Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
The Navajo Nation has reissued a stay-at-home order and tightened business restrictions as a second wave of COVID-19 cases surges on the reservation.
The updated public health order requires residents to stay home for the next three weeks, and to travel only within their local communities for essentials and emergencies.
Residents should avoid gathering with people outside their immediate household.
Grocery stores, laundromats and gas stations must reduce capacity and operating hours. Restaurants must cease dine-in services.
The restrictions are necessary to save lives, said Dr. Jill Jim, director of the Navajo Department of Health.
“We will be breaking records if we don’t do anything,” Jim said during a video update Sunday. “I don’t think our health care system is going to be able to withstand the number of patients.”
The Navajo Nation reported 117 new virus cases and four deaths on Sunday night. A total of 13,373 people have tested positive for the virus, and 602 have died of the disease. More than 7,900 people have recovered.
Puthiery Va, an Indian Health Service doctor with the Navajo Health Command Operations Center, said the reservation will likely surpass May levels that averaged 150 new daily cases.
“We know that across the Navajo Nation and across the Four Corners states, the risk of COVID-19 is extremely high right now,” Va said.
The virus test positivity rate on the Navajo Nation is 16%. The reservation has two contact tracers to investigate each new virus case, well below the goal of five for each new case.
Full intensive care units in states including New Mexico could jeopardize resources at tribal hospitals that often send the sickest patients off the reservation.
“Our ability to transfer to New Mexico will be very difficult and challenging should we need (the beds),” she said. Navajo Nation roads and tribal parks will be closed to visitors for the next three weeks.
Last week, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez vetoed a Navajo Nation Council resolution that would have reopened Navajo casinos at 50% capacity. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise received nearly $25 million in federal CARES Act money to help avoid layoffs.
“We cannot put a price tag on the health, safety, and lives of our Navajo people,” Nez said. “Revenues do not outweigh the precious lives of our elders, children, and gaming employees.”
Schools on the Navajo Nation will conduct online classes until at least Dec. 6.