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Graham County has seen a 16 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the last week alone.

Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas reported an additional 29 patients Thursday morning and Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center spokesman Ryan Rapier said nine patients with the virus are currently hospitalized.

The county has documented 1,562 cases of COVID-19 since March and of those 219 or 14 percent were diagnosed within the last week. More than 600 people are battling the illness right now, including Rapier, who is also a Thatcher Town Council member. Roughly 900 patients have recovered and 31 have died.

As of Thursday morning, Greenlee County has 35 active cases of COVID-19 after three more residents were diagnosed Wednesday, making 22 diagnoses within the last week.

Since the start of the pandemic, the county has diagnosed 128 patients with the virus. Ninety-one have recovered and two have died.

In Greenlee County, residents have started a Change.Org petition to abolish the mask mandate put into place by the Greenlee County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Clifton in July.

The petition was started after Daley Diner owner Cheryl Post was issued a citation by Police Chief Omar Negrete Tuesday for violating the mandate. A protest has also been scheduled for 10 a.m. Nov. 21 outside the Clifton restaurant.

Clifton Town Manager Rudy Perez said someone brought to the town’s attention the fact Daily Diner employees weren’t wearing masks. He paid a visit to the restaurant on Tuesday to inform Post about the proclamations and the fact under Gov. Doug Ducey’s Executive Orders 2020-43 and 2020-52, mask mandates, group limitations and the closure of certain businesses need to continue.

Post told him she would not be complying with the mandates and Negrete issued her a Class 1 misdemeanor citation when he stopped by and confirmed she and her employees were in non-compliance, Perez said.

Post has a court date the week of the 23rd, Perez said.

Post said she stopped enforcing the mask rule about two weeks after it was issued and no one didn’t anything about it until after Perez’s visit.

If people don’t like the fact she’s not enforcing the mandate, they don’t have to eat at her restaurant, Post said.

“It’s like the flu shot. If you want one, get one. If you want to wear a mask, go ahead, but you shouldn’t be forced to,” Post said.

No one in Clifton is wearing a mask and if police actually started enforcing the mandate, 95 percent of the town would be cited, Post said.

“If they start doing that, I can guarantee you he’d have anarchy,” Post said of Perez.

No one has caught COVID-19 in her restaurant and she doesn’t understand why it’s a problem all of a sudden, Post said.

“So far everyone’s pretty excited about the protest and I think we’re going to have a good turn-out,” Post said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services announced 1,399 new cases Thursday morning and 12 deaths. So far, 266,562 Arizonans have contracted the virus and 6,240 have died. More than 16,000 people have caught COVID-19 in the last week.

On Wednesday, 1,368 Arizonans were hospitalized with COVID-19 compared to 1,100 last Wednesday. Of those in the hospital Wednesday, 331 were in ICU compared to 254 Nov. 4.

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