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Navajo Nation says testing rate is high, which leads to more cases

Tribal president credits lockdowns for helping curb numbers
A sign reads “Navajo Monument Valley Tribal Park Closed Until Further Notice” posted at the entrance of Monument Valley in Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo reservation April 19. The reservation has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country.

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation is increasing testing options in hopes of gaining a clearer picture of the coronavirus’ spread throughout the reservation.

A new testing site was added Tuesday for those who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or those who believe they may have the virus but are not showing symptoms. The site is organized by the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corp.

“The Navajo Nation is testing our citizens at a greater rate per capita than any state in the entire country and that’s a major reason why we have high numbers of positive cases,” Jonathan Nez said in a statement Monday.

Tribal health organizations estimate approximately 13.2% percent of Navajo Nation residents have been tested for COVID-19, as of Wednesday.

The nation has also established three alternative care sites in Shiprock, Gallup and Chinle, Arizona, to isolate the positive COVID-19 patients.

“The number of recoveries is increasing, and that gives us hope and strength to keep moving forward. As Navajo people, we have overcome many adversities, and we will overcome this as well,” Nez said.

Nez attributes the nation’s weekend curfews for helping to decrease the number of cases. The most recent 57-hour lockdown had stricter measurements than previous curfew orders. Grocery stores, gas stations, drive-thrus, restaurants and other essential businesses were closed over for the 57-hour lockdown.

“Without the weekend lockdowns that we’ve implemented based on advice from our health care experts, we would be seeing a higher number,” he said. “The weekend lockdowns are working and the majority of our citizens are complying, but we still have some who defy the lockdown order and for some reason they always receive the most attention.”

Navajo Nation leaders also signed an executive order May 12 extending the partial government shutdown and the state of emergency.

In order to adhere to the extension, the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise announced in a news release its board of directors voted to extend the closure of its casinos to June 7. The four casinos have been closed since March 17.

“The Navajo Nation must continue to work together with local, state and federal partners to stop the spread of COVID-19 by staying home, washing hands, staying at least 6-feet apart from others and by wearing proper personal protection, such as face masks when in public,” Nez said Monday.

On Wednesday, 100 new cases and two deaths were reported, according to the Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Epidemiology Center, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and tribal health organizations. They bring the total number of COVID-19 cases to 4,253 and the total number of deaths to 146. The health organizations are reporting a total of 27,162 completed tests with 21,199 negative results. The health organizations estimate 1,026 people have recovered from the virus.


May 21, 2020
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