In Arizona's Last County Without Coronavirus Cases, Restaurants Are Still Open

Published: Sunday, March 29, 2020 - 1:07pm

Greenlee County is Arizona's smallest — only about 9,000 people call the remote, eastern Arizona county home.

It's also the only county in the state without a confirmed case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Under Gov. Doug Ducey's executive order closing bars and restaurants, establishments in counties without cases of the disease can still remain open for dine-in service.

In Clifton, the largest town in Greenlee County, P.J.'s Cafe and Family Restaurant remains one of the few establishments across the state with dine-in table service.

"Half of our tables, the chairs are on top of," says Blaine Young, whose mother owns the restaurant. "They won't let us have anybody within six feet of each other."

More customers are heeding the CDC's social distancing guidelines and are ordering their meals to go. In the nearby town of Safford, which is in Graham County, restaurants are closed. Young says he's seeing business from other towns — like nearby Safford, in Graham County, which has at least 4 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 27.

“We do an enormous amount of takeout orders, especially in the evenings," Young said. "Our business is different than before this happened, but not all that much slower.”

P.J.'s is one of the few restaurants that hasn't needed to lay off employees — but that could change if Greenlee County gets a positive COVID-19 case. Public health experts say the disease is widespread in Arizona. In Maricopa County, the director of the public health department says that every city has cases in it, confirmed or not. Chances are it's only a matter of time before Greenlee County sees its first case.

Until then, though, Young says they're doing "just fine."

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