Curfew takes effect for Navajo Nation as COVID-19 cases reaches 128
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — According to the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center, the number of positive tests for COVID-19 has reached a total of 128 for the Navajo Nation as of March 29. There are two confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 as reported previously.
Navajo County reported 59, Apache County reported 17 (changed due to clarification of one individual’s residency, Coconino County reported 23, McKinley County reported eight, San Juan County reported 15, Cibola County reported one and San Juan County reported five, as of March 29.
On March 29, the Navajo Nation issued a new Public Health Order extending the current “Stay at Home Order” and implementing a curfew for the entire Navajo Nation requiring everyone to stay home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week.
All individuals shall be at home during curfew hours except in the event of an emergency. This curfew does not apply to essential employees reporting to or from duty, with official identification and/or a letter of designation from their essential business employer on official letterhead which includes a contact for verification.
“Stay home, stay safe! We are doing our best to keep people safe, but the government can’t do everything and that’s why everyone needs to stay home as much as possible. Every person is responsible for taking precautions to preserve their own health. This curfew is an added measure to protect our Navajo people, especially our elderly and high-risk. Everyone should read the new order entirely,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
On March 6, President Donald Trump signed a measure providing $8.3 billion to federal agencies to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes about $40 million in direct funding – to be distributed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – to tribes, health organizations and providers that work with tribes.
A second federal aid package provides an additional $64 million to the Indian Health Service to cover the cost of testing for Native Americans.
However, those funds have not yet been made widely available, according to Jared Touchin, spokesman for the Navajo Nation, one of the country’s largest, with more than 300,000 enrolled members.
“The Navajo Nation itself has appropriated $4 million of our own money … because their resources aren’t coming quick enough from the federal government,” Touchin said in a phone interview last week with Cronkite News. “So we’re stepping in to try to expedite that process.”
With higher rates of chronic illness and an aging population, Indian Country faces unique challenges amid COVID-19 – or “Dikos Nstaaígíí-19” in Navajo.
The CDC warns that older adults and people with health conditions, including diabetes, are at higher risk of being severely impacted by COVID-19. Native Americans have the highest rates of Type 2 diabetes in the nation and, according to the most recent U.S. census data, about 16 percent of Native Americans are older than 65.
Other challenges are cramped housing, a lack of reliable internet access to obtain accurate information about the virus and even having clean water for proper hand-washing.
A 2019 report from the US Water Alliance estimates 30 percent of people living on the Navajo reservation lack access to running water and instead must collect and transport water to homes, a trip that can be up to 40 miles long.
The new Public Health Order by the Navajo Nation outlines the following provisions for essential businesses:
· To the greatest extent possible, limit operations before 6 a.m. and after 7 p.m. to permit customers to obey the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew. This does not apply to Essential Businesses that do not directly serve customers.
· Restaurants and other businesses serving prepared food must provide an outdoor order station and/or a means for people to call ahead to place an order and enable individuals to remain in their vehicles for pick-up.
· Gas stations must either provide a fueling attendant to pump gas, enabling individuals to remain in their vehicles, or provide disinfectant wipes or spray for self-service customer use.
· Banks and financial institutions must provide drive-thru services only. Banker services can be provided to customers through technology-based means (i.e. telephone, web-based meeting, etc). ATM services may be provided so long as disinfectant wipes or spray is made available for customer use.
· Grocery stores, food banks, convenience stores, hardware stores and the like are required to limit the number of customers in the store to no more than 10 customers at a time. These businesses shall ensure that customers waiting to enter or pay maintain the required 6-feet Social Distancing.
· Post Offices, including rural mail delivery locations, are not required to provide curb-side or drive-thru delivery requirements, however disinfectant wipes or spray should be made available for customer use.
· Laundry facilities shall limit customer occupancy to two people per household and no more than 10 persons at any given time, and shall make available disinfectant wipes or spray for customer use.
· All other Essential Businesses not specifically addressed in this section shall post a notice at their place of business with a contact number for customers to receive service during business hours, and also provide contact information for services on their company website, if any. The purpose of this requirement is to limit in-person customer contact to the greatest extent possible, while still allowing customers to receive services.
Lastly, the Public Health Order requires all Navajo Nation governmental entities, including all branches of government and all Governance-Certified Chapters, shall coordinate all COVID-19 public health efforts, plans and relief through the Health Command Center to avoid duplication of effort or waste of resources, which has the potential to increase risk of exposure to COVID-19, including the potential loss of life.
More information including reports, helpful prevention tips, and more resources, please visit the Navajo Department of Health’s COVID-19 website at http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19. To contact the main Navajo Health Command Operations Center, please call (928) 871-7014.
Cronkite news reporters Luis Zambrano and Grace Lieberman contributed to this story through their story “With stay-at-home orders and fundraising, Indian Country combats COVID-10”. The full story can be read online at nhonews.com.