August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Friday, March 27, 2020

Coronavirus cases reach 71 for Navajo Nation, as virus spreads through Indian country

First Responders on Navajo Nation distribute health information. Photo Navajo President's Office

Coronavirus cases reach 71 on the Navajo Nation, as the virus
spreads through Indian country

Article by Brenda Norrell
Censored News

The coronavirus spread nationwide through Indian country this week and devastated families. At least two Native Americans have died from the virus, in Oklahoma and Washington State. On Thursday, the Navajo Nation reported that cases increased to 71 among Navajos. IHS reports ten cases in both California and Portland IHS agencies.

The initial spread in Chilchinbeto near Kayenta, Arizona, on the Navajo Nation followed a gathering of the Nazarene Church, the Navajo Times reported.

Another church gathering in Pine Hill, N.M., near Gallup, further spread coronavirus to Dine'. The pastor's family was hospitalized.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe in South Dakota reported its first case of the virus. The Lakota is recovering at home. On Wind River in Wyoming, one case of a Northern Araphoe testing positivee was linked to a cluster of virus cases in a Lander nursing home.

The United States reported the highest number of coronavirus cases in the world with more than 1,200 deaths, and the virus spread across Indian country.

In the northwest, where the coronavirus spread was initially the fastest, the family of Geraldine Williams of Tulalip Bay in Washington said they were heartbroken following the death of Geraldine. 

Washington State Gov. Jay Inslee earlier restricted gatherings to 250 people.The Seattle Times reports,  "But some tribal governments, such as the Port Gamble S’Klallam on the Kitsap Peninsula, had already gone further, banning gatherings of more than 10 for at least 90 days."

"Such extreme measures are necessary, tribal leaders say. The Makah Tribe and Lummi Nation enacted shelter in place ordinances for their citizens, and the Yakama Nation followed suit Monday night," the Seattle Times reports.

In Oklahoma, the first person to pass to the Spirit World from coronavirus complications was Merle Dry, 55, of the Cherokee Nation. Coronavirus has also spread to Native communities in Wyoming and Minnesota.

Vox reports,  "A Northern Arapaho tribal member on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming tested positive on Saturday and the tribe has declared a state of emergency for the reservation that spans over 2.2 million acres."

"Last weekend, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan, of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, lost her brother to Covid-19 after he was already battling a cancer diagnosis," Vox reports.

South of Phoenix, the Gila River Indian Community has two coronavirus cases. One is an Akimel O'otham member and the second is a member of another Native American Nation. Both are recovering at home.

One person living on the Fort McDowell Indian Nation near Phoenix died. However, the person, 49, with underlying health conditions, was not a Yavapai tribal member.

The Indian Health Service reports coronavirus cases in most of its agencies, with the greatest number in the Navajo, with ten cases in both Portland and California agencies. There are two cases in the Great Plains.

IHS statistics show that only about one-half of Native Americans tested have obtained results of the tests. (See more below.)

The epicenter of coronavirus is in New York, where more than 100 people died on Wednesday night, and patients lined up outside hospitals. There was rapid spread in New Jersey.

The spread in the Southeast U.S. is alarming, with rapid spread in New Orleans and north through Mississippi, continuing through the Smokey Mountains into the Carolinas. 

Atlanta, Denver, Chicago and other major cities with international airports show large numbers of cases. Cities with cruise ship ports such as Seattle and Los Angeles have been hard hit by the virus.

In Canada, Mohawks in Kahnawake report five cases. Last week, a doctor who had been at the hospital tested positive for coronavirus.

Below are two statements from the Navajo President and statistics from IHS.

New cases of COVID-19 reaches 71 for Navajo Nation
By Navajo President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Thursday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer were informed by the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service, in coordination with the Navajo Epidemiology Center, that the number of positive tests for COVID-19 has reached a total of 71 for the Navajo Nation. The cases include the following counties:
Navajo County, AZ: 42 *changed from yesterday, due to clarification of one individual’s residency
Apache County, AZ: 9
Coconino County, AZ: 7
McKinley County, NM: 5
San Juan County, NM: 7
Cibola County, NM: 1