Did you know Santa Cruz County has no health services board?

I’m not kidding.

Once again, we are faced with the knowledge that Santa Cruz County is unprepared and ill-equipped to protect its residents. In January, when we first inquired about the board of health, we received an email from Jeff Terrell stating that “currently the county is developing a resolution to create a board of health.”

Today, facing the largest pandemic since the early 20th century, I am at a loss as to why our officials have been so cavalier. Under the Health Services page of the county website is a list of lofty goals, but who is truly at the helm to ensure these goals are met if we have no health services board to govern?

Just as painful is the website directory under “Environmental Health Services.” It lists names and titles, but their basic function is sanitation, mosquito remediation and food safety.

According to Arizona Revised Statutes 36-183, for a county department of health in a county having three supervisorial districts, the board of supervisors shall appoint a five-member board consisting of a county supervisor, a physician and three citizens for each of the three districts with an interest in public health.

Santa Cruz County has a contract with Mariposa Community Health Center to provide some health-related services for the community (immunizations, maternal and child health and STD/HIV/tuberculosis prevention and control), but these services are not a replacement for a health services board. And nowhere in the list of services is epidemic, pandemic, community immunity or mitigation mentioned.

A true health services board, led by a certified physician, could and should have been working with local medical professionals and Arizona State officials, early on, to ensure we had adequate COVID-19 tests (and preventative measures in place) for Santa Cruz County residents.

In addition, each county district should have been represented so that the individual/unique needs of our districts are met and the preparedness response is local, detailed and specific to our communities.

Even though Santa Cruz County is currently designated a “low risk” area, that determination could rise rapidly. Every day, the demographic changes as to who will contract the virus. No age group, no ethnicity, no nationality nor gender is being spared. Acting now, we could be managing risk and not managing an epidemic later.

How are residents of Santa Cruz County supposed to believe their leaders are forward-thinking and prepared when our officials appear to value produce and real estate more than health and safety? It’s incredulous to me.

(Federici is a resident of Sonoita.)

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