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Navajo COVID-19 numbers breaking records

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

Navajo Nation leaders are encouraging residents to protect themselves as new COVID-19 cases surpass the peak levels the reservation experienced in May.

On Friday the Navajo Nation set a record high for new virus cases, with 351 cases.

New virus deaths are also trending upward, with 18 total deaths reported since Wednesday.

A total of 14,441 people have tested positive for the virus as of Friday night, and 623 people have died from the disease.

More than 55 communities across the vast reservation are experiencing uncontrolled spread of COVID-19, said Jill Jim, director of the Navajo Department of Health.

The second wave of outbreaks is straining medical resources as Navajo residents seek care on and off the reservation.

“We don’t have enough hospitals, we don’t have enough health care providers,” Jim said during a video update Thursday.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez encouraged residents to “stay vigilant” during the three-week lockdown.

The latest shelter-in-place order requires residents to stay at their homesites except for essential trips and emergencies.

“We’ve done it before where we brought the numbers down, and we can do it again,” Nez said.

Operating hours and capacity are reduced at grocery stores and gas stations. Navajo roads and parks are closed to nonresidents.

Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said the tribal government is preparing to open an isolation site for COVID-19 patients at a hotel in Socorro. The hotel will be a step-down site for patients who do not require hospital care.

The Socorro location was chosen because of its proximity to the Alamo Navajo community, which Lizer said is being “hit hard” by another surge of the virus.

An alternative care site in Chinle, Arizona, is currently the last remaining site constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA and the National Guard.

Sites in Gallup and Shiprock were closed earlier this year because they were located in schools that were preparing for a return to in-person instruction, which ultimately did not occur.

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