Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

June 8, 2020

The Navajo Nation reports more than 6,000 coronavirus cases, as 20 states show an increase in cases

The grassroots Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund in Chinle. Photo by Karney Hatch.
Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund delivering to the elderly and immune-compromised in Chinle. Photo by Karney Hatch.

The Navajo Nation reports more than 6,000 coronavirus cases, as 20 states show an increase in cases

Article by Brenda Norrell
Photos by Karney Hatch, Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund
Censored News

Across the United States on Sunday, 20 states reported increases in coronavirus cases. The Navajo Nation reported 102 new cases and three more deaths on Sunday. The total number of deaths are now 277,  with 6,020 cases reported.

On Sunday, San Juan County reported the largest number of new cases in the state of New Mexico. McKinley County reported the highest number of deaths from the virus in the state this week.

Meanwhile, individuals and grassroots organizations are struggling to meet the needs of those in quarantine at home, while the Navajo Nation government is shut down.

Navajos with pneumonia and the coronavirus are being sent home from hospitals at an alarming rate and told to quarantine, with little medicine or information. They are too weak to go out to pick up donated food and many do not have transportation, electricity or running water.

The volunteers at the grassroots Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund deliver food and supplies to the homes of the elderly and immune-compromised, after raising their own funds, purchasing wholesome foods and sterilizing all items.

"The amount of food that was donated to our community was just outrageous. We didn't believe it, the different varieties of produce, the different varieties of groceries," said Steamboat Chapter Commission President Emerson Curley. "I wish you could have heard the expression of thank you from our community members."

Curley said Dine' elderly usually depend on their grandchildren to come home on weekends and purchase groceries for them, but during the Navajo Nationwide weekend lockdowns, this was not possible.

"We really appreciate it from the bottom of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you."

This week marks three months of providing essential Kinship Care packages, which includes two weeks of healthy foods, masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies to Navajo and Hopi elders, immune-compromised and struggling families.

The grassroots Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund in Chinle, which raised its own funds. Photo by Karney Hatch.

Indian country shows increase in cases nationwide

Coronavirus cases continue to rise throughout Indian country. This comes after Mother's Day and Memorial Day gatherings, and states opening up for business. Among the largest spreads in the United States are those at meatpacking plants in the midwest.

The Indian Health Service report of coronavirus cases on June 6 shows a dramatic increase in cases in the Navajo, Phoenix and Albuquerque agencies. The Phoenix IHS, which includes Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, showed a sharp upsurge this week. White Mountain Apache in Arizona has reported a large outbreak.

Coronavirus spreads through Southwest after states reopen

Colorado reports grocery stores, including a large grocery store in Denver, currently have spreads of the virus. Two employees at the King Soopers store on Denver’s Capitol Hill have died. Three deaths of employees were reported at the Aurora Walmart in April and it recently re-opened. Meatpacking plants in Greeley also report a large number of cases.

About one-third of the deaths in the United States have been at nursing homes.

Arizona showed an alarming increase of coronavirus cases all week. In Arizona, those most likely to contract the virus are 20 to 44 years old. The largest number of cases are in the Phoenix, Maricopa County, area. The largest number of deaths are people over 65, primarily in Phoenix and Tucson nursing homes.

Will Humble of the Arizona State Public Health Association said people's behavior changed rapidly when the state reopened.

"This is a phenomenon that’s happening in Arizona," Humble said. "The stay-at-home order lifted and people’s behavior changed on a dime and went back to pre-pandemic behavior."

The highest number of deaths in New Mexico this week was in McKinley Country -- which includes Gallup, portions of the Navajo Nation and Zuni Pueblo.

On Sunday, San Juan County reported three deaths and McKinley County one death. The largest number of new cases on Sunday was in San Juan County, with 44 cases within 24 hours.

Health care workers in New Mexico show a sharp increase in coronavirus in Bernalillo, San Juan and McKinley Counties. In May, 492 health care workers tested positive in New Mexico. 

Coronavirus spreads through U.S. Border Patrol

Meanwhile, the U.S. Border Patrol reports 436 cases of coronavirus. The U.S. Border Patrol has failed to tell people who the infected agents have been in contact with.

On the Arizona border, there are 24 U.S. Border Patrol staff and agents with the virus, which is a rapid increase this week.

Yet, on Sunday, Border Patrol agents at the checkpoint at the eastern border of the Tohono O'odham Nation at Three Points -- between the Nation and Tucson -- were not wearing masks.

Pascua Yaqui and the Tohono Nation, served by Tucson IHS, now have 61 cases of coronavirus. These areas are patrolled and frequented by the U.S. Border Patrol in Arizona.

In New York, there are 110 cases within the U.S. Border Patrol, and 96 cases in California, with more cases throughout the country.

While gloating on social media this week about patrolling the streets of Washington D.C. to "clamp down" on protesters, the U.S. Border Patrol was the focus of increased criticism for failing to provide alerts about infected agents.

Navajo Nation COVID-19 cases by service agency

Below are the current number of cases on the Navajo Nation by service agency, as of June 6, 2020.
On the Navajo Nation, 11 health care facilities indicate that approximately 2,727 individuals have recovered from COVID-19.

Photos of the grassroots Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund in Chinle, Arizona, delivering food and supplies to elderly, immune-compromised and struggling families on the Navajo Nation.

Navajo Hopi COVID-19 Families Relief Fund delivery photo by Karney Hatch.

Navajo Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund photo by Karney Hatch.

Navajo Hopi COVID-19 Families Relief Fund delivery photo by Karney Hatch.

Learn more and donate to Navajo Hopi COVID-19 Relief Fund

About the author

Brenda Norrell, a news reporter in Indian country for 39 years, lived on the Navajo Nation for 18 years. She began reporting at Navajo Times and served as a stringer for Associated Press and USA Today. After being censored and terminated as a longtime staff reporter for Indian Country Today, she created Censored News, now in its 14th year with more than 20 million pageviews and without ads or revenues. She has a master's degree in international health, with an emphasis in infectious diseases, water and nutrition.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News
Photos copyright Karney Hatch

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