APACHE, NAVAJO COUNTIES — When you get in your car and head out to shop, run errands or pick up a prescription, will you need a mask?
The idea of wearing a mask to protect others or protect one’s self has become inflammatory, personal, political and divisive, not to mention – confusing.
White Mountain businesses that are requiring employees to wear masks are increasing in number but the issue of requiring customers to wear a mask or face covering is a kaleidoscope of variations. Enforcing mask requirements is, for the most part, passive which means businesses don’t have the staff or the training to deal with resistance. Nor do they want to alienate their customers in a time where making up sales revenue is critical.
Arizona’s mask mandate began on June 18 in Gov. Doug Ducey’s office when he issued an executive order to allow local governments to impose and enforce their own mask policies to slow the spread of COVID-19.
In response to the order, some cities and towns across Arizona issued resolutions to require their residents wear masks when in public and when social distancing is not possible.
In the White Mountains and Rim Country, Holbrook, Payson, Pinetop-Lakeside and Winslow implemented mask or face-covering policies. The Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe had already done the same.
On June 24, the Town of Pinetop-Lakeside issued an emergency proclamation requiring the wearing of face coverings in public “in order to preserve the public health, safety and welfare of the Town, its residents, businesses, visitors and employees ...”
On June 29 , the city of Show Low held a special meeting in which the city council voted not to issue a mandate regarding the wearing of masks in public. However, the city issued an emergency proclamation that upholds Governor Ducey’s existing Executive Orders which includes mask requirements for certain businesses and industries.
Mayor Daryl Seymore clarified that Show Low would not “dictate” that masks be worn but would begin an education program with local businesses to help them decipher Gov. Ducey’s requirements.
Some local businesses have required that their employees and customers wear masks even if the town or city has not issued a proclamation or mandate. For larger entities like Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes and Walgreens, it has become a corporate policy for employees and customers.
Show Low, like Tempe, Tucson and many other municipalities have said they will focus their efforts in educating their residents about the benefit of wearing masks, rather than leaping into enforcement through civil citations or fines. Most cities have written into their policies an exception for infants, young children and those with underlying health conditions that make it difficult for them to wear a mask.
Some businesses also provide free masks to customers that don’t have them but most establishments are hard-pressed to enforce mask wearing.
Displayed is a chart listing of some Southern Navajo County businesses that require their customers wear a mask upon entry. This is a random sampling and is not an all-inclusive list.
COVID-19 case update
COVID-19 remains widespread in Arizona with 150,609 reported cases as of Wednesday, July 22. Arizona is one of the top five “red zone” states for coronavirus.
Arizona has one of the highest infection rates based on the number of new cases per day and the rate of cases per 100,000 population. Florida, California, Texas, and Georgia are the other four top “red zone” states.
In Navajo County, 4,898 cases and 163 deaths were reported as of Wednesday. Of that total, 973 are described as “off-tribal lands”. According to Navajo County Public Health Services dashboard and public health websites, the breakdown is as follows:
- Whiteriver/WMAT – 7,245 cases
- Navajo Nation – 8,639 cases in AZ, NM, UT combined. (690+ cases in Navajo County “off-tribal lands”.)
- Winslow – 220 to 229 cases
- Pinetop-Lakeside – 210 to 219 cases
- Show Low – 190 to 199 cases
- Holbrook – 120 to 129 cases
- Snowflake/Taylor – 140 to 149 cases
- Heber/Overgaard – 20 to 29 cases
Apache County reports 2,797 cases and 1 death as of Wednesday. Of that total, 127 are “off-tribal lands.” The breakdown by city and town is not available on the website but the Arizona Department of Health Services does provide the information by zip code.
Summit Healthcare update
As of July 22, there were 435 COVID-19 cases that entered and were tracked in the Summit Healthcare system since they began reporting COVID-19 cases in April.
The “system” refers to the hospital and all Summit Healthcare Clinics including the Outpatient Pavilion, Outpatient Surgery Center and Family Medicine locations in Show Low, Pinetop, Eagar, St. Johns, Snowflake-Taylor, Snowflake Medical, Holbrook, Podiatry and Heber/Overgaard.
This number, (435), has been a part of continuous tracking that is being communicated through several channels, one of them being text messages sent out every Wednesday. (To begin receiving COVID-19 alerts from Summit Healthcare, text, “JOIN COVID19” to 66893.)
The 435 total is an aggregate of patients in different stages of the virus. “Some patients have already recovered, some may be recovering from home and some may be in the hospital as a patient,”says Summit Healthcare Chief Marketing and Development Officer Angie Fabian.
As of July 22, Summit Healthcare has completed 3,598 COVID-19 tests, 2,901 of which tested negative. At this time there are 283 pending tests.
The number of COVID-19 patients currently admitted to the hospital is different than the total above; it changes hourly as patients enter and exit the Summit Healthcare system.
As of July 22, there were a total of 64 inpatients and 37 of those were COVID-19 positive or suspected positive patients in the hospital.
Of the 64 inpatients, 24 of them were admitted for illnesses or injuries not related to coronavirus. And, at any given time there are inpatients receiving care in the OB/GYN Department or the Senior Behavioral Health Unit that aren’t included in this total.
Measuring the total number of inpatient beds is like a sliding scale because Summit Healthcare has implemented “surge beds” for inpatients. (Refer to the Navajo County Regional COVID-19 Update press release on page A11 for more details about the surge plan and available ICU beds and Medical/Surgical beds for non-critical patients requiring hospitalization.)
“Some patients have already recovered, some may be recovering from home and some may be in the hospital as a patient,”said Summit Healthcare Chief Marketing and Development Officer Angie Fabian.
For more information and COVID-19 updates and resources from Summit Healthcare, visit https://summithealthcare.net/summit-healthcare-regional-medical-center-restrict-visitors-as-covid-19-coronavirus-precaution.