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Long-term care outbreak left six dead, Globe cases continue rising

Posted at 9:15 PM, Nov 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-24 23:15:44-05

There's no part of Arizona unaffected by COVID-19. The City of Globe though, was relatively unscathed in the early months of the global pandemic.

Before October, the community of fewer than 8,000, had less than 200 cases. Currently, they have 96 active cases.

ABC15 has also learned the toll of an outbreak in one of the city's two long-term care facilities. We first reported on the spread inside Haven of Globe in early October.

Now, in late November, the outbreak is over. There are no active cases, but 21 staff members were infected, 55 residents tested positive and six people died.

The virus is now at an all-time high in the community.

"A couple of months ago we only had 10 cases," said Globe Mayor Al Gameros. "This month we’ve really hit a high now... at 177 cases."

More than half of Globe's current 96 cases though, trace back to a single spot.

"58 of those are in our state prison right outside of Globe here," said Gameros.

ABC15 reached out to the Arizona Department of Corrections for more details about the outbreak, but we have not heard back.

For the people who call Globe home, the spread of the virus quickly becomes personal.

"Especially in a small community we know everybody," said Gameros. "I know an individual right now who is on a ventilator...He is one of the [fire department] guys who retired under me, and that bothers me because it hits home."

The mayor is now worried about sending people away from home if his city's lone hospital fills every bed.

"These numbers that are growing now, at what point are we going to be shipping people out," wondered Gameros.

Another problem concerning officials is the rapidly diminishing occupancy at Valley hospitals.

"Once they stop taking transfer patients, that’s when we can really get in trouble," said Josh Beck, Gila County's Emergency Management Director. "It only takes one day for us to hit capacity if a couple people go into the hospital."

Beck is worried that, based on the current transmission trends, cases will increase after the holidays.

"The most community spread that we are seeing is with intimate gatherings and close relationships. It’s local spread between family and friends, where we don’t mandate mask-wearing," said Beck. "It’s going to be a difficult thing to slow the spread down."

Mayor Gameros said he wants to see a statewide mask mandate from Governor Ducey's office. In the meantime, he continues to preach mask wearing for everyone's safety and their livelihoods.

"We have people on a brink right now...if [businesses] don’t recover it’s going to be difficult for our community to recover."