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Curfew ordered as cases climb to 115

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).

 

WINDOW ROCK

President Jonathan Nez has ordered an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on the Navajo Nation after the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases jumped to 115 Saturday.

There are still just two deaths confirmed as of Friday. 

Almost half of these cases were found in Navajo County which leads the other counties throughout the reservation with 57 cases. Coconino County comes in second with 19, Apache County has 18 cases, San Juan County, New Mexico has 12 cases, San Juan County, Utah has two cases and Cibola County, New Mexico has 1 case.

“We’ve reached a point where our medical facilities and health care workers are in dire need of more personal protective equipment, hospital beds, and other critical resources and it’s only going to increase if people continue to ignore orders to stay home as much as possible,” stated Navajo President Jonathan Nez.

Since it is nearly the first of the month and many people are obviously not taking health recommendations seriously, the Division of Economic Development is initiating added precautions at grocery stores, banks, and other businesses.

When the Navajo Nation was still only at 19 cases on March 20, Navajo Area Indian Health Services director Roselyn Tso told members of the Navajo Nation Council they had 30 days of supplies left and that would only decrease with more cases. At the time she also noted that she had to send 45 staff home from the Kayenta Service Area, impacting services. 

“We have not done as much testing as we should,” said Tso. “Therefore that could lead to additional positive cases. One, just because of limited testing that we do; Number Two, just how long it takes to get back our testing.”

The number of cases increased exponentially from last Saturday, when there were only 26 cases, and Nez blamed that on people not staying home.  

The need for personnel, protective wear, hospital beds, and other crucial resources at all health care facilities on the Navajo Nation continues to increase daily, and Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer stated they are working with members of Congress and state partners to prepare for the use of temporary hospital facilities when current hospitals reach capacity.

   

Last week, in efforts to get PPEs for first responders and hospital facilities on Navajo, a shipment of PPEs from Apache, Navajo and Coconino counties had come in.  The next batch of PPEs coming from the Strategic National Stockpile is supposed to go straight to Navajo rather than through counties.

“Kayenta is in dire need of PPEs so now they can provide additional screening services and medical services that were being delayed because of these equipment,” said Jill Jim, director for the Navajo Nation Department of Health. “I reiterated to the counties that we hope to continue to receive support from the counties and state to meet our medical supply needs.”

The nitrile glove factory Rhino Health LLC located in Churchrock, New Mexico, sent over boxes of gloves headed for those at the front lines on Navajo who are fighting COVID-19.

A Public Health Emergency “Stay at Home Order” remains in effect requiring all residents of the Navajo Nation to remain home and isolated and all non-essential businesses to close.

“Now more than ever, we need prayers and the cooperation of the public to fight this growing pandemic,” stated Lizer “Eventually, we will overcome, but at this rate it’s going to be a long and challenging road ahead. The more people choose to go out in public each day, the more challenging it’ll be for everyone. We all want this pandemic to end, but the only way we end it is by isolating ourselves as much as possible.”

(Reporter Donovan Quintero contributed to this report.)



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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