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The Greenlee County Board of Supervisors voted to extend the mask mandate through at least April 20 and for the first time, District 3 Supervisor Richard Lunt threw his support behind the mandate.

Bemoaning the fact it has become a political issue, Lunt said he was voting yes at the behest of business owners who have told him they need leverage.

He said he wishes people would “just do the right thing.”

“People shouldn’t have to be told to take care of each other. We’re all family,” Lunt said during the supervisors’ monthly meeting Jan. 19.

Greenlee County Administrator Derek Rapier had recommended the extension of the mandate after pointing out that Arizona has among the worst transmission rates in the world and there’s been a sharp increase in the number of children being hospitalized with COVID-19.

He pointed out that two or three months ago, few people knew someone who had contracted the illness and now everyone knows someone who has had it.

“As long as there are unvaccinated people and a vulnerable population, this will continue to be a problem,” Rapier said.

District Two Supervisor Ron Campbell said “all of the smart professionals” believe masks have kept the transmission rate lower than it otherwise would have been.

The board will review the mandate on April 20 and if not renewed, it will sunset on May 7.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 12,239 Arizonans have died while battling COVID-19 and nearly 728,000 have contracted it.

As of Sunday, Jan. 24, more than 4,200 Arizonans were hospitalized statewide with the virus and of those, 1,027 were in ICU. Nine percent of the state’s ICU beds and 10% of the inpatient beds were available.

Greenlee County has had 513 residents diagnosed with the virus and 106 of them are still sick. Six residents have died.

Of the 4,833 Graham County residents who have caught the virus, 1,899 are still sick. Sixty-four residents have died.

According to the state health department’s latest statistics, the state’s positivity rate is 22.4%, Greenlee County’s is 13% and Graham County’s is 27%.

For comparison purposes, Maricopa County’s is 22.7% and Pima County’s is 21.7%.

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