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Gallup, Chinle get rapid test kits

WINDOW ROCK

Rapid results testing for COVID-19 will be made available at Gallup Indian Medical Center and Chinle Comprehensive Health Facility. 

Navajo leadership has said many times rapid testing will help with identifying those who have the virus so they know to self-quarantine and can begin treatment. It will also increase the confirmed numbers of those who have the virus, making the numbers appear to spike when actually it will just be a higher number of test results coming in at once, tribal leaders warned.

As of Saturday night, the Navajo Nation had 698 confirmed cases — an increase of 101 over the previous day — and a total of 24 deaths. Sunday numbers weren’t posted or sent out. 

“Testing supplies has been limited over this time,” said Brian Johnson, Navajo Area Indian Health Services Deputy Director during last week’s town hall. “Those supplies are improving but however we are having challenges with that. Rapid testing for this disease, … that’s what we are working toward. Hopefully we’ll be able to improve that which will also improve our response.”

Since the first cases began to be identified last month, acquiring rapid testing kits has been a goal. Right now testing can take up to 2 to 4 days to turn around, and this postpones quarantining and treatment.

The new tests can yield results in 15 to 45 minutes, according to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

The Abbott ID rapid test kits were received Monday. But some places, including the checkerboard area, are in need of even the old-style tests. 

A health professional in Eastern Agency, who asked to remain anonymous, said getting tests in the rural areas of Sandoval County has been nearly impossible and right now they have no idea how many cases there are. This county includes the Navajo communities of Torreon and Counselor, New Mexico. 

The health professional said there may be jurisdictional issues between the New Mexico Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service, but that shouldn’t matter since mitigation is the goal for the entire population. 

“Our patients have to drive 100 miles to get tested,” said the source. “I can’t even order tests. Abbot testing would be wonderful.”

Last month, the University of Arizona donated 250 COVID-19 tests to the Navajo Nation. As of Saturday’s update 2,760 tests returned negative results.

Confirmed cases as of Saturday:

Navajo County (Arizona): 252

Apache County (Arizona): 79

Coconino County (Arizona): 150

McKinley County (New Mexico): 90

San Juan County (New Mexico): 97

Cibola County (New Mexico): 11

San Juan County (Utah): 11

Socorro (NM): 6


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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