Gila Health, Walton Drug set firm policies dealing with the COVID-19 virus

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting the only pharmacy in Greenlee County. A sign at the front door of Walton Drug in Morenci advises patrons it is taking temporary safety measures and is allowing only one person at a time to enter the pharmacy.

Greenlee County now the last county in Arizona without a positive COVID-19 test

By Walt Mares

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” or so the old adage goes. It is what Gila Health Resources and Walton Drug in Morenci are practicing in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The virus has yet to strike in this part of southeastern Arizona, Gila Health and Walton are set to deal the best they can with the potentially deadly virus that has become a global pandemic.

As of Saturday morning, every county in Arizona with the exception of Greenlee has reported a positive test for COVID-19. The Arizona Department of Health Services reported a total of 773 cases in Arizona with 15 deaths. The number in each county as of Saturday are Maricopa County (454), Pima County (120), Navajo County (57), Coconino County (56), Pinal County (41), Yavapai County (13), Apache County (13), Mohave County (5), Yuma County (4), Cochise County (3), La Paz County (2), Santa Cruz County (2), Graham County (2), Gila County (1). 

Walton Drug and Gila Health appear to be prepared for the worst. They have greatly limited access in their efforts to prevent the spread of the virus within their respective domains. It only makes sense as the pharmacy is located in the Gila Health building.

Walton Drug has a sign at the entrance to the pharmacy that states only one patron at a time is allowed to enter.  The sign reads the measure is being taken “As a temporary safety measure to protect your health and that of our community.” Those who are waiting to pick up prescriptions of medicine are required to wait outside until they are called to enter. There are white lines, six feet apart, on the sidewalk near the entrance. There are directions for waiting for customers to stand at least six feet apart. That is the new national norm set to discourage close contact with other persons.

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: Extra cautionary measures are being taken in light of the potentially deadly COVID-19 virus worldwide pandemic. A sign posted on a window of the Gila Health Resources, the medical facility in Morenci, informs patrons that only one person at a time being seen for medical care will be allowed into the building. No one other than the patient being seen will be allowed to linger in the lobby.

The pharmacy has long had a policy encouraging customers to call for refills at least five days ahead of refill dates given on each bottle of medicine. The pharmacy can be reached at (928) 865-9946. Information on refills can also be found on-line under Walton Drug Morenci, Arizona. 

The hours of operation are 8:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday.

Gila Health Resources in Morenci is one of only three medical clinics in Greenlee County. The other two are Canyonlands with facilities in Clifton and Duncan. GHR is the largest facility. It can be contacted for appointments at (928) 865-9184. Information can be obtained via telephone about on-line services available.

GHR has placed restrictions, such as allowing patients only to enter the building. Anyone accompanying a patient must remain outside. Many GHR patients, particularly the elderly, are transported to medical appointments by a family member or friend. There is a spacious lobby for those waiting to see a doctor or are waiting on someone they have transported. The lobby, which is usually at least half-full, is now empty. 

A sign on each of the two glass doorways of the building state that the measure is being taken ‘To protect the health of the general community – and follow the lead of health departments and healthcare facilities elsewhere.”

The sign also reads, “You are welcome to wait in your vehicle – and we will do our best to come out and keep you informed about the status of the patient you accompanied today.”

One of the Gila Health Resources’ primary functions is to serve employees at the Freeport McMoran Inc. Morenci copper mine. It is the largest operating open-pit copper mine in North America and employs thousands of workers. The facility also serves miners’ families and the public in general.

Morenci is located in Greenlee County, the least populous of Arizona’s 15 counties. It is also the second smallest county in the state. At present, Greenlee is the only county in Arizona in which no COVID-19 cases have been detected or reported. How long that will remain so may only be a matter of time. 

Walt Mares Photo/Gila Herald: A sign on a door of Gila Health Resources medical facility advises those with a fever, cough or shortness of breath to follow instructions listed on the sign.

Many Morenci mine workers live in or around Tucson and travel to and from Morenci on their days off. Tucson is the state’s second-largest city and is located in more densely populated Pima County, where there are confirmed cases of the virus. Many workers live in and travel to and from Graham County, which neighbors Greenlee. So far only two virus cases there have been reported.

Meanwhile, as there have not been any reported cases of COVID-19 in Greenlee – all but three restaurants continue to offer full sit-in service in Morenci, Clifton, and Duncan. 

A strong precaution has been taken by Morenci Community Services which has shut down the fitness center, library and Morenci Club. All three are located at the western end of the Morenci Plaza Loop. The privately run Morenci Theatre in the loop complex has also been closed.