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.

Admitted patients

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.

Hospital bed

availability

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.

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

Laura Singleton is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering Show Low city government, business and education.

(5) comments

DclintM1

First off I completely understand businesses needs to make up for lost revenue. In one of the sentences in the article it stated that businesses did not want to alienate customers by making masks mandatory. So from the above statement they don't mind alienating customers who want to avoid getting or giving the virus to someone , but they don't care if the non mask wearers give it to someone just to appease them. That sword cuts both ways. If you're only concern is revenue it's not going to help you much in the long run if a faction of your customers die. And the ones you're placating will probably catch the virus, get sick, and possibly die. The logic is not valid.

Secondly regarding Mayor Daryl Seymore - Show Low would not “dictate” that masks be worn but would begin an education program. Education only works when people want to learn. Most non mask wearers still call this a hoax and/or is something that will not harm them. So quite frankly these people do not care about their fellow human beings only that they are inconvenienced and/or their rights are being taken away. Have you not seen the multiple videos of people spitting/coughing/rubbing people after they are confronted about not wearing a mask. One man had the mask around his neck and when asked to use it he got belligerent with the person and told them to educate themselves. Funny educate themselves. I still can't believe I saw this on video. Unfortunately we are at an impasse with this type of person. How do you educate someone like that. Most if not all people wearing masks is because they have educated themselves. So tell me how does that work !

I could go on and on about this article. The ironic part is in this edition of news, you have an article telling anyone who will read or listen that the virus is mutating and becoming even more of a threat. Numbers are rising at an alarming rate. Arizona is now a hot spot. So go ahead Mr. Mayor, don't dictate mask wearing. Your political stance on this is showing or your ignorance possibly both. While you play politics Show Low residents and those non mask wearers come into contact with are in danger. Thanks for your service.

P.S. A very non biased article exists in this very edition. Ignorance is not bliss. Check out the article...Virus Mutation Increases Infections, it is very informative to those who want to stay on top of what's happening health wise

Bad road ahead

I personally think darn near every single one of us will get this virus before it's said and done. The mask is fine, but we have our eyes to think of, our hands touching things, packages delivered by drivers, bags handed to us by grocery workers, the opportunities are never ending. I almost wish I would just get it and get it over with, but at my age, not sure I'm tough enough to make it!

phxnative54

DclintM1: Well said, thank you. Unfortunately. the mayor of SL is a spineless Trump boot-licker, as is Governor Ducey, and Trump doesn't have an earthly clue about what to do or how to lead. Just look at the states with (R) governors who follow Trump's "lead" - they're suffering greatly.

phxnative54

The people who sullenly refuse to wear a mask during a pandemic are doing so because they see endangering others as empowerment, a way of telling people whom they believe look down on them that no one, no matter how smart or accomplished, can tell them what to do. For these people, our national motto is not "In God We Trust" or "E Pluribus Unum," but rather: “You’re Not the Boss of Me.”

- Tom Nichols, Opinion columnist

Snotamer

Thank God we have been given the formula for staying safe while around people, wear a mask, and stay 6 ft apart

Now there is no reason for mass mail in voting for the General Election

Just show up with voter ID, a mask, and stay apart 6 ft while your waiting your turn to vote in person, Thanks for showing us the way

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