Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

April 30, 2020

Coronavirus continues rapid spread across Navajo Nation: Now 1,977 cases and 62 deaths, relief efforts underway

Valentina Blackhorse

Valerie Tsosie

Coronavirus rapid spread continues on Navajo Nation

Kayenta families mourn two mothers who died from the virus

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

Coronavirus cases on the Navajo Nation continue to increase rapidly, with 104 new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 1,977 with 62 deaths.

McKinley County in New Mexico has the highest number of cases now, surpassing the initial area of the outbreak in northern Arizona near the Utah border.

In the hard-hit area of Kayenta in northeastern Arizona on the Navajo Nation, families shared the stories of two Navajo mothers who died last Thursday.

Following the rally of the Nazarene Church in Chilchinbeto, the virus spread from there to employees of the Kayenta police and detention center and to their families.

Miss Western Navajo Nation Valentina Blackhorse, 28, the mother of infant daughter Poet, died after caring for her boyfriend, a Kayenta detention officer who appears to have contracted it at work.

Valentina worked as an administrative assistant at Dennehotso Chapter. Read more about Valentina who loved her culture and aspired to serve her people at Arizona Central.

Kayenta police dispatcher Valerie Tsosie, the mother of eight children from Rough Rock, died on April 23. Donate to family at:

The Navajo Police Department said 17 officers and staff have tested positive for the virus. The largest number are in Kayenta. The department has 11 known COVID-19 cases among its detention officers: eight in Kayenta, two in Chinle and two in Tuba City. In total, seven inmates tested positive for COVID-19. The new arrestees are in isolation.

The coronavirus has spread to the nursing homes in the bordertowns of Farmington, N.M. and Gallup, N.M.

Nursing homes in Farmington account for more than half the deaths in these facilities in New Mexico.

There have been 25 deaths at Life Care in Farmington, and at least three deaths at Cedar Ridge Inn. There have been nearly 50 deaths from coronavirus in New Mexico at nursing homes.

On the Navajo Nation, Navajo President Jonathan Nez led a team to deliver relief to Black Falls and Dilkon areas on Tuesday, including the elders shown below.

On Wednesday, the Navajo President's Office, officials and volunteers distributed food, water, firewood, masks, and cleaning and hygiene items to 222 families in the communities of Pueblo Pintado and Torreon, N.M. Items were also delivered to elderly and high-risk residents who were unable to pick-up the items on their own.

The Navajo President's Office said there will be another 57-hour weekend curfew ‪beginning on Friday, May 1 at 8:00 p.m. until Monday, May 4 at 5:00 a.m., which will be enforced by the Navajo Police Department’s road checkpoints in communities across the Navajo Nation.

“Ultimately, the choice to stay home or go out into public remains in the hands of each individual, but we’re going to do our very best to enforce the curfew and send people home if we have to. Please take it upon yourselves to inform your family members, your friends, coworkers, and others and tell them to stay home to save lives. We’ve lost 62 lives so far, and we don’t want to lose anymore. Think of the families who are grieving for their loved ones before you decide to go out into public,” said Navajo  Vice President Myron Lizer.

As of Wednesday, the 1,873 confirmed positive cases on the Navajo Nation include the following counties: Navajo County, Arizona: 468; Apache County, Ariz.: 450; Coconino County, Ariz: 274;  McKinley County, NM: 504; San Juan County, NM: 202; Cibola County, NM: 17;  San Juan County, UT: 22;  Socorro County, NM: 21 and Sandoval County, NM: 19.A total of 11,404 COVID-19 tests have been administered with 8,239 negative test results.  

The Shiprock High School gym has been converted into an alternative site for coronavirus patients if needed, 
by the Army Corps of Engineers. Alternative sites were also established in Chinle, Ariz., and Gallup, N.M.

The Navajo President's Office thanked the following individuals and groups that have donated masks:
Margaret Tyler
Anh Doan
Sandy Raynor
Pat Newport
Gena Newton
Pam Logan
D. Rupp
Denis Rennis
Joan Drexler
Teresa Homes
D. Billard
Patties Watson
Frank Viviano
Laureen Rusek
Just Serve
Heather Yazzie
Laura Auxillary Group
Radium Gadgets
Terry Teitelbaum
Sandra Millin
Aimee Ault
Melissa Faulkner
Mary Pratt
Joy Kutaka-Kennedy
Tammie and Christopher Billey
Susan Wade
Zenaida Acosta
Church of Latter-Day Saints
Tammy Burbank
RSM Face Mask Volunteers 
Rachel Smith

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