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Navajo Nation President: Current Pandemic Situation Much Worse Than Spring Surge

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo medical officials called the current pandemic situation a major health crisis Thursday as the president and vice president extended a stay-at-home lockdown order and weekend lockdowns nearly to the new year.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer hosted a virtual forum Thursday with more than 600 doctors and Navajo residents in which medical experts pleaded with the public to stay home to prevent further spread of COVID-19.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for Navajo Area Indian Health Services, said what was a major health care crisis has now put the Navajo Nation “truly in a crisis mode.”

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez explained the dire COVID-19 predictions during a virtual forum. (YouTube)

“Navajo people, we are in a very worse state in this pandemic right now,” Nez said. “There’s a projection, and we pray that this projection doesn’t become a reality, but this projection says that this virus will be worse four to five times more than what we faced in May.”

The Navajo Nation had the worst spread of the disease in the nation during the early summer but was able to bring the number of new cases down to a manageable level until the current spike started in late September, according to the tribal COVID-19 dashboard.

“Hospital resources are at capacity or even overcapacity,” he described. “High flow oxygen machines needed to keep patients breathing with oxygen therapy are running dangerously short. Regional hospitals, also at capacity, are no longer taking Navajo patients.”

The Navajo Nation reported a total of 17,310 positive cases Thursday with 663 people who have died because of the virus.

Nez and Lizer extended stay-at-home and 57-hour long weekend lockdowns through Dec. 28, the release said.

The order includes the following:

  • Extends the Stay-At-Home Lockdown which requires all residents to remain at home 24-hours, seven days a week, with the exceptions of essential workers that must report to work, emergency situations, to obtain essential food, medication, and supplies, tend to livestock, outdoor exercising within the immediate vicinity of your home, wood gathering and hauling with a permit.
  • Re-implements full 57-hour weekend lockdowns for three additional weekends that include: 8 p.m. MST through 5 a.m. MST on December 11, 2020, through Dec. 14, and for the same hours on Dec. 18, through Dec. 21, and Dec. 25, through Dec. 28.
  • Essential businesses including gas stations, grocery stores, laundromats, restaurants and food establishments that provide drive-thru and curbside services, and hay vendors can operate from 7 a.m. (MST) to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday only.
  • Refrain from gathering with individuals from outside your immediate household and requiring all residents to wear a mask in public, avoid public gatherings, maintain social (physical) distancing, remain in your vehicle for curb-side and drive-through services.

They also signed an order to limit services and require the Navajo government and enterprises to remain closed through Sunday, Dec. 27.

The leaders appealed for federal help in a letter sent to President Donald Trump and FEMA requesting a Major Disaster Declaration for the Navajo Nation.

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