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Prescott community leaders address coronavirus

A group of community leaders from the City of Prescott, Yavapai County, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley, the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, and the Prescott Chamber of Commerce gathered at Prescott City Hall Tuesday, March 17, 2020, for a press conference about steps being taken to stem the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Cindy Barks/Courier)

A group of community leaders from the City of Prescott, Yavapai County, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley, the Yavapai Regional Medical Center, and the Prescott Chamber of Commerce gathered at Prescott City Hall Tuesday, March 17, 2020, for a press conference about steps being taken to stem the threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19). (Cindy Barks/Courier)

Restaurants and bars will be allowed to stay open in Prescott for the time being, but many public spaces such as the library, the Police Department lobby and Fire Department lobbies will be shut down.

Those were among the points that a group of community leaders made during a Tuesday, March 17, press conference at Prescott City Hall about the ongoing threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

Prescott Mayor Greg Mengarelli led the press conference, which also included comments from Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), the Yavapai County Community Health Services and the Prescott Chamber of Commerce.

Although noting that COVID-19 has Prescott in “uncharted waters,” Mengarelli stressed that the community has come through many hardships over the years.

“This is certainly not our first rodeo,” the mayor said, noting that Whiskey Row burned to the ground in 1900 and was successfully rebuilt. Then, in 1918, he said, “Spanish flu claimed half the population and survived.”

More recently, in 2013, the community “suffered the loss of 19 firefighters and yet we came together to cope,” Mengarelli said, adding, “History is on our side, and our city and county are resilient.”

Mengarelli and other speakers asked for calm, but vigilance.

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Leslie Horton, director of Yavapai County Community Health Services, asked that if people hear rumors about a case of coronavirus, they go to www.yavapai.us/chs to check the validity of the information. “We will post that information immediately if there is a positive case,” Horton said during a press conference about the virus at Prescott City Hall on Tuesday, March 17, 2020. (Cindy Barks/Courier)

‘BACK TO BASICS’

Leslie Horton, director of the Yavapai County Community Health Services, acknowledged that the threat of the virus had the community concerned.

“I can see that anxieties are high,” Horton said. Still, she said, “There are a lot of things we can do” — many of which are simple steps that would help to stem the spread of the virus.

“We’re going back to the basics,” Horton said, touting measures such as regular hand-washing and staying home when sick, even with a mild illness.

Currently, Horton said, there are no known cases of coronavirus in Yavapai County, although a number of people have been tested. While there have been 20 cases in other Arizona counties, Yavapai is not among them.

Horton noted that people 65 and over are at higher risk than are children and younger adults, and those in the 70s-to-80s range are at the highest risk.

She asked the community to take steps to help protect those vulnerable people. “This is all practice; I’m asking you to practice these behaviors so that when COVID-19 reaches our area, we will be practicing these behaviors that will help slow the spread of the virus.”

PREPARED PROCESSES

John Amos, CEO of Yavapai Regional Medical Center, said the local hospital has procedures in place to help deal with such situations.

Those prepared processes might include bringing in extra staff members or engaging additional physician support.

Through a series of drills, Amos said, “What we essentially do is we assemble our resources and we reorganize to meet the need.”

For instance, YRMC’s system currently has 82 ventilators, and efforts are underway to get more.

YRMC Chief Nursing Officer Diane Drexler added that hospital staff does a “daily huddle” to evaluate its policies to deal with the current “unprecedented time.”

Earlier Tuesday, the hospital had decided to limit visitors to one per patient, she said, adding that vendors are also being limited to those that are essential.

BUSINESS IMPACT

Noting that the virus was having a serious impact on local businesses, Prescott Chamber of Commerce President Sheri Heiney said residents could take steps to help them.

Heiney urged the community “to remember we can still do business.” She suggested buying gift cards, shopping online locally and using debit and credit cards rather than cash, which could carry germs.

In addition, Heiney said, “We need to be patient with our businesses right now. A lot of our employees are working at home to practice social distancing. We’re dealing with limited staff, so we need you to be patient with our businesses and remember to be kind.”

Unlike the action taken in Phoenix on Tuesday, Prescott will not require bars to shut down or limit restaurants to just takeout orders, Mengarelli said.

He pointed out that Gov. Doug Ducey had recommended that bars and bars and restaurants close in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. “Those are areas where there’s larger outbreaks,” Mengarelli said, adding that many local restaurants were choosing to reduce their seating inside and were doing more curbside pickup.

EMERGENCY PROCLAMATION

Just prior to the 4 p.m. press conference on Tuesday, Mengarelli had signed a proclamation of emergency, which states: “Certain city facilities will remain open, but programs, events and activities that are not essential will be canceled, suspended and/or postponed; and facility closures, programs, events and activities will be continually monitored on an ongoing basis.”

To read the City of Prescott’s full response to the virus, visit http://www.prescott-az.gov/city-of-prescott-response-to-covid-19/

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