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Navajo Nation reports no new virus cases

A sign near Fort Defiance, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation warns residents to stay home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The reservation reported zero new virus cases on Tuesday. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The Navajo Nation reported zero new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday night, a first for the reservation since the pandemic began in mid-March.

In late May, the Navajo Nation had the worst infection rate in the country. The reservation had several days of more than 150 new virus cases at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

At that time, overflowing reservation hospitals sent the most critical virus patients to facilities in Albuquerque and Phoenix.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the case trends are promising.

“But it didn’t take much to have this spread throughout the Navajo Nation, and so we’re begging you to stay home,” Nez said during a Tuesday video update.

Nez referenced a Sept. 3 report of 24 new virus cases within 24 hours as a warning against large gatherings.

“That spike there was attributed to a family gathering,” he said. “Somebody came back home with the virus, went to a family gathering and spread that out to a big family.”

The reservation has implemented stringent public health orders to slow the spread of the virus, which has killed 527 on the reservation.

The tribal government first mandated masks in April, along with nightly curfews and weekend lockdowns.

As of Tuesday, 9,903 people have tested positive for COVID-19. More than 7,100 have recovered.

Navajo public health officials often cite challenges of addressing the pandemic, including multigenerational homes, long distances to grocery stores and 30% of residents living without running water or electricity.

Dr. Jill Jim, Navajo Department of Health director, said COVID-19 prevention measures are especially important as flu season approaches.

“The best we can do is use the public health toolkit that we have,” Jim said. “We have all been doing a good job, but we can’t let up.”

Businesses on the Navajo Nation are operating at 25% occupancy, and tribal government offices have begun reopening.

Navajo public health officials will wait to ease more restrictions until case data is available from Labor Day weekend.

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