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Virus trends downward, Nez remembers victims

Virus trends downward, Nez remembers victims


President Jonathan Nez, his wife Phefelia Nez, and Miss Navajo Shaandiin Parrish stood in front of the Window Rock Monday night to record a prayer.

It was the Navajo Nation’s contribution to the 59th Inaugural National Prayer Service, which will be live-streamed starting at 8 a.m. today at

Nez also asked for a moment of silence for the 922 Diné who have lost their lives to COVID-19. For nearly a year now the Navajo Nation has been battling COVID-19 among its people, like the rest of the country, and has relied on restrictive tactics.

Tuesday night boasted the lowest number of new cases that Navajo has seen since the beginning of November, with 45 new positive cases for the Navajo Nation. Reports indicate that 13,566 individuals have recovered from the virus and 224,108 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive cases was 26,517 as of Tuesday.

“You cannot go into a business without wearing a mask (on the Navajo Nation),” said Nez during his virtual town hall on Tuesday. “The businesses require you to get a temperature check and they ask you to wash your hands and do social distancing.

“Tell me if that’s happening off our Nation and I think it’s not,” he said. “Businesses here on the Navajo Nation are taking some great measures to protect our health and well-being.” Nez said his administration is in talks with Basha’s Diné Marketplace to possibly get the grocery stores to offer curbside delivery.

Nez also mentioned the highly contagious COVID-19 variant, B 1.1.7, has been found in New Mexico. “We need to be cognizant of what is happening around us,” said Nez. “We are finally bringing some numbers down. It is hard to bring numbers down, especially in a high spike.”

Like the rest of the country, the Navajo Nation experienced its highest-ever cases levels following the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. Dr. Puthiery Va, epidemiologist with the Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility, looked at data from the two weeks between Jan. 1 and 14 and found uncontrolled spread within 75 chapters.

The chapters are Aneth, Baca/Prewitt, Birdsprings, Black Mesa, Bodaway/Gap, Bread Springs, Cameron, Casamero Lake, Chichitah, Chinle, Church Rock, Coppermine, Cornfields, Cove, Coyote Canyon, Crownpoint, Dennehotso, and Gadiiahi, Ganado, Hard Rock, Hogback, Houck, Indian Wells, Inscription House, Iyanbito, Jeddito, Kaibeto, Kayenta, Lechee, Leupp, Lukachukai, Lupton, Many Farms, Mariano Lake, Mexican Springs, Nageezi, Nahatadziil, and Nahodishgish, Naschitti, Nazlini, Nenahnezad, Oak Springs, Oljato, Pinedale, Piñon, Ramah, Red Lake, Red Mesa, Red Valley, Rock Point, Rock Springs, Rough Rock, Round Rock, San Juan, Sanostee, Sheepsprings, Shiprock, Shonto, Smith Lake, St. Michaels, Standing Rock, Tachee/Blue Gap, Teec Nos Pos, and Teesto, Thoreau, Tohatchi, Tonalea, Torreon, Tsaile/Wheatfields, Tsayatoh, Tuba City, Twin Lakes, Two Grey Hills, Upper Fruitland and Whippoorwill.

“We see some improvement to the Navajo Nation’s ranking,” said Va, noting that if the Nation were a state, it would rank 21st in the number of COVID-19 cases per capita. Due to case burden in communities, the test positivity for COVID-19 is still high and on average it’s at 19% to 26%, and they are hoping to cut that down to 10%, said Va.

“The plateau that we are seeing for the past week now is that the outbreak has slowed down in transmission,” said Va. “We look at the time it takes for the outbreak to double in size. When we first went into this second surge it took about a week to double in size – that’s fast. At this point it’s taking 66 days, so we know its slowing down.”

Currently, all Public Law 93-638 facilities’ Intensive Care Units are still functioning in crisis mode because more than 80% of beds are full. Regarding the Navajo Area Indian Health Service’s ICU beds, it’s been less than 80% but they’ve had to open up more beds and recruit staff to meet hospitalization demands.

Regarding contact tracers on the Navajo Nation, there are 391 so that puts two contact tracers for every new daily cases but it’s ideal to have five tracers for each new daily case. Regarding COVID-19 vaccination efforts, 47,990 doses have been distributed and a total of 22,929 doses have been administered, and 3,853 people are fully immunized with two doses.

“In comparison to the United States, they have been only able to administer 39 percent,” said Va. “So we are still doing better than the United States in total.”

The Navajo Health Command Operations Center, under the Navajo Department of Health, now has an online registration form available for those who want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

The online registry will help plan allocations of the vaccines and schedule individuals at the appropriate health care facility.

Information and to register:

 As a public service, the Navajo Times is making all coverage of the coronavirus pandemic fully available on its website. Please support the Times by subscribing.

 How to protect yourself and others.

Why masks work. Which masks are best.

Resources for coronavirus assistance

  Vaccine information.

About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reported 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.


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