Navajo Nation creates COVID-19 team
A team to closely monitor the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, has been established.
Called the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team, the team, according to a press release from the Office of the President and Vice President, would “monitor, plan, prepare, and coordinate precautionary efforts to address the coronavirus.”
The team, made up of the the tribal president’s office, Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Division of Public Safety, Navajo Division of Social Services, Navajo Department of Emergency Management, Department of Diné Education, Navajo Division of Community Development, IHS, BIA and BIE; would take a “proactive measure” to raise public awareness and “prepare for potential spread“ of the virus.
“We’re bringing these entities together to ensure that we are communicating and coordinating efforts to educate the public. There are no cases of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, but this is a very serious health concern, and it’s vital that we continue to provide information with everyone, including students, elderly, and community members,” President Jonathan Nez started in the press release.
The outbreak that began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, has now spread throughout China and to 46 other countries and territories, including the United States. As of Feb. 27, there were 78,497 reported cases in China and 3,797 cases in locations outside China.
To date, the Centers for Disease Control has said there has been limited spread of the virus in the U.S. They reported there were a total of 61 cases within the country. Of those, 46 of those patients contracted the virus from elsewhere. The other 15 cases were diagnosed in the United States.
One patient with COVID-19 who had no travel history or links to other known cases was reported in California. Health officials were investigating how the person contracted the disease.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said a man from Washington state died at a hospital in Seattle from COVID-19 on Saturday, making him the first to die from the virus within the U.S.
Here on the Navajo Nation, Nez said he stressed to the Navajo Department of Health and IHS to utilize Community Health Representatives to “inform Navajo elderly people and those living in remote areas.”
Michael D. Weahkee, Assistant Surgeon General and Principal Deputy Director of the IHS, sent a letter to tribal leaders stating risks of contracting COVID-19 were “low.”
”While any direct impacts of this outbreak to Indian Country are not yet known, we must be vigilant in our efforts to prevent the introduction and spread of infections among our patients and within the communities we serve,” Weahkee stated in his letter.
The CDC sent out a guide to evaluate and test patients who may have COVID-19, and to distinguish the differences between the virus and other well-known viruses like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
“To prepare for possible additional person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in the United States, CDC continues to recommend that clinicians and state and local health departments consider COVID-19 in patients with severe respiratory illness even in the absence of travel history to affected areas or known exposure to another case,” the CDC said.
People who contract the virus begin with mild symptoms, including coughing and fever that can lead to pneumonia and kidney failure, especially for elderly people who have heart disease, and young children.
People are encouraged to avoid close contact with other people who are coughing and sneezing, and to wash their hands with soap.
“Stay home if you are sick,” the OPVP statement read.