Story at a glance
- The Navajo Nation is experiencing a “dire” second wave of COVID-19 cases.
- Surrounding states are also struggling to contain virus transmission.
Facing a resurgence of COVID-19 cases along with the rest of the continental U.S., the Navajo Nation extended its stay-at-home order for an additional three weeks.
The mandate was initially issued on Nov. 13 and intended to last until Dec. 6, but it will now continue until Dec. 28.
The Navajo Department of Health released the public health order on Dec. 3. The order limits contact to people in residents’ individual households and only allows essential activities to take place outside of private residences.
“The Navajo Nation is experiencing an alarming rise in positive COVID-19 cases and uncontrolled spread in 75 communities across the Navajo Nation,” the public health order read. “These cluster cases are a direct result of family gatherings and off-Reservation travel. They also have led to an outbreak and a second surge in cases on the Navajo Nation.”
Data reveals that the Navajo Nation recorded a record high daily count on Nov. 21, with 398 new COVID-19 cases reported that day.
On Dec. 5, the nation recorded 177 new cases, according to a tweet from President Jonathan Nez.
177 new cases, 9,833 recoveries, and no recent deaths related to COVID-19 as new provisions under latest public health order set to take effect on Monday pic.twitter.com/3iOyi5fdwY— Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez (@NNPrezNez) December 7, 2020
The extended health order is largely a preventative response to intensive care units and other hospital bed space filling rapidly and health resources spread thin.
“The second wave of COVID-19 is much more dire and much more severe than the first wave we had in April and May,” Nez said in prepared comments.
In addition to family gatherings in close settings, the surge in cases in bordering states is also a major component of the spread within the Navajo Nation as some off-reservation travel ensues.
Neighboring states like Colorado, Arizona and Utah are all experiencing dramatic spikes in new cases. New Mexico, another neighboring state, recorded its highest daily case count on Nov. 22, but has been steadily declining since.
Prior to this outbreak, the Navajo Nation had been relatively successful in containing virus transmission thanks to its strict lockdown measures after a challenging spring. It received $714 million in federal funding from the CARES Act.
Statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal that the Indigenous groups, including American Indian or Alaskan Native persons, are one of the most vulnerable populations affected by COVID-19, being 1.8 percent more likely to contract the virus than their white counterparts.