large gatherings.

The mayors, managers, supervisors and police chiefs met Thursday with Douglas and Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center leadership on the growth of COVID-19 cases in the Graham County in November.

“It’s just the behavior patterns that we have to change,” said Thatcher Mayor Bob Rivera. “This is getting very, very serious. As we speak now, there have been 33 deaths since the beginning of this COVID pandemic. And there are 33 empty chairs that will be here next week for Thanksgiving; we have to think of that.”

Safford City Council is also scheduled to meet Monday, with a COVID-19 update the first item on the agenda. Rivera said the Thatcher Town Council has not yet scheduled a meeting but council members would be canvassed about a proposed mask mandate. As of Friday, there are no plans for a special meeting of the Graham County Board of Supervisors to take action on a mask mandate.

Graham County Health Department reported 48 new cases Friday. The Gila Valley has experienced 569 new cases and four deaths since Nov. 1, and has a positivity rate of 25.4 percent.

Total confirmed cases in Graham County are now at 1,815, with 759 cases considered active.

Greenlee County

The cases count in Greenlee County also continues to climb.

Greenlee County Health Department reported 12 new cases Thursday evening, bringing the total number of new cases since Nov. 1 to 64. Greenlee’s positivity rate is 7.5 percent.

Total confirmed cases in Greenlee County is at 167, with 74 cases considered active. There have been two deaths.