Residents will feel the effects of the coronavirus/COVID-19 outbreak for the foreseeable future, officials say.
Disneyland is closed.
The NBA, NHL, MLB and the PGA Tour all suspended their seasons and the popular NCAA Tournament, also known as March Madness, is canceled.
We’ll have to wait to see how the NFL and college football proceed this fall.
Universities across the country are temporarily closing their doors to students in favor of online classes.
And the financial markets have suffered historic losses over the past couple of weeks.
The ripple effects across the globe are now starting to be felt here in Rim Country.
People are canceling their plans and trips and staying home.
There are a number of closures around Rim Country and canceled events. As the virus spreads, changes are occurring daily and this list is sure to change throughout the week. Visit payson.com for the latest updates.
The Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce closed the visitor center for two weeks, beginning March 12. The chamber also canceled its April 6 monthly luncheon at Mazatzal Hotel & Casino because of the virus.
The Payson Public Library closed on Thursday and the sign on the door says it hopes to open again on March 30.
“Due to the recent progression of COVID-19, we want to reduce the number of large group gatherings in order to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all our community members,” read a sign on the library’s door. “The Payson Public Library and other nonessential town facilities will be closed until further notice ... This decision was made by town administrators after a declaration of emergency by the state of Arizona and consultation with local health and emergency services officials.”
Return books in the book drop or renew online or by calling the library at 928-474-9260.
The Northern Gila County Historical Society board has also closed the Rim Country Museum/Zane Grey Cabin at least to the end of March.
The Town of Payson is encouraging residents to stay home and watch council meetings on Channel 4 or online through the town’s website. Read more about what the town is doing on page 10 in a story by Michele Nelson.
“Due to the recent progression of COVID-19, we want to reduce the number of large group gatherings in order to ensure the health, safety and well-being of all our community members,” read a public service announcement from the town manager’s office.
In addition, the parks and recreation and community development offices along with the airport office/pilot’s lounge and reception area at Station 11 on Main Street are closed to walk-in traffic.
Interim Town Manager Sheila DeSchaaf said these offices would still be staffed with employees available to serve the public by phone and email.
“Programs where we would have large gatherings (i.e. youth sports, all library programs, development services) have been temporarily suspended in an overabundance of caution for the members of our community,” she said. “Police and fire will suspend non-emergency/goodwill calls (i.e. fingerprinting, fire alarm battery replacements) to avoid the potential transmission of illness to our vulnerable populations.”
At the Payson Senior Center, drivers will continue to deliver Meals on Wheels five meals a week to residents. At the center on Main Street, only lunches will be served. Social Security, Medicare and free legal services are available by appointment and the medical supply closet is open, but officials ask residents to call first so they can get items ready.
The Senior Express is operating, but rides are limited to essential trips that include medical appointments and the grocery store.
The Beeline Bus will continue to operate as usual unless there is a directive from the state of Arizona to limit or stop transit. And the center’s thrift store, Trinkets and Treasures, will continue to operate as usual.
The Payson Tea Party canceled all meetings for the next three weeks. The Rim Country Camera Club has canceled its March 18 meeting and expects to resume meeting April 15.
In Pinetop, Sunrise Ski Resort announced it was ending the season early, on March 15, over concerns of COVID-19.
At the Mazatzal Hotel & Casino, Hubert Nanty, general manager, said they already spend countless hours cleaning and sanitizing the property, “priding ourselves in providing you a clean, safe and enjoyable entertainment experience.”
Following the recommendations of health experts, the casino has increased cleaning and sanitizing efforts in order to meet and exceed recommended guidelines.
“Special focus will be given to all public touch points such as door handles, restrooms, slot machines, ATMs, kiosks, food and beverage areas and any other locations routinely contacted by guests and team members,” he said. Additional hand sanitizing stations have been added throughout the casino and at all guest service locations.
On Thursday, Sawmill Theatres general manager Craig Triphahn said he hadn’t noticed a drop in attendance because of COVID-19. However, a report in Variety said weekend ticket sales in North America hit their lowest levels in more than two decades.
Triphahn acknowledged that Sawmill attendance could drop if people here start testing positive for COVID-19 once tests finally become widely available or if Payson or the state bans movie-theater sized gatherings.
“As long as Payson’s fine, I think we’ll be OK,” Triphahn said. “But there’s so much uncertainty with it; that’s the big thing.”
Triphahn said the theater instituted a new seating regulation on Sunday that limits seats sold. Enhanced sanitizing precautions were also started
“In our effort to help you enjoy your movie going experience we are implementing new ‘social distancing’ measures,” he said. “We will cut in half the seating capacity of each of our theater auditoriums. We will do so by capping ticket sales for each show time to an amount equal to 50% of the normal capacity thus making it possible to find seats at a comfortable distance from other patrons.”
Many studios are postponing major theatrical releases in an attempt to release them to larger crowds than they’re likely to attract in this current environment.
“I can milk it through April. If they push ‘Black Widow’ on May 1 it might get sketchy,” Triphahn said.
It’s unclear what the situation will be as high school football teams prepare to kick off another season in August.
The Arizona Interscholastic Association, which oversees most high school sports in the state, released a statement to the media on Thursday saying the AIA reached out to all member schools “this morning” regarding current discussions involving the COVID-19.
“All regular season games and tournaments are under the governance of the member schools and districts. Therefore, the AIA will respect any athletic competition decisions made by those entities in regards to COVID-19. If events are canceled or changed specifically due to COVID-19, the AIA will waive the fees associated with this. Athletic directors at the member schools will follow regular procedures of canceling or changing events should this occur.”
The statement said the AIA’s Executive Board would discuss the matter at its March 16 meeting. It’s possible all spring sports in the state will be canceled.
“Board members and Executive Director David Hines will be reviewing information gathered from the governor’s office, Maricopa County Health Department and the National Federation. We hope to share more with our member schools and the statewide media after this meeting as we progress through the spring season.”
Special Olympics Arizona canceled the upcoming state basketball tournament and all basketball practices because of the physical nature of the sport. However, track practices were going forward as of last week.
Arizona Little League announced on Thursday that it was suspending operations until at least April 6.
Retailers are running out of some items. You won’t find hand sanitizer anywhere.
And finding toilet paper is a challenge. Several retailers have instituted limits on the amount of toilet paper buyers can get at one time.
One employee at a local store said some customers just take toilet paper out of employees’ hands as they try to stock the shelves.
On Thursday, the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) announced that Arizona would receive $12.4 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to support the public health response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This is in addition to the $500,000 already received from the CDC on March 4.
ADHS will work with local public health departments to develop and implement plans to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona. Key funding priorities will include surveillance and investigation activities, laboratory testing, infection control supply procurement and distribution, and risk communication.
“The state response to the COVID-19 outbreak is the top priority of ADHS, and we will be working with local public health departments to distribute and use the funds where they will make the greatest impact to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” said Dr. Cara Christ, ADHS director. “We have community spread of this virus in Arizona, and we will see additional cases. Our public health strategy is to slow the spread of the disease and protect those who are most at risk for serious complications.”
Gov. Doug Ducey issued a Declaration of Emergency on March 11 to combat the spread of COVID-19, which will give ADHS access to an additional $500,000 in emergency funds that can be used for resources to protect public health.
There are 12 cases of COVID-19 in Arizona. There are 50 presumptive positive cases tested at the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory. These are tests that are pending confirmation from the CDC but are counted as cases, and public health takes appropriate action based on the results. There are four cases in Maricopa County, five cases in Pinal County, two cases in Pima County, and one in Graham.
COVID-19 spreads through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Symptoms are thought to appear within two to 14 days after exposure and consist of fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat and difficulty breathing in severe cases. People at highest risk for complications and death from COVID-19 are older adults and people with serious medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease.
SRP and APS management announced they would not cut power to customers who had not paid their bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“SRP is concerned about its customers and we will continue to do all we can to help customers keep their power connected during this global health crisis,” said SRP CEO and General Manager Mike Hummel. “Given the magnitude of this exceptional situation that we haven’t seen before and because the local agencies that support the community will be stretched, we believe it is in the best interest of all that we temporarily suspend disconnections.”
The decision to halt disconnections applies to both residential and commercial customers.
In the Valley, Phoenix’s Water Services Department also said it stopped all water shutoffs to residents who hadn’t paid their bills.
In Payson, DeSchaaf said the town is still doing shut offs for nonpayment.
“If we have situations where we have a potentially occupied structure that could have service discontinued we will have to look at how to handle that situation at that time,” she said. “As of right now we have not considered changing the way we do business.”