Published March 18, 2020
With two confirmed cases, Navajo Nation seeks to contain spread of coronavirus
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — With two confirmed cases of COVID-19 — and more expected — the leaders of the country’s most populated Indian reservation are working on containment of the deadly virus.
On Tuesday, leaders of the Navajo Nation announced that two of its citizens tested positive for COVID-19, commonly referred to as the novel Coronavirus. Both citizens accessed the health system at the tribe’s Kayenta Indian Health Service Unit when they experienced symptoms associated with COVID-19. Both were quickly transferred to a Phoenix, Ariz. hospital where they are quarantined.
Navajo health officials said family members will be screened and visits to the individuals’ homes will take place for investigation as to how the individuals may have contacted the virus.
Given the potential for the virus to spread, Navajo leaders have asked tourists to limit travel onto the reservation. The Navajo Nation has closed tourist sites, including the Navajo Museum, Navajo Zoo and parks and recreation areas. Navajo Nation Schools and casinos are closed, as well.
The closings will impact the plans of many tourists and volunteers. Typically, during spring break, many tourists visit the Navajo Nation. It also is the time of year when Christian churches or groups send people to the reservation as part of their outreach programs.
While closing tourist sites and requesting that visitors limit travel are voluntary measures, a complete ban of non-residents, which one Navajo Nation leader referred to as “outsiders” earlier today, is being considered.
“Everything on the table is being considered,” Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said during a press conference this morning. “Limiting outsiders from entering onto Navajo land is an option. It has yet to be decided. Nothing is off the table.”
During the press conference, several health officials addressed the unique challenges of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic on Navajo Nation, including lack of broadband that can limit communications for tribal citizens.
Family living situations may also cause challenges during the COVID-19 outbreak. Traditionally, Navajo families live in homes occupied with multiple generations. This is important because with COVID-19, older adults are much more vulnerable to become infected with the virus.
Navajo Nation asked that people living on the reservation stay home as much as possible and follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to contain the deadly virus, particularly to wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.
Questions from the public may be directed to the Navajo Health Command Operations Center at (928) 871-7014. If a person has symptoms related to the COVID-19 virus, please contact your local health care center prior to your arrival. Please see list of health care center on the Navajo Nation:
Chinle Comprehensive Health Care Facility
Crownpoint Health Care Facility
Fort Defiance Indian Hospital Board, INC
Gallup Indian Medical Center
Kayenta Health Center
Northern Navajo Medical Center
Tuba City Regional Health Care
Utah Navajo Health System
Winslow Indian Health Care Center
Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center
New Mexico Coronavirus Hotline
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