KINGMAN — Some terse words from member Gary Watson punctuated the start of Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting that included action on a veritable potpourri of items.
Watson expressed his disdain for civil disobedience that has shocked the nation with violence and vandalism from Minneapolis to Scottsdale.
Watson said the police action that choked the life out of George Floyd was unconscionable and that the officers responsible should meet justice swiftly. Yet Watson said he swore an oath on five different occasions to uphold the law and protect the people of Arizona and that he has no patience for destructive demonstration.
“I have a message for anyone attempting to harm our citizens of Mohave County. Rioting and looting will not be tolerated. This bulldog will not stand and turn another cheek,” Watson said. “I’ll let my redneck show for a little bit right now and I have a little bit of a warning for those attempting to come to Mohave County with those purposes in mind. Don’t corner something that’s meaner than you are. This is Mohave County and our citizens matter.”
Department of Public Health Director Denise Burley told supervisors that 70 new cases made last week the busiest week to date for new coronavirus case confirmation in Mohave County. She said, however, that 24% of those cases connect to nursing homes when the percentage was 41% the prior week. That means that 76% — 53 of the cases — were from outside the nursing home setting in what Burley called the “general public.”
Burley’s point was that the county still is seeing dozens of new coronavirus cases, but that fewer of them were tied to long-term care facilities.
She said there still is a lack of “community-level” testing; she said that symptomatic people are being tested, as are patients in long-term care facilities, those who have been in close contact with one or more confirmed cases and others high up on the original testing matrix, such as first responders.
But for the public at large, testing remains rare.
“There is very little to none going on in our community outside of that with the exception of some private providers (who are testing their own patients),” she said. “There are quite a few issues and challenges out there with community-level testing.”
The importance is underscored by statistics, she said, noting that an estimated 35% of COVID-19 cases were asymptomatic, suggesting that there were “quite a few people that could be walking around without knowing that they’re actually infected.”
“Even under the best of circumstances — even with screening (for symptoms) — these individuals may not show up as positive” unless tests are performed.
Sup. Buster Johnson asked if Burley thought that either the crowds gathered for Memorial Day weekend or the reopening of dining establishments have led to the increase in county cases.
“It would be hard to argue that it wasn’t,” Burley said.
But she said the opening itself likely isn’t what is causing the spike; it’s people’s behavior as they participate in that reopening.
“The opening of the community and the lack of physical distancing that now is more apparent is definitely playing a role,” she said.
Health officials — and government officials — have urged the public to continue social distancing and other provisions that have been recommended for the last two months. People, Burley said, have decided not to do so.
“I think there’s less interest in continuing that at this point,” she said.
The board earlier approved Burley’s request to hire up to three temporary, clerical positions to assist with data entry and the statistical burdens of dealing with the pandemic. That will free department staff to devote more time to tracing investigation, preventative measures and other tasks.
The hiring of Sam Elters as county manager was completed during the board meeting. His pay was reduced and his start date was better defined.
Supervisors asked Elters if he would work for $150,000 per year rather than the $155,000 that had been proposed. Elters said he negotiated that contract figure in good faith and in measurement with his market worth, but said he still wants to serve as county manager at the lesser figure.
The board also modified the proposed contract so that Elters can start his new job as early as June 22, but no later than June 29.
Supervisors approved the payment of another $200,000 in incentives for a food distribution facility that is operating in Bullhead City. Board member Hildy Angius said Dot Foods has met or exceeded all of its employment promises and has been an outstanding corporate citizen.
Angius expressed hope that Dot Foods plant manager Rocky Vecera might report to the board in the future regarding jobs and philanthropy.