Story at a glance
- Health care workers on Thursday said the Navajo Nation is experiencing a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and medical personnel.
- “Our health experts are now saying that the current wave or surge is far more severe and troublesome than the wave that we saw in April and May, perhaps four or five times larger according to projections,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said.
- As of Friday, 17,310 cases have been reported in the Navajo Nation with 663 deaths.
The Navajo Nation is rolling out new coronavirus restrictions as COVID-19 cases surge and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed by an influx of patients.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez on Thursday announced an extension of a lockdown order that requires all residents to stay at home and on the reservation unless obtaining essential food, medication and other supplies, as well as exemptions for essential workers.
Residents have been advised against gathering with people from outside their immediate household and to wear a mask in public.
The lockdown was initially expected to expire on Sunday but has been extended until Dec. 27 following an alarming surge of infections. As of Friday, 17,310 cases have been reported with 663 deaths.
A 57-hour weekend curfew will also kick off at 9 p.m. on Dec. 11 and last for three weeks.
The move comes as several medical and health care workers said the Navajo Nation is in a “major health care crisis” and pleaded with the public to stay home and adhere to public health guidelines to slow the spread of the virus during a virtual forum hosted by Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.
Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for Navajo Area Indian Health Service, told officials the coronavirus situation is leading to a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen supplies and medical personnel.
“We have been in a state of emergency since the pandemic began here on the Navajo Nation, but that has now elevated to a major health care crisis,” Nez said.
“Our health experts are now saying that the current wave or surge is far more severe and troublesome than the wave that we saw in April and May, perhaps four or five times large according to projections,” he said.
Nez on Thursday requested the Trump administration issue a Major Disaster Declaration to free up additional infrastructural and financial resources to better equip the nation to tackle the outbreak.
The Navajo Nation and other Native American communities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Indian or Alaska Native individuals are 1.8 times more likely than their white counterparts to contract the virus, four times more likely to be hospitalized and 2.6 times more likely to die from the infection.
The situation in the Navajo Nation comes as the U.S. reported more than 210,000 cases in a single day on Thursday, the highest figure yet, and more than 2,700 COVID-19 deaths.
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