Outbreak at Safford federal prison pushes COVID-19 numbers; SCAT member latest victim to the virus

An outbreak of positive COVID-19 tests at FCI-Safford is responsible for the high number reported by the health department on Tuesday.

By Jon Johnson

jonjohnsonnews@gmail.com

SAFFORD – An outbreak of COVID-19 at the Federal Correctional Institution – Safford is responsible for a large number of positive tests reported by the Graham County Department of Health and Human Services (GCDHHS) on Tuesday.

The health department listed 53 new cases for the Safford zip code, and advised that the majority of cases were from “a correctional facility.”

According to the COVID-19 dashboard for the Arizona Department of Corrections, Rehabilitation & Reentry (ADOCRR), its Safford prison locations have tested 1,436 inmates with 1,420 being negative and just 16 positives since the start of the pandemic. Out of the 16 positives, 13 have since recovered with no deaths, leaving just three active cases and no tests pending as of Tuesday.

With the state prison eliminated, that leaves the Federal Correctional Institution – Safford (FCI-Safford) as the only other alternative that could have the outbreak. The Gila Herald also reached out to Graham County Sheriff P.J. Allred, who confirmed that a new outbreak has not occurred at the Graham County Adult Detention Facility (jail).

According to its website, all visiting at FCI-Safford has been suspended until further notice. The Gila Herald reached out to the facility’s assistant warden regarding the COVID-19 outbreak but has not received a response.

In addition to the 53 new cases from the Safford zip code, three more were reported from Thatcher and one from the San Carlos Apache Tribe to increase Graham County’s total to 2,873 for the course of the pandemic. A total of 1,844 cases are listed as being recovered, with 982 active, and 47 deaths.

The age groups for Graham County’s cases include 570 under the age of 20, 1,238 between the ages of 20-44, 369 between the ages of 45-54, 309 between the ages of 55-64, and 381 who are 65 or older.

GCDHHS Director Brian Douglas told the Gila Herald that it will receive 600 doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday and will distribute it to the Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and other healthcare providers on Monday, Dec. 28. The first to receive the vaccine will be healthcare workers, followed by those living and working in long-term care facilities.

San Carlos Apache Tribe death

A San Carlos Apache Tribe member living in Graham County is the 47th victim of COVID-19 in Graham County. The SCAT Reservation stretches into both Graham and Gila counties, and it has registered 41 total deaths, with at least 38 being in Gila County.

The death reported by the GCDHHS on Tuesday was of a San Carlos Tribal resident between 45-54 years of age. The death is the sixth death from COVID-19 in the past five days, with three from Safford, and one each from Thatcher and Pima.

Greenlee County

As of Monday, the Greenlee County Health Department had administered 3,377 tests, with 3,012 negatives, and 365 positives. The county listed 134 active cases as of Monday, with 228 recovered cases, and three deaths.

Greenlee County received its first batch of the Moderna vaccine on Monday and inoculated its healthcare workers.

Statewide

On Tuesday, the ADHS listed 5,859 new cases to bring its total for the pandemic to 467,215 in Arizona. The department also listed 153 new deaths on Tuesday, to bring the total for Arizona to 8,125 dead attributed to COVID-19.

The state also began administering the first approved vaccine last week.

The breakdown of total cases by county includes Maricopa with 287,646, Pima – 61,344, Yuma – 25,265, Pinal – 24,600, Navajo – 10,548, Mohave – 10,475, Coconino – 10,237, Yavapai – 9,707, Apache – 6,964, Cochise – 6,412, Santa Cruz – 5,482, Gila – 4,096, Graham – 2,873, La Paz – 1,196, and Greenlee – 359 (county lists it at 365).

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