The Navajo Nation is experiencing an “uncontrolled” spread of the novel coronavirus, according to health officials.
In a public health emergency order issued Nov. 4, officials with the Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Office of Environmental Health and Protection Program said the nation is “currently experiencing its second wave of COVID-19 cases. The number of new cases has been on an upward trajectory during the past 2 (two) months within and surrounding the Navajo Nation, including record-high numbers for the United States reported on Sunday, November 1, 2020.”
More specifically, the uncontrolled spread of the novel virus has affected 29 communities on the Navajo Nation.
“Cluster cases are a direct result of family gatherings and off-Reservation travel and have resulted in an uncontrolled spread,” officials said when announcing COVID-19-related restrictions, such as urging residents to stay on the Navajo Nation and avoid any travel off of the reservation. Additionally, many businesses are facing closures as a result of the surge in cases, while weekend curfews have also been implemented.
“The trajectory the upward trend that’s happening in the United States right now, is almost similar to what’s happening here on the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez to local outlet KOAT. “There [have] been incidents from our contact tracers that say they’re picking up the virus and bringing it home to the Navajo Nation. And we just also want to protect people of the Nation.”
Tribal communities across the nation have faced unique challenges since the coronavirus pandemic began. In early May, for instance, the Navajo community — its 27,000 square-mile reservation stretches into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah — had one of the highest infection rates per capita in the country.
“We did our very best to keep this virus off our nation,” Nez told Fox News in an interview in April. “We started in January and February, going door to door, letting our Navajo people know to follow the CDC criteria and what’s coming out from the World Health Organization [WHO]. You know, washing your hands with soap and water, social distancing large crowds and I think our health care professionals, our citizens heeded the warnings, but it’s snuck in.”