Letter to the Editor: Local governments should make additional precautions

In light of the coronavirus crisis both globally and locally spreading, I urge the Coconino National Forest to keep all gated forest roads closed or close the gates on them now for the entire summer or longer. All motorized vehicles should be prohibited from accessing large areas of the forest to prevent further spread of the disease, and reduce the risk of forest fires resulting from campfires and increased access.

Flagstaff is a small community ill equipped to handle a surge in coronavirus cases. This easy and cost-effective action will protect Flagstaff and northern Arizona community health and our healthcare professionals, firefighters, and others on the front line fighting the pandemic. In addition, if we needed to evacuate because of fire danger, there is nowhere we could safely go. Our hospital is nearly out of personal protective equipment, while healthcare professionals and others on the front line are risking their lives and the health of their families. Northern Arizona University has emptied its labs to donate PPE supplies to our healthcare professionals and first responders.

I also urge the Coconino County Board of Supervisors and Flagstaff City Council to issue a public statement asking visitors not to come to Flagstaff and surrounding areas to protect the health of our community. Please consider that other tourist counties, cities and towns across the country including in Colorado, Utah, Oregon, California, Florida and South Carolina have already taken this action because they recognize they cannot handle a surge in coronavirus cases and realize the critical need to protect the community and diminishing resources.

Finally, I urge the city of Flagstaff not to permit any gatherings/events on city property this spring and summer because they will cause further spread of COVID-19. The public health should take precedence over such activities.

The coronavirus did not just go away by Easter and it won’t just go away by summer or by next year. It will be a life-threatening problem until we have widespread testing and a viable vaccine that can be administered across the country.

EMMA BENENATI

Flagstaff

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