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Sahuarita mayor proclaims emergency over coronavirus

Sahuarita Mayor Tom Murphy on Tuesday issued a proclamation declaring an emergency that he said would put the community in a better position should relief money come available.

The proclamation also reiterates national guidelines for dealing with coronavirus, including social distancing, avoiding people with elevated risk and avoiding gatherings of more than 10 people.

"It just gives us the ability to make some suggestions, make a statement, and if other funds become available, doing this puts us on good footing to reach out for additional services," Murphy said of the proclamation.

The move came the same day Tucson Mayor Regina Romero ordered bars and gyms in her city closed until at least the end of March and for restaurant dining rooms to close to the public. Restaurants can keep drive-thrus open and deliver food. Phoenix and Flagstaff have similar mandates.

The Sahuarita proclamation is in line with the state, which has said there are no national recommendations to close restaurants or bars, though some states have done so.

Murphy said his proclamation "suggests a movement" toward take-out for restaurants but doesn't require it.

The state isn't requiring or recommending it, he said, "instead they're pushing the social distancing" of at least six feet.

The proclamation came hours after Murphy joined more than 70 state leaders in a phone call with Gov. Doug Ducey. Murphy said he was concerned that closing dining areas would prompt "a misinterpretation that the food isn't safe, which isn't the case at all.".

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Sahuarita Unified School District is on spring break this week but will remain closed at least through March 27 after Ducey and Schools Superintendent Kathy Hoffman made the decision Monday.

Superintendent Manny Valenzuela on Tuesday announced plans to ensure children are fed during the unexpected closure.

Beginning Monday, SUSD will provide curbside meal service for children ages 1-18 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Pickup is at Wrightson Ridge School in Sahuarita and Sopori Elementary in Amado.

Each meal will include lunch, breakfast for the following morning and is free regardless of meal eligibility status. Children do not have to be students in the district to receive meals, however, they must be present to receive one.

Valenzuela said the district will get direction from the state early next week on whether they believe the shutdown will go past March 27.

He said the district already has resources in place that allow students and teachers to communicate remotely, and they will expand those. He said they will communicate with parents this week.

He said it's a given that some classes, such as P.E. and band, will have to be some sort of independent study.

He added that while no decision has been made to further extend the shutdown, the district wants to make every effort to make the rest of the semester special for graduates.

Volunteer help

Both area food banks said they could use short-term volunteers because many who give their time now are older and are either vulnerable to the virus or have spouses who are.

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Debbie Acuna, manager of the Community Food Banks in Amado and Green Valley, said she has lost 10 to 12 percent of her 250 volunteers. With the end of winter visitor season coming soon, "that's going to impact us further," she said.

The outbreak has forced protocol changes at the food bank on Continental Road in Green Valley. Volunteers now prepackage bags of food and load carts and take them out to clients' vehicles instead of having clients some inside.

Carlos Valles, executive director at Sahuarita Food Bank on La Canada Drive, has lost about a half-dozen volunteers in the past few days.

"They said they're going to stay at home until everything settles down," he said.

They have about 70 consistent volunteers, and that drops to about 40-50 in summer.

Valles said they'd welcome short-term volunteers to give current workers a break. They also have modified their protocols in line with those at the Green Valley food bank.

This column was first published by the Sahuarita Sun.

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Sahuarita Sun

Stacked chairs send a message at the Starbucks inside Fry's in Sahuarita on Tuesday — no seating.