Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 11, 2020

Navajo Nation: Rapid increase in coronavirus cases on Mother's Day, now more than 3,000 cases

Miss Navajo aided the Navajo President's Office last week with supply deliveries in western Navajo chapters. Photo Navajo President's Office.

Navajo Nation: 149 new cases of COVID-19 and two more deaths reported

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. –  The Navajo Nation reported a large increase in coronavirus cases on Mother's Day, 149 new cases and two more deaths.  There are now a total of 100 deaths as of Sunday.  There are now 3,122 cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Dr. Sophina Calderon at Tuba City Regional Health Care spoke to CBS News about the staff shortages, which means seriously ill Navajos are being sent away from the Navajo Nation.

"Our most critical patients, the ones that are severely ill and need to be intubated, are transferred to Flagstaff and to Phoenix — areas far off the reservation. Every day we're intubating and sending out at least two to four patients a day."

"Our worst day that I can remember, we intubated and sent out about nine people, and that's all by chopper. We could keep more critical patients here if we could increase our ICU nursing staff, critical care nursing staff, and if we could get an intensive care doctor. We have ventilators. We have space. We just don't have the staff to do it."

At Winslow Indian Health Care Center, Dr. Michelle Tom spoke on the young people she is seeing with coronavirus.

"When a young person who was vibrant the week before comes in and we have to tell him if he goes on another liter of oxygen we're going to have to intubate and send him out to another facility — how do you tell him that? And then he asks, "When will they take it out?" And you have to be honest, and say you don't know. I don't know how to put that feeling into words. He's someone's son, someone's brother," Dr. Tom said.

"We are a strong people. I think that's what I'm most proud of. But when you see a brother or sister, kinship, and they're asking for help and there's not much more you can do for them, it's something you're really never fully trained for."

"I think it humbles me to know that I can do only so much, but I will do what I can while I'm here. I ask for guidance from my ancestors and my healers in the past who have passed onto the next life. Remembering them, honoring them when I pray."

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said on Mother's Day, “We’ve lost 100 lives to this virus and we offer our condolences to all of the families who are grieving and I want you to know that we’re working around the clock to fight COVID-19. We’re going to continue to be on the ground in our communities helping families directly with food, water, and other items to help them stay home and avoid the spread of the virus."

Meanwhile, the New Mexico Governor issued a lockdown of the border town of Gallup, New Mexico, on May 1 under the Riot Control Act, and extended it until Sunday, May 10. The mayor of Gallup asked for the order. 

McKinley County has over 1,000 cases of coronavirus, the largest number of any county in New Mexico. McKinley County includes Gallup, Zuni Pueblo, and portions of the eastern Navajo Nation. Most area residents depend on Gallup stores to purchase food, water, and supplies. Pueblos in New Mexico have also been hard hit by the coronavirus, with high numbers in Sandoval County.

The largest number of deaths in New Mexico are at nursing homes, including nursing homes in the border town of Farmington in San Juan County. Nationwide, ABC World News said nursing home deaths are responsible for 30 percent of coronavirus deaths in the United States.

In Arizona, Phoenix and Maricopa County have the largest number of coronavirus cases and deaths, followed by Tucson and Pima County, and then the counties on and around the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Nation continues 57-hour weekend curfews and nightly curfews on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo President's Office has led the delivery of food and supplies to 4,300 families on the Navajo Nation.

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