Raymundo Frasquillo Photo/Gila Herald: Volunteers hand out masks at an event in April in Morenci. On Tuesday, the Greenlee County BOS voted 2-1 to renew its mask mandate while in public places for another month.
By Jon Johnson
DUNCAN – Greenlee County hasn’t had a new COVID-19 positive test since Aug. 6, and the medical community and majority of county government leaders feel a continuance of its mask mandate will keep it that way.
At its Tuesday morning meeting, the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 to renew its mask mandate through Oct. 20, when it will revisit the subject. If the mandate is not renewed again it will expire Oct. 22. The mandate had been set to expire Sept. 17.
The resolution requires anyone entering a public place to wear a protective face mask.
Ron Campbell, District 2-Morenci, made the motion to renew the mandate, and it was seconded by David Gomez, District 1-Clifton. BOS Chairman Richard Lunt, District 3-Duncan, spoke in favor of the use of masks but cast the lone dissenting vote adding that he felt it should be an individual’s choice.
“I believe masks are very effective,” Lunt said. “I believe social distancing is very effective. I believe that each of us must do our part to help one another, but I believe it ought to be (by) choice. I don’t believe that we ought to be mandated to do everything.”
Prior to the vote, County Administrator Derek Rapier read letters from the medical community, including the staff at Gila Health Resources and Freeport McMoRan Inc. Vice President-Medical Director Dr. Richard A. Vinroot, which supported renewing the mandate and expressed the effectiveness of wearing face coverings.
The letter submitted by Dr. Vinroot also advised that Freeport’s mask mandate for its employees will continue to be in place for “the coming weeks and possibly months. We will not be rescinding our policy in lieu of the Arizona governor’s reopening policies, as well as any changes with regards to mask mandates in communities in which we operate. I feel strongly that now is not the time to let down our guard and to change any mitigation efforts that are in place, which have been so effective at protecting our employees, their families, the community, and our business.”
Gila Health Resources Physician’s Assistant and co-creator of the “Mask Up, Greenlee!” program Amanda Gray also spoke to the board on the subject and encouraged renewing the mandate as well.
Gray said the lowering in cases can correlate to the wearing of masks.
“The last positive person we have had in our county was Aug. 6,” she said. “Let’s keep it that way. Let’s continue to make a difference.”
Campbell commented that with the reopening of schools, it was important to keep the mandate to help protect the community.
“I want to see this extended for at least another month,” Campbell said.
With the vote, the mask mandate for Greenlee County will continue to at least Oct. 20, where the BOS will revisit the resolution during its meeting on that day. If the resolution is not renewed, it will expire Oct. 22.
Walt Mares contributed to this report