KINGMAN — COVID-19 considerations by Mohave County supervisors of late have mirrored divisiveness evident in all corners of America regarding whether and how the coronavirus should be managed.
In very broad and general terms, Board Chairman Jean Bishop and Sup. Gary Watson have been in the middle of the debate with Sup. Buster Johnson suggesting more restrictions should be considered, if not implemented, while Sups. Hildy Angius and Ron Gould have been at the other end of the spectrum.
Johnson, for example, has expressed interest in increased testing while Angius and Gould have questioned the necessity, practicality and merit of that approach. Another point of contention is mandatory face mask directives, something embraced and endorsed by Denise Burley, the county’s Department of Public Health director.
“I certainly recommend that the county adopt that policy and that is a public health perspective and certainly my recommendation going forward,” Burley said during Thursday’s county COVID-19 management meeting, repeating a request she made earlier in the week.
Gould said the public already is substantially complying with face covering recommendations. He questioned how a mask mandate would be enforced and said it won’t achieve desired results unless dictated within private residences, something he said would be an impractical, “draconian” measure.
Burley said new case numbers keep soaring in the county even though deaths are holding pretty steady at less than 10 per week on average. She said, however, the local rate of death among the infected population is alarming.
“The average mortality rate statewide is 1.8%,” Burley said. “In our county we sit at 5.7%, a little bit higher than we’d like to see of course, and a number we’d like to drop.”
Burley said new infection cases were up 22% last week from the previous week as the death toll stood at 92 people within a county population of about 216,000 people. She said area hospitals have more COVID-19 patients on ventilators, an indicator that more people are more seriously sick than before.
“This is concerning of course because these are extreme cases,” she said.“You don’t use a ventilator without it being a last resort. They’re very, very hard on people.”
Burley said the crisis in adult care centers across the county has subsided while younger people are fueling community spread of the coronavirus by attending social functions, family gatherings and other events. She said there’s no doubt that new infection cases are incubating from last weekend’s holiday revelry. But she said they aren’t reflected in the current numbers — but will be soon.
“We do anticipate an increase in cases in the wake of the Fourth of July,” Burley said. She said initial infections from the holiday weekend soon should be detected and will likely be more evident mid-to-late next week.
Angius, whose 2nd District includes Bullhead City, revealed last week that she had recovered from what she termed a mild case of COVID-19 after previously testing positive. She noted that her symptoms were minor and that it affected different people differently.
On Thursday, Bishop said the virus had impacted her family.
“There’s been so much that’s been put out there, not only by members of this board, but the public that kind of downplay the seriousness of COVID-19 as being just a flu that we don’t have a vaccination for yet,“ Bishop said.“I want to make the point that when it hits your family, when you lose someone that you love, whether they’re old or they’re young, it becomes more realistic. I think this is a little more serious than what we’re portraying it.”
That her granddaughter contracted COVID-19 when visiting Mexico and brought the threat back home to family made the threat some all the more real, Bishop said.
She yielded to deputy county attorney Jeff Haws to shine additional light on personal tragedy.
Haws struggled to choke back emotion as he spoke of David Bullmore, his 70-year-old uncle, who served the Navy during the Vietnam War. He said a welfare check led to Monday’s discovery of Bullmore, dead in his apartment where he had gone into self-quarantine before knowing for certain he was infected.
Haws said autopsy confirmed COVID-19 and he begged supervisors to do whatever they could to prevent another veteran dying at home alone from the virus. He said his uncle and others need to be remembered as people, not statistics.