Prez: Huge spike in COVID numbers due to more testing

Navajo Times | Arlyssa Becenti
Vice President Myron Lizer, left, and President Jonathan Nez, in bed of pickup on the right, delivered personal protective equipment to the Navajo Nation Police on Friday. The PPE was donated by World Vision.

WINDOW ROCK

As of Friday evening, there are 1,540 total positive COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation, nearly one percent of the population. There are a total of 6,473 negative test results. Some 8,978 tests have been administered, with some test results pending. 

These 180 new cases in 24 hours are partly due to an increase in testing, as well as more  rapid testing, being done on Navajo, according to President Jonathan Nez. Recently 1,000 test kits were donated by the University of Arizona.

“On the upside,” said Nez, “with more testing we are now identifying those individuals who need to isolate themselves.”

The Navajo Nation Police Department has been testing all seven of its districts. Some 17 employees have tested positive and another five are sick and self-quarantining, but have not yet been tested.

The group includes 11 police officers as well as criminal investigators, emergency medical staff and corrections officers.

“As most people know we have officers that are sick,” said Deputy Police Chief Daryl Noon. “We have one now who was flown out last night. He’s not doing great but we are hoping for a speedy recovery.”

This weekend will be another 57-hour Navajo-wide curfew and Navajo Nation Police are in charge of enforcing it. Today Chief Phillip Francisco and Noon met with Nez and Department of Transportation Director Garret Silversmith to plan for more stringent patrols for the curfew, which began at 8 p.m. Friday and will be in effect until 5 a.m. on Monday. Curfew violators can receive citations with fines up to $1,000 and up to 30 days in jail for failing to comply with the curfew. 

Francisco said last weekend he was told there was more traffic because people had received their stimulus checks, but the traffic was still lower than normal and there was a lot of compliance.

On Friday, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer delivered personal protective equipment to the Navajo Nation Police Department donated by World Vision. Since the first cases of COVID-19 struck Navajo only a month ago the Navajo Police have been tasked with seeing through Navajo Department of Health public health orders such as nightly 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfews, 57-hour curfews, mandatory masks and other orders. During this time PPE for officers and first responders has diminished and the demand is great.

“I’m very concerned about my first line of officers out there in the field,” said Francisco. “We want to make sure we protect our officers when we are interacting with the public. PPE’s is what they need out in the front line to stay healthy so we can keep protecting the public.”

Before they received the donation Francisco said they had just enough PPE to keep them afloat for a few more weeks. But they go through masks and gloves pretty quickly.

Nez said he would like to see police officers get tested more often — maybe every week.

“We are very thankful to our Navajo Police Officers for their hard work to protect our communities to slow the spread of COVID-19,” stated Lizer. “Unfortunately, we now have 11 police officers who have tested positive for the virus, but this will not deter them from enforcing the curfew.”


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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