COVID cases now at 29; people not heeding stay-at-home warning
As of Monday morning there are 29 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Navajo, three more than the previous evening, according to a press release from the Office of the Navajo Nation President and Vice President.
During a press conference Monday President Jonathan Nez said the locations of the new cases are not being released because of patient privacy considerations. Previously, the chapter or at least the Indian Health Service unit where the cases were confirmed was released.
Over the weekend a Navajo Nation-wide stay-at-home order was put in place after cases increased from 14 to 26. Navajo Nation leaders have advised the Navajo people to stay home by way of social media, radio, billboards and traditional media.
“To prevent a massive public health crisis, every person must remain home,” stated President Jonathan Nez. “The fact is that the number of positive tests is growing. 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.”
But Sunday night Navajo Nation Police officers drove through a semi-full Chinle Bashas’ parking lot with patrons walking in and out of the grocery store. While driving the officer told people to go home and remember to wash their hands.
“To contain the spread of COVID-19 stay at home,” blared the officer’s voice through his intercom. “Restrict yourself from traveling. Wash your hands. Avoid contact with those who are sick.”
But despite the loud echo from leaders, officials, and public safety and closing of some restaurants and other businesses, a heavy number of cars and people were still seen at grocery stores, banks, and gas stations throughout the weekend.
The World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control have been pleading with the public to practice social distancing, self-isolation, and self-quarantining in order to combat and prevent more COVID cases.
The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Jerome Adams, said this week would be getting “bad” when it comes to COVID-19 because people aren’t practicing social distancing.
“And right now there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously,” he warned. “We need to take this seriously.”
There have been no confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on Navajo, according to President Jonathan Nez. Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer speak with Indian Health Services and the Navajo Department of Health twice a day to verify case numbers.
Those working with the hard-hit community of Chilchinbeto, Arizona, including first responders and members of the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team, expressed concern for their own wellbeing and that of their loved ones.
Nyla Seweingyawma, a prevention specialist, sat inside the former Department of Behavioral Health building — now the emergency operation center for the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team in Kayenta — Friday. She said prayer is getting her through this time.
“It’s scary,” said Seweingyawma. “You don’t know who has been exposed and with all the people you interact with in the community …”