Besides being alliterative and close geographically, Grant County, NM (Silver City) and Graham County, AZ are similar in population: 31 thousand vs 39 thousand, respectively. Both are located approximately 40 miles from I-10, the nearest interstate for each, protecting them from huge numbers of out-of-staters ‘driving through’. Neither borders Mexico. Yet the differences in COVID statistics for each couldn’t be more stark. As of 7-1-20:

Total # of Infections/deaths:

Graham, AZ Grant, NM

117/2 19/0

Infection Rate:

Graham, AZ Grant, NM

309 per 100K 64 per 100K

Number of COVID tests administered:

Graham, AZ Grant, NM

1630 3178

Note that the total number of infections/deaths for Grant is almost identical to that of Greenlee County, AZ, (19/1). Grant’s population is approximately four times the size of Greenlee’s.

While Graham’s infection rate is the 2nd lowest in the state (after Greenlee’s), it’s nearly 5 times higher than Grant’s.

Grant has tested approximately twice as many residents as Graham, putting to rest the myth that increased testing leads to increased numbers of infected.

Hmm. Is it coincidence that two similar counties in bordering states would produce such disparate results? Or could it be that NM’s governor (Lujan-Grisham--D) has taken steps to curb the virus that AZ has not?

A June 22 Wallet Hub study (https://wallethub.com/edu/states-with-the-fewest-coronavirus-restrictions/73818/) indicates that as of that date, NM had the greatest number of state-wide restrictions of any state in the US. The study considered face mask requirements, travel and gathering restrictions, business, restaurant and childcare openings and stay-at-home restrictions. AZ was 24th in this study, putting it in the middle compared to other states.

As of July 2, Governor Ducey (R-AZ) has refused to implement a state-wide mask policy. On June 19, Governor Ducey relented to let local towns and counties enact their own COVID restrictions. However, neither Graham County nor its incorporated towns/cities have chosen to mandate mask use. In contrast, neighboring Greenlee County and its county seat, Clifton, have both recently implemented mask requirements.

Perhaps in light of its recent spike, Graham supervisors could re-consider their decision to announce that mask use in the county is optional. Town councils in incorporated parts of Graham could do the same. Meantime, for those frustrated with the lack of leadership being shown in Graham County, don’t think you can hop in your car and escape to a safer place such Grant County — unless you have time to quarantine for 14 days. Keeping out super-spreader states like Arizona is yet another step NM is taking to stop the spread of COVID in its state.

Susan Breen is a Clifton resident

(Note: in the course of writing this over two days, Graham’s numbers increased from 108 COVID-infected to 117; Greenlee’s increased to 19 from 18. There was no change in the numbers for Grant County.)

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