San Carlos Apache Tribe adds 13 new COVID-19 cases

SAFFORD —The number of positive cases of COVID-19 on the San Carlos Apache reservation continues to climb.

The San Carlos Apache Healthcare Corporation announced  13 new cases Friday afternoon, bringing the tribe’s total to 79 — 60 on the reservation and 19 off — with two deaths. Five of the new cases involve a family who went shopping in Safford; however, the date of that shopping trip was not disclosed.

Eleven of the tribe’s total cases are in Bylas and 12 are in Peridot, the two districts in Graham County.

“With the continued rise in numbers, a majority of these positive cases are travel related. Remember, the virus doesn’t move — the people move it,” health officials said in announcing the new cases.

The San Carlos Apache Tribal Council has implemented strong protocols in an effort to slow the spread, including the requirement of wearing masks when out of the home, and limits on who can enter and leave the reservation. Violations can carry up to a $1,000 fine.

The Tribal Council issued those orders before Wednesday’s announcement by Gov. Doug Ducey that counties, cities and towns have the authority to require the wearing of face masks in public.

Graham County Health Department did not issue any new orders, but on Friday announced that the wearing of face masks is strongly encouraged.

“Since Arizona lifted its stay-at-home order on May 15, 2020, COVID-19 cases have increased considerably reaching record highs. Because of this, Graham County Health Department strongly recommends wearing a face covering when in public and unable to social distance both outside and indoors. We are asking our residents to take extra precautions and stay home as much as possible,” Health Department Director Brian Douglas said in a prepared statement.

“We are closely monitoring our cases across the county. Decisions will be made based on epidemiological data received from increased testing. Recommendations are subject to change if cases significantly increase.”

Graham County is at 58 cases with two deaths as of Wednesday. The county’s total does not yet include any results from last Saturday’s testing blitz held by Canyonlands Healthcare in Safford.

Greenlee County stands at 14 positive cases with one death.