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Nation ordered to shelter in place

Courtesy photo
This still from Friday’s special Council session shows Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez wearing a face mask and gloves.

WINDOW ROCK

The shelter-in-place order that was put in place for Chilchinbeto, Arizona, this week has been expanded to the entire Navajo Nation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez told the Navajo Nation Council Friday that it’s crucial the Navajo people stay home in order to combat and prevent the coronavirus from spreading.

“Staying at home is the best thing people can do,” said Nez to Council during the streamed special session. “Ladies and gentlemen … please heed those warnings! If you need to go out and get necessity just send one person.”

While wearing protective gloves and mask, Nez also reminded Council and viewers that all tourist sites and points of destination on Navajo are closed. 

“Visitors, please respect the sovereignty of the Navajo Nation, please don’t travel now,” said Nez. “It isn’t the best time to sightsee.”

Some members of the Navajo Nation Council were seen wearing protective gloves. Some delegates attended the special session in person, while others phoned in. Council Delegate Amber Crotty had posted on her Facebook page that she would be staying home in order to keep her family and community safe. 

“I ask my people, stay home,” stated Crotty on her Facebook page. “I ask to give our limited healthcare a fighting chance, stay home! I am staying home. Our mother earth needs reverence and positive energy. We can not control others but we can do our part by protecting and delaying the spread of COVID-19.”

In a short period of time, COVID-19 has arrived on the Navajo Nation and the number of confirmed cases remains at 14 as of Saturday morning, all in the Chilchinbeto area. One case was confirmed in McKinley County but state authorities are not revealing exactly where the person is from.

The degree of contact with contagious individuals and the subsequent degree of exposure is unknown and continued person-to-person spread throughout the Navajo Nation thereby poses an extensive and substantial public health risk, according to Nez’s executive order.

“While there are a higher number of people receiving negative COVID-19 test results for the virus at this point, there are many tests that are awaiting results and confirmation,” stated Nez. “The purpose of the closure is to allow the Navajo Nation as a whole to isolate and quarantine. Isolation and quarantine help protects our Nation by preventing exposure to people who have or may have the contagious COVID-19 virus.”

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The order also outlines provisions for “essential activities, essential businesses, and any work necessary to the operations and maintenance of essential infrastructure.” It further states that Navajo Nation citizens are required to stay home and undertake only those outings absolutely necessary for their health, safety, or welfare as described herein.

Roselyn Tso, Director for Navajo Area Indian Health Services, explained she had to send home 45 staff this week at one of the 12 IHS sites, causing a strain on the already limited resources. 

She also noted that there is limited amount of testing available, which is the case for the entire country. The two to four days of waiting to get results from the tests isn’t nearly fast enough to slow down the spread. 

“That is not good in the situation we are in,” said Tso. “That’s way too much time.” 

Tso also said they have less than 30 days’ worth of supplies and this will change with any positive cases they may get in the future. 

“It’s incumbent on every person to comply with this order,” said Vice President Myron Lizer. “We are going to get through this with the power of prayer. Please continue to be mindful of our elders and those at high risk. COVID-19 is extremely dangerous for our elders, for people over 60.  Think of the safety of our elders. Stay home.”



About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council, Business, Fort Defiance Agency, New Mexico State politics and Art/fashion. 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.

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