Back in May, the Navajo Nation experienced the highest rate of COVID-19 cases per capita in the country—4,002 cases among a population of 173,667 people—surpassing New York State. The Navajo Nation instituted a series of lockdowns and curfews to quell the spread, The Hill reported, which appeared to help control the disease’s transmission. Now rising cases in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, and within the Navajo Nation itself, are causing significant concern. On November 11 there were 98 confirmed new cases of COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation and one new death. To date, nearly 600 people in the Navajo Nation have died during the pandemic.
The Navajo Nation is not alone in facing an imminent and alarming COVID-19 surge. The U.S. as a whole continues to break daily records for infections. Hospitals are at capacity in several states, according to CNN, and Texas just became the first state to surpass 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
But people living in the Navajo Nation face certain circumstances that can make them especially vulnerable to the devastating effects of this disease. One stark risk factor is that 30 to 40% of Navajo Nation homes lack running water, and residents often have to travel significant distances and into cities for food, according to President Nez. Many people live in multigenerational homes, so when one person gets sick it can quickly spread to others in the family, he told CNN back in May.
The current spread of the virus seems to be happening in large part because of family gatherings and travel off of the Navajo Nation. “There should be no family gatherings of any kind due to the risks of this virus,” President Nez said in his statement. “We are dealing with an invisible monster, and the only way we are going to beat this virus is by doing it together and listening to our public health experts.” He went on to encourage mask-wearing at all times, social distancing, handwashing, and staying home. He also instituted a weekend curfew lasting for 56 hours starting on Friday, November 13, at 9 p.m.
Additionally, all Navajo Nation businesses must ensure that employees and customers wear masks, practice social distancing, and limit the number of people in enclosed areas, as well as increasing disinfection procedures. Only curbside takeout and drive-through restaurants are allowed.
“Please keep yourselves safe and your loved ones as well. The safest place to be is at home here on the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said in a statement on November 11. “As we move forward, please keep our people, our leaders, and our first responders in your prayers.”
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