The number of people in Graham and Greenlee counties contracting COVID-19 is on the increase, right along with the rest of the state.

For several weeks, Graham County was averaging one or two cases a week, but is now averaging one per day, said Graham County Health Department Director Brian Douglas. As of Sunday, 22 residents were battling the virus with a few of them requiring hospitalization.

Despite its much smaller size, Greenlee County has nearly as many residents battling the virus as Graham County. According to the Greenlee County Health Department, 19 residents are currently sick with the virus, 16 of whom have caught it since July 1.

On a statewide level, new cases exceeded 1,000 on five days out of the last eight, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Although no tests have come back showing the Delta variant, Douglas said it’s “just a matter of time” before it begins to show up in both counties.

Doctors are concerned about the variant because it spreads much more quickly than the original version, Douglas said. People don’t need to be in as much contact with someone else or as close to spread the virus. It carries a much higher viral load than the earlier mutations.

Because Delta is so much more infectious, Douglas said he would like to see more people get the vaccination.

The Arizona Department of Health Service’s website shows Graham County only has a 28% vaccination rate, but it doesn’t include those residents who were vaccinated on the reservation or in Greenlee County, Douglas said. However, even when those people are included the county is at the low end of the scale when it comes to the rest of the state at just 34%.

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According to the state just over 51% of Arizonans have been fully vaccinated.

Greenlee County has a vaccination rate of just over 45%.

Everyone who has tested positive for the virus lately had not received the vaccine, Douglas said.

Graham County is offering the vaccine Mondays and Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. at 627 W. Main Street in Safford and from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

Beginning Wednesday, all Gila Health Clinics will provide COVID vaccines on a daily basis. The clinic encourages patients to call and schedule their vaccine by calling their preferred clinic ahead of time, but walk-in requests will also be accepted during normal hours.

Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, more than 5,600 Graham County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 85 have died. In Greenlee County, 600 residents have caught it and 10 have died.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has jumped from 527 on June 30 to 814 as of Sunday. The number of those in ICU jumped from 136 to 192 during the same time period. Since the start of the pandemic 18,117 Arizonans have died while battling the virus.

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