We're just over 100 miles from Phoenix, the capitol and the epicenter of Arizona’s COVID-19 outbreak. That’s Maricopa County, where you'll find 4 million residents and over half of the 6300 reported cases in the entire state. That’s also where you’ll find the most popular resistance to Governor Ducey’s March 30th Stay-At-Home order, even though it is very broadly written and not nearly as restrictive as similar orders in other states.
Here in Gila County, the 4th least-impacted of our 15 counties, with only 11 reported cases out of the 54,000 residents in its 4800 square miles, just one hospitalization and no deaths, there is almost no adherence to the Executive Order by the general public. Granted, all of the hotels, motels, the casino and government buildings are shuttered, and most restaurants are reduced to hiring clowns and sign-wavers promoting curb-side service, but other than that it hard to tell from the outside that there's genuine pain being felt on the inside.
On a drive through town any typical weekday, one sees nearly full parking lots at both major grocery stores and Walmart, near-normal activity at both hardware stores and Home Depot, and at both auto supply stores, the golf course and the city lake and parks.
On Fridays and throughout the weekend the two state highways that intersect in town are jammed with tourist and other recreational traffic, including motor-homes and trucks trailering jeeps, boats, quads, motorbikes and horses. Most of this traffic originates from the sprawling metropolitan areas down in the deserts to our south, some destined for local second homes in town and in the surrounding bedroom communities, but most headed for the high-elevation lakes and forests to our west, north and east, despite the best efforts of the U.S. Forest Service to close the campgrounds and the most heavily-traveled access roads.
I don’t know if this speaks to a general attitude of independence among most typical Arizona residents, or whether it does display, as is often charged by the media when commenting on these matters, the indifference, ignorance and even insolence of a certain segment of the populace. Maybe it’s because the EO is set to expire at the end of the month, less than a week from now, and there’s a general expectation that existing restrictions, in our county at least, will be relaxed even further.
There’s no doubt, however, that whatever the motivation or lack thereof, few people are “up in arms” enough here in Central Arizona’s mountain communities to form even the semblance a respectable protest. Like the virus itself, our “lock-down” just hasn’t quite lived up to its billing.