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Wed, June 03

Tusayan to provide PPE supplies to businesses reopening
Health and safety a top priority during phased re-opening; continued funding for Tusayan Food Bank, school lunch program discussed by town

As re-opening begins for businesses across the state, Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson emphasized the need to protect the community as well as visitors. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

As re-opening begins for businesses across the state, Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson emphasized the need to protect the community as well as visitors. (Loretta McKenney/WGCN)

TUSAYAN, Ariz. — In anticipation of “imminent reopening” and visitors returning to the Grand Canyon, the Tusayan Town Council held a special meeting May 6 to discuss actions taken to provide businesses with COVID-19 related supplies.

After sending out emails and conducting a virtual meeting with business managers across town to assess supply needs, the council has begun to utilize a portion of the $800,000 relief budget to order necessary items for front line workers. These items include PPE (personal protective equipment), hand sanitizer, no-touch thermometers, disinfectant and more.

So far, the town has been able to secure bulk orders through local distributors Shamrock and Mission to obtain an estimated 22,000 face masks as well as 60 cases of gloves, which amounts to 460,000 pairs. These items will be distributed among businesses according to level of need.

During the meeting, Tusayan Mayor Craig Sanderson emphasized the need to protect the community as well as visitors, from a health standpoint as well as the economic factor.

“(The purchasing of supplies) is not just a one-way to protect the guests. Let’s make sure that our community stays safe,” he said. “One thing we know is if our (infection) numbers start blowing up and we have a lot of cases, that is going to severely impact the town of Tusayan’s revenue as people will be scared to come here.”

Sanderson also stressed the need to recover from what is now a 30 percent reduction of revenue for the current fiscal year.

“We’ve got to do our job in order to try to promote Tusayan and our businesses to be able to survive this next year,” he said.

Health and safety top priority during phased re-opening

In relation to promoting the economic health of the community, the adherence to safety measures as part of a phased reopening was emphasized throughout the meeting. Sanderson discussed assisting businesses in promoting the health and safety of workers as well as visitors, not only in terms of providing supplies but also by helping with the promotion of safety measures such as social distancing. Sanderson stated that recent ideas discussed between the council and business managers pertained to promoting health related signage, education pamphlets and an increase in tension barriers (to direct foot traffic).

Sanderson also mentioned managing the influx of visitors during Grand Canyon’s ever-popular sunset hour, and discussed ideas relating to enforcing social separation.

“If the town can help out with purchases (relating to signage) that’s going to be helpful,” Sanderson said.

Sanderson also pointed out that the effects of unemployment are decreasing.

“The unemployment (benefits) have kicked in as well as the federal (stimulus) funds,” he said.

Sanderson also stated that the main concern right now is the town’s imminent reopening plan.

“When that does occur and we have a phased reopening, (we’re) going to be keeping our residents healthy and helping our businesses succeed and mitigating the costs that will incur because of this pandemic,” he said.

Tusayan Food Bank supplemented through town funding

In addition to supplies, the council provided updates regarding the Tusayan Food Bank, which has been providing food and other essentials for between 500-1000 people per week since the shutdowns began in mid-March.

So far, the town has spent $45,000 to supplement donations to the food bank, which is jointly-operated by the Tusayan Fire District and St. Mary’s Food Bank of Flagstaff.

As health advisories relating to the pandemic have been ever-changing, the food bank has continued to adjust policies regarding distribution.

Beginning with creating a drive-through service outside of the Imax Theater for pickups, food bank volunteers have worked a variety of logistical strategies to protect everyone in attendance, such as volunteers wearing masks and gloves, and requiring attendees to remain in their vehicles as supplies are loaded.

A recent change discussed at the council meeting was the purchasing of bandanas for those picking up orders, as the process has been altered so that everyone in attendance is now required to wear some type of facial covering.

Lastly, the council announced it has purchased several pop-up tents to preserve food at the pick-up location, as the weather continues to warm.

Vice Mayor Brady Harris suggested the council’s involvement with the food bank is likely beginning to slow down slightly, as supplementation of items, especially protein items, is becoming less of an issue.

“St. Mary’s has been doing an amazing job this last week,” he said. “The amount of protein and supplies was incredible; I don’t really see the need for the town to continue supplementing the food yet, but of course we will keep the council apprised as the need arises.”

Harris also reminded the council to keep in mind the potential creation of a task force which would enable council action regarding procedures to be implemented.

Additionally, Harris thanked food bank volunteers, an estimated 30-35 people, who have been helping with weekly organization and distribution of food boxes for residents.

“I want to give a big shout-out to the tremendous work that the volunteers have put in. They’ve really done the community a great service,” he said.

Continued support for school lunch program

The council also discussed upcoming concerns relating to the town’s involvement with the PTA school lunch program, which is set to end the week of May 11, which is also near the time the school would normally begin summer vacation.

The town has been helping to fund the program at a cost of up to $1,600 per week.

As an alternative to continue to ensure students are provided for, the school will be offering a summer lunch program for students, likely three days per week as it does every summer, and the council is currently communicating with the school in regards to assistance. The summer lunch program will begin the week immediately following the end of the current lunch program.

“(The school) has decided to end their lunch program, so that will be our prerogative if we want to continue (the program) or to fall in line with the school,” Harris said.

He also stated that the council will make sure children have food coverage.

Currently Grand Canyon School and the council are working together to determine how students will register for the summer program, which is expected to be much more popular this year because of the pandemic. Harris said the sign-up process will likely be set up through either the Spirit of the Canyon website, or through the PTA website.

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