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Navajo Nation positive COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to rise

By Jean Lotus
Navajo Nation positive COVID-19 cases, deaths continue to rise
More positive COVID-19 cases were reported on the Navajo Nation reservation Thursday, but President Jonathan Nez said the residents would "get through this together." Screenshot courtesy U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva

April 17 (UPI) -- The number of positive tests for COVID-19 continue to climb this week on the Navajo Nation reservation, and the tribal government extended weekend lockdowns for two more weeks to try to stop the spread of the virus.

The number of positive cases rose to 1,042 Thursday with an increase of 121 cases in a single day, the Navajo Epidemiology Center reported. The number of deaths reached 41.

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Health agencies said 3,440 total negative test results had been tallied as of Thursday.

"Our warriors are on the front lines once again, battling and fighting a monster called COVID-19," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said Friday at an online tribal roundtable in Indian Country sponsored by U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz.

RELATED Positive coronavirus tests jump in Navajo Nation

"A couple of weeks ago, it was stated that COVID-19 would wipe us all out," Nez said. "I want to tell everyone that native people are resilient. We are overcomers and we will get through this together."

The newest figures show the highest numbers of confirmed cases in five counties, with the most, 306, in Navajo County, Ariz. Other high numbers Arizona include 147 cases in Apache County and 199 in Coconino County. In New Mexico, health officials reported 203 cases in McKinley County and 140 in San Juan County.

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Along with a weekend curfew, new health rules require that anyone who enters a public facility will be required to wear a protective mask and gloves, Nez said.

RELATED Navajo leaders self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure

Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer urged members of the Navajo Nation to be "prudent with their stimulus funds" and to save money going forward through the uncertain times of the pandemic.

Nez and Lizer have both voluntarily self-quarantined for two weeks after being exposed to a first responder with the virus.

About 175,000 people live on the reservation, which overlaps the state boundaries of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado.

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About 40 percent of residents have no access to running water, which makes hand washing difficult. Many tribal residents are older and many have chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus, including asthma, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

The tribe's government signed an order in March blocking non-residents from visiting. Tribe-operated casinos also closed in New Mexico and Arizona.

"Please utilize local Navajo businesses as much as possible -- they might not offer all of the products you need, but please consider buying local before traveling to border towns and putting yourselves at greater risk due to greater exposure to others," Lizer said earlier this week.

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"We will win this fight with COVID-19, but we have to do it together and everyone must be a part of the process," he said.

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