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Cases climb above 1,700; Lujan Grisham joins town hall

Graphic courtesy of CDC

This illustration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. A novel coronavirus, named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China, in 2019. The illness caused by this virus has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

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The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation has reached 1,716. There were no new deaths Sunday. The total deaths remain at 59 . There are a total of 8,037 negative test results. 

The breakdown is as follows. For Arizona: Navajo County, 405; Apache County, 391; Coconino County,  243;. For New Mexico: McKinley County, 427; San Juan County, 177; Cibola County, 16;  Socorro County,  21; Sandoval County, 15. In Utah, San Juan County has 21.

New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke during Sunday evening’s town hall and said controlling and mitigating the virus is the priority.

“We can still save lives,” said Lujan Grisham. “This notion that once the virus is out that you just have to let it run its course, no. We have to control and manage this invisible enemy.”

Solving community problems such as getting food, water and other supplies to isolated residents are major components needed to continue to fight this virus until a vaccine or treatment has been developed, she said.

While the number of cases in McKinley County continues to increase rapidly, other New Mexico counties such as Cibola, Socorro and Sandoval counties have no new cases.

Lujan Grisham mentioned the federal government is taking too long to get the resources to the Navajo Nation. She said if Arizona and Utah governors, along with herself, and the Navajo Nation, give the same message and ask how much of the funds are coming in and how much are going straight to the affected area they can hopefully get a response.

During her time on the town hall Vice President Myron Lizer asked her questions that were sent in from viewers. The first viewer asked what is being done when it comes to those Navajo citizens inside New Mexico jails.

“We’ve begun to do surveillance testing in all the prisons and corrections facilities,” said Lujan Grisham. “We are doing two kinds of surveillance testing. We are looking for actual viruses, but we aren’t just looking for the virus … We want to go for the asymptomatic population and we’ve tested staff.”

She also said that inmates make masks to wear, and officers are required to wear respiratory masks. They also had to stop visitors from visiting inmates.

When it comes to donations, Lujan Grisham said they have been working on identifying food, water, and hygiene supplies and getting them to all tribes in New Mexico. On Friday, her office sent 80 pallets of bottled water and 84,000 pounds of food to Shiprock and Crownpoint. Six thousand gallons of water were sent to Chilchitah, Manuelito, Torreon, Tohajiilee, and Smith Lake. This was just from last week, but there had been more donations before then given to Navajo communities in New Mexico.

“There seems to be some disconnection between our emergency command center and maybe your emergency command center and our tribal liaisons,” said Lujan Grisham. “We ought to put together the need of every single chapter and the right delivery mechanism.”

Navajo Nation Council Delegate Edmund Yazzie asked if Lujan Grisham could activate the McKinley County Sheriff’s Department cross-commission agreement because Navajo Nation Police “are tired” from having to enforce the curfews.

Lujan Grisham said she would check into the commission, but they will have to leverage when it comes to public safety.

Yazzie also brought up legislation he sponsored asking New Mexico to stop selling alcohol.  He asked Lujan Grisham if she could stop the selling of alcohol until the numbers in McKinley County go down.

“We should work with you directly on figuring out something better,” said Lujan Grisham. “What I don’t have is jurisdiction in the way that people think we do, where we can go to one community and make it lesser or worse.”


About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at abecenti@navajotimes.com. Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti

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