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FILE (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
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San Juan County Moves To ‘Yellow’ Despite Pandemic In Navajo Nation

FILE (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Part of the Navajo Nation lies in southern San Juan County, where there is a stark contrast between how the pandemic has affected the county and the reservation.

Figures released Thursday showed 16 people died on the reservation bringing the total number of people who died from the virus to 119.

The reservation reported 3,392 positive cases of COVID-19.

By comparison, all of San Juan County has reported a total of 154 cases with 3 deaths, according to coronavirus.utah.gov.

The reservation is much larger than San Juan County, however it is still considered to be one of the top hot spots in the country.

The severity of the pandemic on the reservation has not spread into San Juan County.

Jefferson Burton, co-chair of the Public Health and Economic Emergency Commission highlighted the difference between the county and the Navajo Nation lands inside the county.  He said  the reservation is a federal area whereas the county’s health status is determined by local and state health departments. “All these decisions are data driven. They also consider the recommendations of the local elected officials and public health officials”, Burton said during Thursday’s announcement.

Burton added, “I assure you all the decisions that were made here today (Thursday), that we’re announced have been vetted with those officials.”

The Utah Department of Health does have a team at the reservation helping with mobile testing and Doctors Without Borders has also sent a team to advise tribal health officials.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the Nation will be under another 57-hour weekend lockdown that begins Friday. It will have stricter measures than previous curfews. That order is expected to be released later Thursday.

“With some states starting to reopen, it is giving people (tribal members) the impression that it’s okay to go out into public, but it’s not safe yet. With today’s (Thursday) numbers, it is clear everyone needs to step up and hold each other accountable to stay home”, said President Nez.

“Our law enforcement officers are stretched thin and we don’t have the manpower to enforce the shelter-in-place order and the daily and weekend curfews around the clock. It’s very disheartening to see more and more traffic on our roads and more people going into border towns, but we’re not giving up. We’re going to look at what else we need to do to bring the numbers down,” President Nez added.

In addition, Tuesday the Navajo Nation extended a state of emergency declaration as well as the closure of Navajo Nation government offices through June 7, to minimize the spread of COVID-19.

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