Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

August 17, 2022

Rapid Spread of COVID: CDC recommends masks indoors for much of Indian country -- August 17, 2022

While COVID spread at a high rate in parts of the Navajo Nation, a flashflood in
Sheepsprings, south of Shiprock, N.M., snatched cars and trailers yesterday. Screenshot
from video.

Dineh volunteer Bitahnii Wilson delivers water to fellow Navajos in Wide Ruins on the Navajo Nation earlier this week. Dineh elderly, sick and disabled, and isolated families without running water remain in need. Photo courtesy Bitahnii Wilson. K'eh Native Action.

Rapid Spread of COVID: CDC recommends masks indoors for much of Indian country  -- August 17, 2022

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
August 17, 2022

The CDC reports high levels of COVID transmission in much of Indian country, and recommends wearing masks indoors. About one-half of the counties in Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma and Kansas are at the high-risk level of COVID spread this week.

The Indian Health Service reports the fastest rate of spread in the Bemidji, Minnesota, IHS region. Meanwhile, the Oglala Lakota Nation in South Dakota reinstated its mask ordinance due to the county's high rate of community spread.

The CDC shows the rapid spread of COVID in most of Florida, and the California coast this week.

COVID community levels in U.S. August 17, 2022

In Arizona, Apache, Yuma and La Paz counties are now at a high level of COVID spread. The CDC recommends wearing masks indoors. Apache County includes part of the Navajo Nation, including the Navajo capital of Window Rock. The White Mountain Apache Nation is also located in Apache County.

The Navajo Nation reports 372 new cases and two deaths related to COVID-19 over four day period. There are 63 communities identified with the uncontrolled spread of COVID. 

Although the Navajo Nation has one of the highest vaccination rates in the United States, the virus continues to spread rapidly.

The Indian Health Service has administered 400,476 doses of vaccines in the Navajo IHS service area.

McKinley County in New Mexico, which includes the bordertown of Gallup, and Bernalillo (Albuquerque) are currently at a high level of transmission. As students return to school, COVID is spreading. In Albuquerque, one school has already returned to virtual after two weeks of COVID spread. It is Cottonwood Classical Preparatory School.

Home to many Pueblos, CDC also reports a high level of transmission in Sandoval, Cibola, and Valencia Counties in New Mexico. 

Pine Ridge reinstates masks

Oglala Vice President Alicia Mousseau gives a mask mandate update

In South Dakota, Oglala Lakota County, which includes Pine Ridge, remains at a high level of transmission.

Oglala Vice President Alicia Mousseau urges Lakotas at high risk to be cautious as the community level is now at a high level. Mosseau points out that children are returning to school, and all ages are contracting the virus.

The Oglala Lakota Nation said as of August 11, 2022, Oglala Lakota County has gone into the High COVID-19 Community Level.

"Per Oglala Sioux Tribe Ordinance 22-53, Masks are now Mandatory in Oglala Lakota County."

Greatest spread in Bemidji IHS Service Area

The CDC also reports a high rate of transmission in Minnesota in Beltrami (Red Lake), Cass, and other counties and recommends wearing masks indoors. The Indian Health Service reports the Bemidji IHS service area has the fastest rate of spread in Indian country this week.

The Bemidji Area Office serves 34 Federally-recognized Tribes and 4 Urban Indian Health programs located in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin, in Chicago, IL; Detroit, MI; Milwaukee, WI; and Minneapolis, MN. Tribes in the Bemidji Area include Ojibwe (Chippewa), Ho-Chunk, Menominee, Mohican, Oneida, Odawa, Potawatomi, and Sioux, IHS said.

Minnesota -- CDC shows high rate of COVID spread in Beltrami County, where Red Lake is located, and neighboring counties. A high rate of spread is shown in orange. Yellow reveals medium spread and low spread is shown in green. Map by CDC. CDC recommends masks indoors in areas of high spread. Wednesday, August 17, 2022.

Nationwide, rapid spread of COVID among vaccinated

Currently, the CEO of Pfizer, the Secretary of Defense, and First Lady Jill Biden all have COVID. They were fully vaccinated. President Biden had COVID twice last month.

Pfizer manufactures the COVID vaccine most often used on the Navajo Nation and across the United States. Pfizer also manufactures Paxlovid, the anti-viral medicine that doctors often prescribe for patients with COVID.

The CDC updates the community levels on Thursdays.

About the author

Brenda Norrell has been a news reporter in Indian country for 40 years, beginning at the Navajo Times during the 18 years that she lived on the Navajo Nation. She was a correspondent for Associated Press and USA Today. After serving as a longtime staff reporter at Indian Country Today, she was censored and fired. She began Censored News in 2006 to reveal what is being censored. She has a master's degree in international health focused on water, nutrition and infectious diseases.

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