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New coronavirus infections on Navajo Nation to surpass numbers set in May

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Department of Health director is warning tribal members that the number of new daily cases of COVID-19 will exceed case numbers set during the first wave of the virus in May.

"We have been monitoring this since Labor Day and it's been increasing steadily, but very steeply, and has not plateaued," Jill Jim, the tribe's health department director, said about recent rates of coronavirus infections across the Navajo Nation.

On Nov. 17, the tribe's health agencies reported 146 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 13,744.

Due to the new infections rate, tribal and health officials implemented a stay-at-home order and other restrictions for residents through Dec. 6.

The Navajo Housing Authority placed a sign along U.S. Highway 491 to remind the public to follow health guidelines for combating the coronavirus.

The increase is causing intensive care units at hospitals on the reservation to reach capacity and facilities are starting to face nursing shortages, Jim said in an update during the Nov. 17 town hall organized by the Office of the President and Vice President.

Jim reiterated that contact tracing has revealed that infections are spreading from person to person during family gatherings and when individuals travel back and forth from the reservation.

"Gatherings is a major contributor to the clusters and spread across the Navajo Nation," she said adding the tribe's new case trajectory mirrors what the United States is experiencing.

"We are on our second wave while the United States is on its third wave but it's no one state, it's no one particular tribe. It's everywhere and there's uncontrolled spread and we're all experiencing the impact right now," she said.

More:Where to get coronavirus testing in San Juan County

The same day Jim made her comments, the health department issued its latest health advisory notice that identifies 55 communities as having controlled spread of COVID-19.

These communities were identified based on new cases from Oct. 30 to Nov. 12 and are under the advisory until risk and cases decline, according to the document.

Communities in the Northern Agency in San Juan County on the list are Gadiiahi, Hogback, Naschitti, Sanostee, Sheep Springs, Shiprock and Upper Fruitland.

Jill Jim, director of the Navajo Department of Health, talks about increasing coronavirus infections on the Navajo Nation during a town hall on Nov. 17.

More:San Juan Regional Medical Center brings back visitor restrictions due to COVID-19

Other communities in New Mexico are Alamo, Bread Springs, Baca-Prewitt, Casamero Lake, Chichiltah, Church Rock, Counselor, Coyote Canyon, Crownpoint, Iyanbito, Mariano Lake, Pinedale, Pueblo Pintado, Rock Springs, Smith Lake, Thoreau, Tóhajiilee, Tohatchi, Tsayatoh and Twin Lakes.

Communities outside the state are Birdsprings, Bodaway-Gap, Cameron, Chilchinbeto, Chinle, Dilkon, Forest Lake, Fort Defiance, Ganado, Houck, Indian Wells, Kaibeto, Kayenta, Leupp, Lupton, Many Farms, Nahata Dziil, Nahodishgish, Piñon, Rock Point, Round Rock, St. Michaels, Teec Nos Pos, Tonalea, Tselani-Cottonwood, Tuba City, Whippoorwill and White Cone.

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.