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COVID cases jump to 26

Navajo Times | Donovan Quintero
The community of Chilchinbeto has become the hub of a growing coronavirus epidemic that has gone from two people to 26 within the last four days.

WINDOW ROCK

Confirmed COVID-19 cases on Navajo have increased to 26 as of Saturday night.

Cases include 18 from the Kayenta Service Unit, four from the Chinle Service Unit, three from the Tuba City Service Unit, and one from the Crownpoint Service Unit. As of Saturday, there are no confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 for residents of the Navajo Nation, according to the President’s office.

It’s been less than a week since the first two cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation were reported.  While joint tribal and IHS epidemiologist teams are working to stop the virus’s spread, the degree of contact of contagious individuals and the subsequent degree of exposure is unknown. According to the “Stay In Place” Order put in place Friday, continued person-to-person spread throughout the Navajo Nation poses an extensive and substantial public health risk.

“Everyone needs to stay home, that’s how we will start to beat this virus,” stated President Jonathan Nez. “To prevent a massive health crisis, every person must remain home. We know some may need food, medicine, or other essential items, but beyond that we shouldn’t have anyone traveling or going out into the public. This includes public gatherings and meetings.”

Roselyn Tso, Navajo Area IHS director, said they have less than 30 days of supplies left and that will only decrease with more cases. During Friday’s special Navajo Nation Council session Tso said she had to send home 45 staff from Kayenta hospital, and it has impacted services to the point of the hospital having to turn people away from being tested.

“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 two to four days of waiting to get results from the tests isn’t nearly fast enough in order to slow down the spread.

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On Saturday first responders from the Navajo Nation Fire Department and Navajo Nation Police Department were in the Chilchinbeto community where the first 14 cases were confirmed.

Navajo Police established community checkpoints to limit traffic and discourage unnecessary traveling.

Also today Navajo firefighters entered Chilchinbeto to deliver care packages to residents, including elderly and high-risk. Both first responders were dressed in protective attire.

On Monday, Navajo Nation Council failed to pass a $3 million emergency funding package. At that point there wasn’t a confirmed case on Navajo. By Friday, there were 14 confirmed cases and the Navajo Nation Council convened for a second special session where they passed legislation to allocate $4 million to the Navajo Department of Health COVID-19 coronavirus response effort.

“This is for our People,” stated Delegate Charlaine Tso. “What we are facing, as a Nation, is unlike anything we have seen in this modern day and age. My heart goes out to those who are undergoing treatment for this COVID-19, and with this $4 million emergency funding, we want the Navajo Nation to know we are fighting to give our people the best fighting chance at overcoming this.”

Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer signed this resolution Friday. This funding will help with providing medical supplies, food and water, equipment, public outreach, and more. Navajo Agricultural Products Industry also gave a dividend of $1 million to the Nation in order to combat COVID-19.

But with all the funding and help from leaders and first responders, it is still up to the Navajo people to slow this potentially fatal illness down by taking it seriously and staying home.

“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!”



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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