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Positive tests near 4,800; Crownpoint prez frustrated by noncompliance

WINDOW ROCK — As of Monday evening, there are 4,794 COVID-19 cases and 157 deaths for the Navajo Nation. Preliminary reports from eight health care facilities indicate that approximately 1,491 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, with more reports still pending.

“The curve is flattening on the Navajo Nation, even as we test aggressively. Fourteen point six percent of our citizens have been tested so far,” stated Navajo President Jonathan Nez.

He said testing, contact tracing, and the public health orders implemented requiring protective masks in public and weekend lockdowns are working and flattening the curve.

“When you look at the projections that were provided in March and compare them to numbers that we have, we are actually doing much better than the projections,” stated Nez.

By IHS service units, Chinle has surpassed Gallup as the hotspot on the reservation with 1,169 cases. Crownpoint had 503; Ft. Defiance 236; Gallup 834; Kayenta 746; Shiprock 774; Tuba City 418; and Winslow 83. Thirty-one cases were unspecified.

During the May 20 Eastern Agency Meeting, Crownpoint Chapter President Rita Capitan said there is a high number of COVID-19 positive individuals who continue to spread the virus carelessly and it’s “out of control.”

“A lot of community members give me a call or text me and they will say a lot of people who are positive are walking around out in the neighborhood, store” said Capitan. “They don’t care. They’re out spreading the virus.”

She said people know their neighbors and they know who is positive, and they have confided in her that those who are positive continue to visit people at the Navajo Housing Authority homes. She wondered what is NHA doing about this.

“Crownpoint is a hotspot to Thoreau and everything in between,” said Capitan. “We have had a lot of deaths in our area. I don’t know what NHA is doing with their tenants but they need to do something.”

Getting NHA to encourage tenants to get tested was discussed during the meeting.  Also discussed was the need to have testing done at the communities so to decrease the volume of movement outside of community.

Roselyn Tso, Navajo Area Indian Health Services director, said the Crownpoint Service Unit has undergone a fair amount of testing, and through IHS they are still complying with the Centers of Disease Control guidelines needed to be met in order to be tested.

“We still have limited test kits,” said Tso. “Some of all this is based on how many test kits we have available.”

During a drive-up testing in Crownpoint that happened earlier this month Tso said she was surprised that it wasn’t broadly communicated. She said when these tests are done, they need to make sure contact tracers are ready to begin their due diligence, and they will need to make sure the isolation unit is available.

“Why is there limited testing kits on the reservation?” asked Julie Bedonie from Tohatchi Chapter. “President Trump is saying we have more than enough now. So why are we short and telling people we have limited test to perform test on everybody?”

Former Council Delegate Leonard Tsosie said they don’t go into Indian Health Services budget to see how the funds are being spent. With that said he asked why aren’t they getting the kits out there, how many are on order, and how many are there?

“Even if you get tested that doesn’t mean you are going to be COVID-19 free forever,” said Tsosie. “President Nez indicated there are three facilities that have been retrofitted and are now available. Why aren’t those people who have been tested positive being relocated to these facilities so they can recover there?”

Tso said there were 25,000 kits en route to IHS as of May 19.  When it comes to the budget Tso said $112 million has come to Navajo IHS. Some $76 million went to the federal service unit and $34 million has gone to the PL-638 programs, and $1.4 million has gone to urban programs, explained Tso.

“There is not enough to go around to everybody,” said Tso. “We are trying to secure our portion. When we are talking about test kits and PPEs those are still hard to find. We are making effort to secure those kits.”

Tso said they can’t force a patient into the facilities reserved for those who have tested positive to quarantine. It goes back to education and being responsible, she said.



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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