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The number of people on the Navajo Nation testing positive for the COVID-19 virus has reached 26, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer announced the evening of March 21.

“This includes 18 cases from the Kayenta Service Unit, four from the Chinle Service Unit, three from the Tuba City Service Unit, and one from the Crownpoint Service Unit,” the release stated. “As of Saturday, there are no confirmed deaths related to COVID-19 for residents of the Navajo Nation.”

President Nez and Vice President Lizer on March 20 approved a $4 million appropriation the Navajo Department of Health will utilize “to fight the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Navajo Nation and deliver much-needed resources and equipment to health care experts and emergency response personnel on the ground,” the release said.

The money is earmarked for things like medical supplies, food and water, the release stated, as well as public outreach.

The Office of the President and Vice President was notified of the new cases by the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

Stay at Home Order issued

A shelter-in-place order issued earlier for a specific region, the community of Chilchinbeto, located in Navajo County, Arizona, was expanded to the whole Navajo Nation. Now a Public Health Emergency Stay at Home Order is in effect. All Navajo Nation residents are asked to stay home and isolated “and all non-essential businesses to close to prevent the further spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus,” the release stated.

“Everyone needs to stay home, that’s how we will start to beat this virus,”  President Nez said. “To prevent a massive health crisis, every person must remain home. We know some may need food, medicine, or other essential items, but beyond that we shouldn’t have anyone traveling or going out into the public. This includes public gatherings and meetings.”

First responders dropped of care packages in Chilchinbeto, and resources like firewood, coal and water will also be made available to elderly and high-risk members of the community.

“We want to let the Navajo Nation (know) that we are here to help our Nation get through this time. We stand with you every step of the way. We will overcome this virus,” President Nez said.

The Navajo Police Department now runs community checkpoints to “limit and inform travelers to stay home and discourage unnecessary traveling,” the release said. Checkpoints are open near the  Chilchinbito area.

Working to stop the spread of the virus are joint tribal and IHS epidemiologist teams, but officials say the extent of its spread is unknown and limiting one’s exposure to people who carry the virus is the most effective way to eliminate the exposure of healthy people to those who have the virus.

“There are people who are testing negative for COVID-19 and that is good news, but there are still many more tests that the Navajo Department of Health and the Navajo Area IHS are waiting for results and confirmation,” President Nez said.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at jmoses@daily-times.com. Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e

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