Graham County’s new COVID-19 cases continue rapid increase

Total now at 1,620 with 918 recovered and 671 active cases

By Jon Johnson

SAFFORD – Graham County returned to having the highest 7-day ELR positivity rate for COVID-19 (31.6) percent) out of any of Arizona’s 15 counties on Friday, with Yuma County the next highest at 23.2 percent.  

Cases continue to increase rapidly, and the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services (GCDHHS) reported 58 new positive results for COVID-19 in Graham County on Friday to push the total for the pandemic to 1,620. The new positive tests reported Thursday included 20 from the San Carlos Apache Tribe, 19 from Safford, 15 from Thatcher, and four from Pima. Safford has nearly twice the population as Thatcher and four times that of Pima.  

After having its biggest increase of cases in one month in October (408), Graham County is easily on its way of eclipsing that mark with 386 new positive tests in the first 13 days of November alone.

As of Wednesday, the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,620 total confirmed cases, with 918 recovered and 671 actives. According to GCDHHS criteria, a positive test is not considered a recovered patient until they have 30 days symptom-free. Graham County has about 39,000 residents. About 4.1 percent of Graham County has tested positive for COVID-19, with the currently active number at about 1.7 percent.

A total of 31 people, nearly all over the age of 65 and who had pre-existing health conditions, have died with COVID-19 in Graham County. About 2 percent of those who have tested positive for the virus in Graham County have died after contracting it. There were currently nine patients hospitalized for COVID-19 at the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center on Friday.

Due to the increase of cases, the Fort Thomas School District has gone back to distance learning for the month of November, and the Arizona Interscholastic Association has recommended both Graham and Greenlee postpone the start of school winter sports.

On Monday, Thatcher advised its boy’s basketball open gym may have been exposed to an active COVID-19 case and the health department is conducting contract tracing. However, Thatcher still has basketball activities set to resume Nov. 18.

Safford Athletic Director Toni Corona told the Gila Herald that they have postponed tryouts for winter sports and are in a wait-and-see mode.

Both Graham and Greenlee fail the Winter Sports Metrics of thresholds as defined by the Arizona Department of Health Services by having too many cases per 100,000 people and too high of a positive percentage rate of tests given.    

According to the state’s database, Graham County’s positive test cases include 345 who are under 20 years of age, 649 between 20-44, 175 between 45-54, 156 between 55-64, and 205 who are 65 years old or older.

As of Thursday, the ADHS continues to list Graham County in its “moderate” business reopening status, even though the county is in the “substantial transmission” zone in both cases per 100,000 individuals, and percent positivity since the week of Sept. 20. The county’s number per 100,000 population did drop from 340 the week of Oct. 18 to 309 the week of Oct. 25. However, ADHS metrics are roughly two weeks behind current results and next week’s result could likely be higher. The percent positivity was listed at 18.2 percent for the week of Oct. 11, 12.5 percent for the week of Oct. 18, and 16.4 percent for the week of Oct. 25, all over the 10 percent threshold to enter the substantial zone. Hospitalizations for the Southeast Region – which includes Graham, Greenlee, Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz counties – rose slightly from 2.1 percent for the week of Oct. 18 to 2.9 percent for the week of Oct. 25, and is still in the “minimal transmission” zone under 5 percent.  

Greenlee County

The Greenlee County Health Department listed two new positive tests on Thursday to raise its total for the pandemic to 130.

The health department has administered tests to 1,913 people as of Thursday, with 1,783 being negative, and 130 positives, according to the department. The county has 37 active cases, 91 recovered cases, and two deaths. Greenlee County has about 10,000 residents.

The breakdown of the Greenlee cases currently listed on the ADHS’ data dashboard (which only shows 127 positives currently) includes 12 under the age of 20, 69 between 20-44, 25 between 45-54, 15 between 55-64, and six who are 65 years old or older.

Greenlee County’s percent positivity skyrocketed from 0 percent to 17.6 percent for the week of Oct. 4 and is now listed at 22.7 percent, putting that metric into the substantial zone.

Its cases per 100,000 individuals also raised from 10 for the week of Sept. 27 to 39 for the week of Oct. 4, 67 for the week of Oct. 11, 270 for the week of Oct. 18, and then back down to 29 for the week of Oct 25, putting it back into the moderate zone. However, Greenlee County is still in the “minimal transmission” status for business reopening, according to ADHS.  

Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: A young girl secures her mask with loops over her ears. Free fabric masks for girls, boys, men, and women were being handed out at the entrance to Basha’s grocery store in Morenci.

San Carlos Apache Tribe

The San Carlos Apache Tribe stretches into both Graham and Gila counties and its cases add to the respective counties’ cases based on the geography of where the patients reside.

On Friday, the San Carlos Apache Tribe Department of Health & Human Services reported 36 new cases. To date, the Tribe has administered 12,875 tests with 10,594 negatives, 2,144 positives, and 137 results pending.

The Tribe lists 241 currently active cases, with 1,878 recovered cases, and 25 deaths. That is an increase of five deaths in the past week.

The area breakdown on the reservation includes Gilson Wash – 363 positive, 308 recovered, 47 active, eight deaths; Peridot – 691 positive, 614 recovered, 66 active, 11 deaths; 7-Mile – 424 positive, 373 recovered, 46 active, five deaths; Bylas – 532 positive, 467 recovered, 64 active, one death; other areas – 134 positive, 116 recovered, 18 active.   


For the state, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 3,015 new cases Friday to bring the total to 269,577 for the state. It reported 17 new deaths to bring the total fatalities due, at least in part, to COVID-19 to and amended 6,257 in Arizona. The state has about 7.3 million residents and nearly two million tests have been taken.  

Reported positive cases in the various counties include Maricopa County with 172,864, Pima County – 31,874, Yuma County – 15,004, Pinal County – 13,220, Navajo County – 7,051, Coconino County – 6,221, Mohave County – 4,973, Apache County – 4,293, Yavapai County – 3,501, Santa Cruz County – 3,235, Cochise County – 2,622, Gila County – 2,302, Graham County – 1,620, La Paz County – 670, Greenlee County – 127 (county reports 130).

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