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Navajo Police Department employees test positive for COVID-19

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — Two employees of the Navajo Police Department have tested positive for COVID-19.

A press release from the department states the Office of Chief of Police was notified on April 13, and the employees are in self-quarantine and monitoring their symptoms.

No further information was provided about the employees, but Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in remarks at a town hall meeting on April 14 that both are police officers.

The latest:Navajo Nation sees highest single day count for COVID-19 cases over weekend

Navajo Police Chief Phillip Francisco said during the meeting that department personnel are not immune from contracting the COVID-19 virus.

"As the number of positive cases increase across the nation, so does their risk of getting exposed. The health and safety of our officers and the staff who work closely with them are priority. We will monitor all personnel as we continue to provide our essential services," Francisco said.

The Navajo Police Department reported on April 14 that two employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

He asked that the public comply with the public health emergency orders to stay at home and obey the nightly curfew to reduce health risks for officers.

Last week, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer entered self-isolation after working near a first responder who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Nez said today that the first responder was an emergency medical services worker.

"Our first responders, our warriors on the front lines are beginning to contract this virus and we need to stay home. It is no joke," Nez said.

Read more:Amid coronavirus, Navajo Nation to go under 57-hour weekend curfew starting 8 p.m. Friday

The Navajo Nation has 813 positive cases for COVID-19, and the death toll related to the disease is 28 as of April 13.

Nez mentioned that mandatory curfews for residents on the Navajo Nation will continue as part of the effort to reduce community spread of the virus.

The Tuba City district for the Navajo Police Department conducted a checkpoint in the Arizona community during the weekend curfew.

Alternative health care site in Shiprock

The gymnasium at Atsá Biyáázh Community School in Shiprock will serve as an alternate care site for non-acute and non-COVID-19 patients.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers describes an alternate care site as "a facility that's temporarily converted for health care use during a public health emergency to reduce the burden on hospitals and established medical facilities."

Another alternative care site will be in Chinle, Arizona. The community is in Apache County, which has 102 positive cases for COVID-19 as of April 13.

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David Nez, incident commander for the Navajo Health Command Operations Center, said the Shiprock site will hold between 50 to 60 beds, and both locations are the first for such facilities on the reservation.

"Of course, these, well, they're not going to be the only two," he said adding the Army Corps of Engineers continues to assess locations for additional sites.

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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