Mohave County board refuses to declare state of emergency

December 22, 2021 GMT

KINGMAN, Ariz. (AP) — The Mohave County Board of Supervisors is willing to consider passing a resolution saying hospitals in northwestern Arizona face a staffing crisis due to the pandemic but balked at declaring a state of emergency for the county over the same issue.

Medical officials on Monday asked the board to declare a state of emergency to help demonstrate to the public that dire conditions in hospitals were a reality and not a political issue, local news outlets reported.

Mohave County, a conservative part of the state that has several small cities but is largely rural, has one of the state’s lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates at 43.4% of eligible people, and its hospitals report being packed with unvaccinated virus patients.

The outbreak is “a reality in our hospitals that is creating a situation where if we don’t find a resolution, we will limit care that sick people need and we will be in a position of implementing battlefield medicine,” said CEO William McConnell of Kingman Regional Medical Center.

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“An emergency declaration could signal to this community that what we are experiencing cannot be explained away,” McConnell said, adding that the situation could get much worse before it gets better.

Western Arizona Regional Medical Center in Bullhead City is in “crisis mode,” said hospital CEO Scott Street. “We’ve seen the recent spike that we’re dealing with today from Thanksgiving. We fully anticipate that through the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, we’ll see other spikes that could be greater than seen over the past three weeks.”

The board split 3-2 against the requested declaration of emergency but then voted 3-2 to request that hospitals work with county health officials on a resolution to telling county residents of the hospitals’ crisis situation.

That resolution is expected to be presented to the five-member board next month.

Two supervisors voted against both proposals and two others voted for both. Supervisor Travis Lingenfelter voted against the state of emergency but for the alternative proposal.

Supervisor Ron Gould, who opposed both proposals, said a county resolution would be useless because the pandemic has eroded public trust in government at all levels.

“They’ve been lied to repeatedly,” he said. “It’s not going to make a darn bit of difference because they don’t trust us.”

Supervisor Hildy Angius, who also voted against both proposals, told the hospital officials she questioned whether a county declaration was necessary or even an effective tool.

“I just don’t see the importance of it from this body,” Angius said. “It seems to me that you should spend your time going to the state, going to your federal elected people.”

Meanwhile, Arizona reported 2,806 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and 74 more deaths Wednesday. Hospitalizations due to the virus were at 2,490 with 683 of them in intensive care.

Since the pandemic started, Arizona has seen 1,344,183 cases and 23,816 deaths.