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Cases spike again; Nez orders businesses to close

Cases spike again; Nez orders businesses to close

WINDOW ROCK

An apparent huge spike in coronavirus cases Thursday — 240 new — is actually due to a lag in reporting, according to the Navajo Nation Department of Health.

Nevertheless, President Jonathan Nez took his most drastic action yet and declared all businesses on the Navajo Nation — including those previously deemed “essential” like gas stations and grocery stores — closed from 8 p.m. Friday until the lifting of the usual weekend curfew at 5 a.m. Monday.

There are 3,632 COVID-19 positive cases and 127 deaths as of Thursday night, and for the first time a preliminary number of recovered patients was released by the president’s office — approximately 515.

For weeks Nez has been pointing out that while the statistics seem grim, the vast majority of people who get the disease recover. The Navajo Nation Department of Health finally released the number of patients who can be safely considered recovered late Thursday.

“The projections from health care experts seem to be accurate because we are seeing a peak in numbers now and we are hopeful that it will begin to flatten and eventually decline,” stated Nez. “The weekend lockdown is to further restrict the movement of individuals on the Nation and to and from border towns. The number of COVID-19 positive cases and the number of fatalities continues to increase because individuals continue to leave their homes, many on weekends to avoid the weekend lockdowns.”

For the first time this weekend, essential businesses, including stores, gas stations, restaurants, drive-thru food establishments, hay vendors, and other vendors, are ordered to cease all operations during the lockdown.

“No businesses will be open this weekend,” said Nez during his virtual town hall meeting Thursday. “Now that I said that everyone is going to be running to the store. Please, help each other at this time. Don’t be selfish.”

Although there were only four new deaths from the virus reported Thursday, down from a high of 16, the number of new positive tests was an all-time high. According to the Navajo Nation Department of Health’s daily situation report, the number does not represent an accurate reflection of the situation because some of the tests were awaiting “quality assurance checks,” and “cross-jurisdictional challenges” caused a lag in reporting some 99 cases which would have been reported throughout the past two weeks.

All Navajo Nation healthcare facilities (IHS and .638s) are now conducting in-house testing using the Abbott ID NOW and Cepheid rapid test kits. However, according to the DOH only 20-50 test kits are received per week and there is a great need for additional supplies. The state of Arizona, in conjunction with Tuba City Regional Health Care Center, will be conducting testing events in Cameron, Arizona, today and Tonalea, Arizona, Tuesday.

Although the numbers are not as grim as they appear, Nez still said he is “saddened” by the count, which represents “a lot of people … fighting for their lives.”

As reported yesterday by the Times, there had been a large increase in Shiprock, and Nez said their assumption is that it is due to Gallup being locked down, causing people to travel to Farmington.

With fair season supposed to begin in two months, legislation was dropped today requesting the cancelling of all Navajo Fairs for 2020. The Eastern Fair was cancelled earlier this week.

The legislation would cancel the Fourth of July Celebration, the Navajo Nation Fair, the Kayenta 4th of July Rodeo, Eastern Navajo Fair, the Ramah Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Naatsis’áán E’eaniih Day Celebration, Southwest Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Central Agency Fair, Utah Navajo Fair and Rodeo, Northern Navajo Fair, Alamo Indian Day, the Western Navajo Fair, and any other fairs, rodeos and roping events that would ordinarily be held on the Navajo Nation during 2020.

The fairs, rodeos and roping events are large gatherings of people and could expose large numbers of people to COVID-19, stated the legislation that is co-sponsored by seven delegates. This legislation is in the five-day comment period.

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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