Sonora Takes Hard COVID-19 Line, But Uncertainty Remains

By Murphy Woodhouse
Published: Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 7:20am
Updated: Thursday, March 19, 2020 - 8:40am

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Sonoran COVID-19 Response
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Sonora's governor and health secretary have asked local governments to close beaches, among a number of other measures.

Eric Fairfield grew up in Tucson, and has been coming down to San Carlos, Sonora, for more than two decades. The scuba diving instructor and entrepreneur loved it enough that he bought a house in the popular beach town about 18 years ago.

“I've lived on and off part time here over the last 15, and then the last year I transitioned to full time here,” he said.

He’s also put down business roots. Fairfield is one of the founding partners of San Carlos’ only brewery — Marvida. After months of planning and work, the charming marina-front spot opened earlier this year.

“We didn't quite make it two months,” he said. “We opened Jan.  31, so we closed yesterday.” 

They temporarily closed because of the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. Sonora’s first case was confirmed this week, and in response officials rolled out a plan called ‘Quédate en Casa,’ or Stay Home. Its aggressive measures include closing non-essential businesses like bars and dance clubs, and canceling any event with more than 10 people, including church services. 

Fairfield said the brewery had already been taking steps to keep patrons safe, but decided Tuesday to shut down, and only offer delivery and take-out service. They never received a formal order to close, and he said he hasn’t yet seen much evidence of enforcement of the measures in town. 

“I don't think they were too extreme,” he said of those measures. “But I also don't think that there's any way to enforce it.”

Tough Times, Tough Measures

On Tuesday, mayors from around Sonora met with Gov. Claudia Pavlovich and Health Secretary Enrique Clausen. They committed to putting the plan in place for at least the next 30 days. Hermosillo Mayor Célida López described it as a “quarantine” while speaking with reporters Tuesday.

“Starting today, all casinos, movie theaters must be closed,” she said. “Mass can’t be held, there can’t be any events that aren’t essential.”

Gov. Claudia Pavlovich
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich

As for the closure of beaches, she said it applies to everyone in the state, not just those in her municipality’s famous Kino Bay. She said she was still working with her team to figure out how to ensure that the closures are respected. 

There were more questions up in Rocky Point, among the most popular Mexican beaches for Arizonans. Thousands of visitors are expected this weekend, Mayor Kiko Munro said Wednesday. A release from the city cited an estimate of 80,000 people. 

“The governor and the president have yet to declare a health emergency,” he said during his live streamed statement.

That step would oblige his government to close the beaches, according to Munro.  

If such a decree were to be issued, he said he’d request support from the state and federal governments to handle the massive expected crowds. 

Until then, he said his government is inviting residents to stay in their homes, and asking visitors from Mexico and abroad to avoid concentrations of more than 10 people during their stay.  

Staying Put

Back in San Carlos, Fairfield said the pandemic and policy responses have led some visitors and expatriates to reconsider plans. Some have extended their stays, reasoning that they’re able to work from anywhere, and there are worse places to be. But a neighbor of his decided to split a week early. 

“She was from Canada, and she asked her family members to get her stock so she could self-quarantine when she got back,” he said.

But Fairfield is staying put. 

“Well, we decided to take advantage of the time and do some projects. We have some things that we wanted to get done at Marvida that we didn't have time for,” he said.

He said he and his partners have the resources to hold on for a while, but he’s one of many that doesn’t know how long that while will be.

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