Gila County health officials announced the county’s first probable COVID-19 death on Friday afternoon.

The Payson resident was in his 80s and marks the first virus-related death in Gila County.

“It is with great sorrow that our local public health investigators have confirmed our first death, in Gila County, that has been attributed to a probable COVID-19 diagnosis,” said Michael O’Driscoll, director of Gila County Health & Emergency Management.

It marks the 19th case in Gila County.

The man reportedly had underlying health conditions.

“We are genuinely heartbroken and extend our deepest sympathy to family and friends,” O’Driscoll said. “To protect the family’s privacy during this incredibly difficult time, no further information regarding this case will be released.”

Public health expects additional cases of COVID-19 in Gila County and is advising residents to follow infection prevention guidelines.

The best way to prevent COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases is to:

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

• It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Stay at home when you are sick.

• Avoid close contact (within 6 feet) with others.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) and immediately throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Consider wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other physical distancing measures are difficult to maintain.

• Maintain physical distancing activity guidance.

• Launder items, including washable plush toys, as appropriate and under the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely.

Contact the editor at abechman@payson.com

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(1) comment

Paul Frommelt

Only a few short months ago, anyone dying in their 80's with underlying medical conditions would not have made the news, and the cause of death would most likely have been deemed due to "natural causes." But today, it makes news due to the fear factors now involved. Anyone's passing is a sad event, and not to take lightly. But in today's context it is also sad, for both the families, and society as a whole that it becomes a catalyst to continue the current reaction to this year's latest virus.

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