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Thu, May 06

Supervisors debate reopening of local economy

District 5 Supervisor Ron Gould is one of the supervisors calling for reopening of the economy. (Miner file photo)

District 5 Supervisor Ron Gould is one of the supervisors calling for reopening of the economy. (Miner file photo)

KINGMAN – With the number of COVID-19 cases in Mohave County passing 100 and climbing, Supervisors Hildy Angius of District 2 and Ron Gould of District 5 are pressing for reopening the local economy.

“Mohave County is not ready,” said board of supervisors Chairwoman Jean Bishop, echoing Public Health Director Denise Burley. “We are not there yet.”

The county doesn’t meet White House guidelines when it comes to test availability and PPE [Personal Protection Equipment] availability. Plus, the number of cases is still increasing, while the federal guidelines for reopening call for at least a two-week long decline.

“Are the numbers climbing because (we’re doing) more testing,” Angius asked. She said in theory that if more and more testing is conducted, the number of cases will continue to increase.

“There are a lot more questions than answers,” Burley said. “And it will be like that for a while.”

She said Angius is correct in that more testing probably means more positive cases, adding that the correlation does not come as a surprise to county health officials.

Angius responded that waiting and sitting around seems to her a huge mistake and that the county should be thinking about how many tests it needs to conduct to reopen, and when it can get them.

“We have to start talking about our plan of reopening now so people have clarity in their lives,” Angius said. “Let’s talk specifics,” she requested, adding she wants the board to be more proactive regarding the reopening.

Burley reminded the board that Gov. Doug Ducey has not put forward any specific plan yet, and that last week his office was collecting comments from elected officials around the state.

“Our plan will be slightly different from the White House,” Burley said. “Let's see how much flexibility is in the governor’s plan.”

Both Angius and District 1 Supervisor Gary Watson inquired about the possibility of relaxing the protocol in the communities that didn’t experience the outbreak, while keeping Kingman, with a lot of positive cases, within a protocol, as Watson suggested.

Burley responded she would love to have a plan, clear milestones and markers. But she said she would be afraid to relax protocols in Bullhead City and Lake Havasu City because Kingman did more robust testing and there might be undetected outbreaks in the above communities.

“We don’t have a true picture of those communities,” she said.

Kingman Regional Medical Center alone has conducted about half of the 1,092 COVID-19 tests conducted on county residents.

Other communities that are pressing for reopening are Dolan Springs and Meadview that claim no cases, Bishop said. The problem is the county doesn’t know if they are affected or not.

“As a county, we need to stay united” in the reopening, Bishop said.

Cities can do what they want, pointed out Angius. “We don’t have to wait and do it all together,” she said.

One issue that prompts supervisors’ anxiety is “the invasion,” as Watson phrased it, of Californians and Nevadans in Davis Camp at Bullhead City and particularly in the Lake Havasu City area. Watson said the influx is partly responsible for depleting the county’s food and paper product supplies.

Gould said the stay-at-home order has gone on long enough. “Americans and Arizonans are free people. They will not be tolerating being locked down any longer,” especially with Californians running around the county, Gould said. “We need to get back to work.”

Gould said he doesn’t want to wait for the governor to take the county by surprise.

The federal government has no say in the local reopening, he said, so the board should start planning how to reopen businesses. He added he expects that Public Health would provide guidelines on how to reopen businesses such as restaurants.

Burley said the county is working on such guidelines and will share them with local businesses soon.

“We all want to open our economy,” Bishop said. “Hopefully our numbers will go down.”

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