The president of the Navajo Nation has warned that the winter wave of COVID-19 is hitting harder than the first, as ICU units reach capacity and another three-week lockdown is implemented due to the ‘dire’ surge in cases.
President Jonathan Nez warned Sunday that healthcare workers will soon be forced to make ‘difficult decisions’ in treating patients due to a lack of resources, as confirmed cases reached 18,163 among the reservation’s population of only 173,667.
‘This second wave of COVID-19 is much more dire and much more severe than the first wave we had in April and May,’ he said as he urged residents to wear masks and avoid travel.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez warned Sunday that healthcare workers will soon be forced to make ‘difficult decisions’ due to a lack of resources as coronavirus patients in the reservation increase during the ‘much more dire and much more severe’ second wave
Confirmed cases reached 18,163 Monday among the reservation’s population of only 173,667
On Monday, the Navajo Department of Health announced that 77 Navajo Nation communities have been identified as having uncontrolled spread of the virus.
Nez urged people to stay at home as Arizona reported a record-high of 12,314 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday, the positive test rate in Utah reached 27 percent, and hospitals in New Mexico become overwhelmed.
‘Due to the high rise in cases and hospitalizations in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, hospitals on or near the Navajo Nation are no longer able to transport patients to other regional hospitals because they are also reaching full capacity,’ Nez said Monday.
‘Hospitals are also having to compete with many others to obtain oxygen resources to help patients and are short on medical personnel. We must stay home more to reduce the spread.
‘We are near a point where our health care providers are going to have to make very difficult decisions in terms of providing medical treatment to COVID-19 patients with very limited resources,’ Nez added.
His concerns were echoed by Vice President Myron Lizer who revealed that the Navajo nation’s health care system is now ‘in a state of major crisis’.
‘We, as citizens of the Nation, have to step up and do more to protect ourselves and our loved ones,’ Lizer said. ‘We cannot be careless, and we have to stay the course.’
‘We are hopeful that a safe vaccine will soon be made available to fight this pandemic even more,’ he added. ‘Until then, we must continue to have faith in our prayers and keep making good decisions for all of us.’
The latest lockdown order in Navajo Nation, a continuation of a November 16 mandate, went into effect Monday morning, limiting essential business hours to between 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. during the weekdays.
Three full 57-hour weekend lockdowns will also be implemented.
A further three-week lockdown came into effect on Monday morning
The Navajo Department of Health said that 77 Navajo Nation communities have been identified as having uncontrolled spread of the virus. Pictured, a Navajo Indian woman in tested
Residents are asked to remain at home 24-hours, seven days a week, with the exceptions of essential workers that must report to work.
People can also leave their homes for emergency situations, to obtain essential food, medication, and supplies, tend to livestock, exercise and gather wood but are urged to stay within five miles from their home, not to travel off the reservation and not to gather.
The public health order enforcing the lockdown said that the recent spike had been identified as ‘a direct result of family gatherings and off-Reservation travel’.
‘The Navajo Nation is working with Navajo Area IHS and FEMA to request and secure more medical personnel through the federal government to provide some level of relief to our health care providers,’ Nez said of the extra measures being taken.
He added that the tribe also plans to expand their isolation sites for people who test positive or are waiting for their test results and don’t want to run the risk of infecting other household members.
Residents have been warned not to travel off the reservation as infections increase
The reservation had already been among the hardest hit in the nation during the first wave of the pandemic in the spring.
In May, it registered a higher per capita level of positive coronavirus test results than New York, even as NYC was the global epicenter of the pandemic.
At the time, Nez blamed the multi-generation living situations, a lack of running water, and fewer places to purchase food as causes for increased spread of the disease.
Resources in the nation are scarce and even small rises in cases can have dangerous effects on the community.
More than 600 of the Navajo reservation’s 173,000 residents have now died from COVID-19.
This brought the death rate to 347 for every 100,000 people as of the end of November, compared to 86 per 100,000 people in Maricopa County – Arizona’s largest.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 18,163 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Navajo Nation, and 682 deaths.
There were 15 news deaths reported Monday and 213 new cases.
Among the areas hardest hit is Chinle where more than 3,600 have been reported and Gallup which has had more than 3,000 cases.
The three states that the reservation lies in are also seeing alarming rises in cases.
In New Mexico, there were 202 new COVID-19 deaths last week, a figure that it took 46 days to reach at the start of the pandemic, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said.
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey said in a tweet on Sunday that the percentage of positive tests for the most recent full week jumped to 18 percent from 15 percent the week before, while the number of patients in ICU and on ventilators also increased.
In Utah, most regions of the state are currently listed as having a ‘very high rate of transmission’.
COVID-19 cases are rising across the United States with daily records for hospitalizations and new cases reached every day throughout the first six days of December.
Nationwide, there have been more than 15 million cases and almost 285,000 deaths.