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Cases climb to 39; wireless alert issued

WINDOW ROCK

As of Tuesday there were 10 more COVID-19 cases on Navajo.

With these new cases it brings the total to 39. Cases include 25 in Navajo County, six in Apache County, four in Coconino County in Arizona, and four in McKinley County in New Mexico.

It was only a week ago that the first two cases were found. While cases continue to rapidly increase, the public continues with daily life, largely disregarding the stay-at-home order.

In an effort to remind people of the order on Monday evening a wireless emergency alert was activated for the first time. The emergency alert rang through phones throughout the Navajo Nation telling everyone to shelter in place.

Christopher Becenti, Executive Director for the Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission, and the Department of Emergency Management had collaborated to get this emergency alert running.

“This would go out similar the way you receive the AMBER alert,” said Becenti. “This will be the first for Navajo.”

The alert, which has been in the works for two-and-a-half years, was implemented with the help of state and county emergency personnel in the three states that overlap the Navajo Nation.

Nez said under Becenti’s leadership they were able to finally get to this point with the wireless emergency alert system. Becenti was appointed and confirmed as director for the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission in March 2019.

“This will be the first one to be issued out Navajo Nation,” said President Jonathan Nez. “We have a really good director… who is willing to work with others.”

The stay-in-place emergency alert message is to reinforce what Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer have been stressing in interviews and press releases. They are directing the public to the Navajo Department of Health website if they have any questions.

The alert is “going to be specifically for Navajo Nation,” said Becenti. “Normally it’s the states that issue their alerts out.”

The Navajo Nation has been working diligently to try to get the word out for everyone to stay at home in order to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus. Monday Nez and Lizer handed out pamphlets in the busy Window Rock Bashas’ parking lot to inform people about the mysterious illness.

Navajo Nation Council posted a video with Council Delegate Mark Freeland offering hope and encouragement during this unprecedented time.

“We are facing the uncertainty of what COVID-19 brings not only to us on the Navajo Nation, but across the world,” said Freeland in the PSA. “We don’t have all the answers. But it is highly contagious… we have been asked to self-isolate and stay at home. This is extremely important.”

“I want to highlight this part we are trying to keep the information flowing to the Navajo public by letting them know cases on the Navajo Nation,” said Nez. “But we are also experiencing how difficult that could be. So we are now going to transition to recording by counties.”

Information: http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/



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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