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FARMINGTON — The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation has reached 14.

"The majority of the 14 cases involve individuals who initially reported their symptoms to the Kayenta IHS (Indian Health Service) Service Unit, and others who either reported to or were transported to or were treated at Chinle Health Care Facility and Northern Navajo Medical Center," a press release from the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President states.

The office released the latest number late at night on March 19.

The release states that the Navajo Health Command Operations Center and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service are continuing to investigate how the cases relate.

A public health emergency order was issued for residents in Chilchinbeto, Arizona, to shelter-in-place to limit the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19.

President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer were informed about the new cases on Thursday evening.

"We are awaiting more details on the cases. We understand that the public has many questions and we ask that the public be patient until the facts are gathered – we do not want to report any misinformation," Nez said in the release.

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He added that personnel from the Navajo Health Command Operations Center, the Navajo Area IHS and 638 tribal health organizations are investigating each case.

"Please be respectful and adhere to their directions as they are doing their best to protect our communities," the president said.

Reports about the first two cases – involving a 46-year-old woman and a 40-year-old man – were released separately by Nez's office on March 17. The third case involving a 62-year-old man was announced March 18. These cases were in Navajo County in Arizona.

Each individual reported their symptoms to the Kayenta Health Center in Kayenta, Arizona and was transported to hospitals in Phoenix, according to Nez's office.

Since then travel restrictions have been placed on the reservation, including Nez urging against travel by tourists and visitors due to concerns about public health.

Navajo leaders and health care officials have advised tribal members not to travel unless it is necessary for items such as food, medication pick up, emergencies, medical appointments and livestock care. They also urge tribal members to stay home for at least 15 days.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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