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Graham and Greenlee counties’ residents shouldn’t relax just yet when it comes to COVID-19, local health officials said Monday.

There is still a large percentage of people who haven’t been vaccinated and even those who have been remain at risk due to the number of variants that exist, officials said.

“We’re going to continue having cases here and there,” said Brian Douglas, Graham County Health Department director. “It’s not going to go away. We’re going to see remnants from here on out.”

Thirteen people alone were diagnosed with COVID-19 over the weekend, Douglas said.

Part of the problem is the COVID-19 virus has several variants, so even people who have been vaccinated could become infected, Douglas said.

There have been some patients in Graham County who have caught the United Kingdom variant even after being vaccinated and a couple have landed in the hospital, Douglas said.

The U.K. variant is 60% more infectious and the death rate is a little higher, although no Graham County residents have succumbed to it, he said.

Although the state is reporting Graham County’s vaccination rate is only at 24.8%, Douglas said it is actually much closer to the state’s 42.6% once you take into consideration the number of county residents who were vaccinated in Greenlee County or on the San Carlos Apache reservation.

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The number of those vaccinated will rise even more toward the end of summer when Moderna is able to offer the vaccine to children 12 and older, Douglas said.

He expects to hold vaccine clinics for student athletes so the county doesn’t have a repeat of last year when whole teams had to be quarantined due to COVID-19 exposure, Douglas said.

Dr. Fred Fox, Greenlee County Health Department mental director, said Greenlee County is in “reasonably” good shape when one considers the percentage of vulnerable people who have been vaccinated.

According to the state, 43.5% of county residents have been vaccinated, but Fox said 85% of people 65 and older have received their shot or shots.

“We’re still seeing a couple of cases a week and we’ll continue to,” Fox said. “I, too, am concerned about the variants becoming more prevalent.”

People should still take COVID-19 precautions, such as remaining socially distanced and washing hands, officials said.

They should also continue to wear their masks when inside with large groups of people.

To sign up for vaccinations in Greenlee County visit gilahealth.com. In Graham County, visit graham.az.gov.

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