On March 25, Governor Doug Ducey rescinded all restrictions that had been put in place on businesses and residents to quell the virus’s spread. The executive order also prohibited any local jurisdictions from imposing mask mandates or limits on business operations.

In response, Santa Cruz County (SCC) Supervisor Bruce Bracker, who represents the eastern side of the county, expressed disappointment in the lifting of restrictions and protested the limitation on local control. 

In a statement, Bracker declared, “Last year we worked with his office to push for local determination… In fact, I would argue that the delay in granting the local determination may have prolonged the situation. 

“While we are excited to see the progress at the major metropolitan areas in Arizona, the challenges remain in rural parts of Arizona, such as Santa Cruz County. We were disappointed to see that the state did not reach an agreement with FEMA for an additional 250,000 vaccines that would have gone to rural communities. 

“Our Governor has indicated that his decision would be driven by science and the data. Well, the data in Santa Cruz County indicates that we are about 10 days behind Maricopa County in extending vaccinations to age brackets below 65 years of age. As a border county, we are also impacted by the situation in Mexico, and although it has greatly improved, there remains uncertainty about what will happen in coming weeks. We are in the throes of Spring Break and Easter, and Mexico has been warning residents of the threat of another spike.” 

In light of these concerns, the County has petitioned the Governor to reconsider the restrictions on local governments.

Vaccine Allocations Increasing

Santa Cruz County’s vaccination site at the Recreation Center in Nogales has been administering 600 vaccines per day since mid-February, as allocations to the County have increased from around 800 doses per week to over 2,000. Vaccines are also being given at the Mariposa Community Health Center in Nogales. As the PRT goes to press, the County expected to receive over 4,000 doses the week of March 29. Currently, vaccinations are given Tuesdays through Fridays, with occasional weekend hours, especially when second doses are being completed.

By March 24, 30% of County residents had received at least one dose of the vaccine. Two thirds of that number have been fully vaccinated. In the three zip codes covering Patagonia, Sonoita and Elgin, approximately 1300 people had been vaccinated.

According to Jeff Terrell, Director of Public Health for SCC, the County is still vaccinating the 65 -74-year-old group, while catching up with anyone older, as well as essential workers and teachers who are still unvaccinated. While the State recently changed eligibility statewide to 16 years of age, it is still up to each county to determine its own priority groups, whether age- or health-based. The goal is to get to the general population as quickly as possible, but the timing in Santa Cruz County is as yet undetermined. While the County has received several batches of the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Terrell expects to continue getting mostly Moderna.

As staff continues to call to set up appointments with people who have preregistered, he reminded residents to answer any call from a Nogales number, even if unknown. 

Terrell stated that people should continue to distance and wear masks, as it is unknown whether a vaccinated person can still carry enough of the virus to infect others.