A former Airborne soldier in the Army, Sean Ruddy couldn’t sit still when people started getting sick with the coronavirus.

Not unlike his call to service that resulted in being “dropped” into a Honduran jungle, Ruddy was compelled to act.

He decided to start raising money for COVID-19 tests for first responders and their families. His efforts began in July and thus far have generated about $2,200 in donations from friends and area businesses.

Ruddy’s definition of “first responders” goes beyond the heroes who are called for medical emergencies, law enforcement and firefighters. He’s including those who work for utilities, those who pick up your garbage and everyone who provides an “essential” service.

Most importantly, he’s including the families of these first responders.

“I think the people who are providing these essential services realize the community is depending on them,” Ruddy said. “They need to know that their family is healthy, too. It’s one less thing they will have to worry about if we can get them tested.”

Ruddy began his campaign by contacting Chiricahua Community Health Centers to find out the cost and the process for testing.

“To do 100 tests, it costs about $5,000,” Ruddy said.

Chiricahua has locations throughout Cochise County and has previously held community testing events. The health centers offered a series of drive-thru events which tested more than 4,000 people in June, until federal funding for the program ended. A $15,000 donation from two local electric utilities provided enough funds for another 300 tests in July.

“Those efforts have been great and really helped the community, but there hasn’t been anything targeted at the essential workers or their families,” Ruddy said.

He hopes his fundraising efforts will provide enough tests to address that “gap.”

Ruddy noted that COVID-19 testing is still important, despite an overall decline in the number of cases compared to the spike that occurred in Arizona in June.

“This virus hasn’t run its course yet,” he said. “You’re seeing case numbers climb in other states around the country and eventually that will happen here if we don’t stay vigilant.”

Ruddy is the Network and Cybersecurity Administrator at Sulphur Springs Valley Electric Cooperative. He took on the fundraising challenge as part of a community leadership project at SSVEC.

Donations can be made at the front counter of any SSVEC office and should be clearly marked as a “COVID Testing Donation,” Ruddy said.

“SSVEC has set up a separate account for these contributions and all the money will go directly to paying for tests,” he said.

As of Thursday, Cochise County has had a total of 2,000 COVID-19 cases, of which 88 are currently active. The greatest concentration of active cases is in the Douglas and Bisbee areas, where 43 cases have been reported. To date, the county has reported 73 deaths resulting from the coronavirus.

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