Story at a glance
- The Navajo Nation has passed New York for the highest coronavirus infection rate per capita in the country.
- It is reporting more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people.
- Residents are under one of the strictest lockdown orders in the country.
With only a fraction of the population, the Navajo Nation is now reporting more coronavirus cases per capita than New York, one of the initial epicenters of the outbreak in the United States.
The 27,000 square mile territory spans three states and had a population of 173,667 people as of the last census. As of May 18, there were 4,071 positive cases of COVID-19 and 142 deaths in the region stretching across northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah.
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The Navajo Nation, which has been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, now has an infection rate of more than 2,300 cases per 100,000 people, the greatest in the country. In comparison, New York has about 1,800 cases per 100,000 people and New Jersey has about 1,600 cases per 100,000.
The territory has implemented strict preventative measures, including mandating face masks in public, closing even essential businesses and implementing a 57-hour lockdown on weekends. The Navajo Department of Health is reporting 19,964 total negative tests. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a release that the spike can partly be attributed to an increase in testing, with a total of 23,791 tests administered as of May 16.
“xc. We also have 544 people that have recovered from the virus and that number will grow as we receive more reports. We are testing our people here on the Navajo Nation almost five times greater than the rest of the country. So let’s not panic or be overly alarmed by the daily numbers, but let’s be diligent and recognize that we cannot let up now,” Nez said in the release.
The Native American community had braced for the potentially disastrous effects of the coronavirus pandemic in their community as early as February. Still, with only five hospitals under the Navajo Area Indian Health Service and limited access to vital resources, the community has been overwhelmed. Two teams from Doctors Without Borders arrived in April to aid local health services with their response.
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