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The Graham County Board of Supervisors voted 2-1 Monday morning to extend the mask regulation through Feb. 4 based on the recommendation of Health Department Director Brian Douglas.

Board chairman Paul David said he believes the county is still in “crisis mode” and he wants to continue to “hold the line.”

While he doesn’t know if the masks are effective, Supervisor Danny Smith said the number of people walking into Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center and being hospitalized is about double what it normally is at this time of year. Because the hospital is being taxed, he pointed out people awaiting for elective surgeries are being impacted.

While he recognizes no one is going to change their mind about masks, Smith said he was willing to extend the regulation a bit longer.

Newly sworn in Supervisor John Howard voted against the regulation and questioned how many of the county’s new numbers can be attributed to the federal prison in Safford.

According to the health department 305 Graham County residents were diagnosed with the virus Dec. 28-Jan. 3.

Three people died during the same time frame, bringing that total up to 51 since March. More than 1,100 people are currently battling the illness.

As of Thursday, 517 federal prisoners in Safford were sick with COVID-19 along with 15 staff members. On the prior Thursday, 296 inmates were battling COVID-19 along with 14 staff members. By comparison, 142 state prisoners have contracted the illness since March. Over, 2,200 have recovered.

As of Dec. 13, the latest figures available, Graham County has a 37% positivity rate and Greenlee County has an 8.3% positivity rate. The state’s rate is 12.6%.

More than 67,000 Arizonans have been diagnosed with the virus over the last week and 637 have died. Only 7 percent of ICU beds and 8% of inpatient beds were available statewide as of Sunday.

More than 20 million Americans have caught the virus and 349,246 have died, including 18,345 in the last week.

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