'Uptick' in COVID-19 cases persists on Navajo Nation; 36 communities under health advisory

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

GALLUP — The Navajo Department of Health's latest advisory notice on Aug. 23 lists 36 communities as at high-risk for COVID-19 spread — eight more than last week.

Naschitti, Sheep Springs, Shiprock and Upper Fruitland in San Juan County remain on the list.

Vaccination clinics are planned in Shiprock Aug. 25 and Aug. 26 for those needing to start or complete their vaccinations.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in the last five weeks the tribe has seen an increase in new infections.

"We have seen an uptick in cases, yes. But it's not as significant as off the nation," he said during the Aug. 24 virtual update by his office.

This slide shown on Aug. 24 by the Navajo Epidemiology Center shows places where transmission of COVID-19 is occurring on the Navajo Nation.

He cautioned that the tribal government will not shut down because 83% of employees have been fully vaccinated and more than 75% of the population on the tribal land are fully vaccinated.

However, the president said tribal members must continue to follow safety protocols to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

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Other communities in New Mexico and Arizona in the list are Baca-Prewitt, Becenti, Birdsprings, Chichiltah, Chinle, Coppermine, Coyote Canyon, Crownpoint, Dennehotso, Ganado, Hardrock, Indian Wells, Inscription House, Iyanbito, Kaibeto, Kayenta, Leupp, Littlewater, Low Mountain, Lukachukai, Many Farms, Nazlini, Rock Springs, Rough Rock, Smith Lake, Tachee-Blue Gap, Teesto, Tohatchi, Tonalea, Tsaile-Wheatfields, Tsayatoh and Whippoorwill.

The department made its determination based on cases from Aug. 6 to Aug. 19.

This slide shown on Aug. 24 by the Navajo Epidemiology Center names the 36 communities categorized by the Navajo Department of Health as high-risk for COVID-19 spread.

Gatherings driving spread, clinics planned

Del Yazzie, an epidemiologist with the Navajo Epidemiology Center, said the number of new cases per day started to rise in July.

Yazzie added that social gatherings are the "main drivers" of transmission on the tribal land and reports show there is no evidence that transmission is occurring in schools or businesses.

Northern Navajo Medical Center is once again teaming with Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston to offer an incentive of free gas to encourage people to get vaccinated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez gives an update about COVID-19 during a virtual town hall on Aug. 24.

The hospital will hold a vaccination clinic on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26, both from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., at the Shiprock Chapter house in Shiprock.

For those receiving the vaccine during the clinic, the Brigham and Women's Hospital Outreach Program will pay $30 of gas for one person and $60 of gas for two people.

Purchases will be at a nearby gas station and more information about the vaccination clinic and the fuel incentive is on the Shiprock Indian Health Service Facebook page.

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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