Navajo Nation hard hit by coronavirus hopes curve may soon flatten to ease lockdown

PHOENIX – Life across most of Arizona is slowly going back to a semblance of normalcy as golf courses open up, restaurants fill up and parks welcome dozens of people. The state’s stay-at-home order expired on May 15, allowing the local economy to start up again.

However, in the northern part of the state it’s a much different story.

The hard-hit Navajo Nation, which has recorded more than 4,800 positive coronavirus cases and at least 158 deaths, remains on lockdown until at least June 7.

The Navajo Nation is home to nearly 175,000 people, expanding into Arizona, Utah, and New Mexico. Navajo Nation leaders are implementing weekend curfews, closing non-essential businesses, and increasing COVID-19 testing. Volunteers and the National Guard are delivering PPE, water and food donations (Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President).

"It’s been a hard battle, it’s been a fight. Our numbers have been all across the board ... up, down, up one day, down one day and then up again,” Myron Lizer, vice president of the Navajo Nation, told Fox News recently.

The Navajo Nation is home to nearly 175,000 people across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. (Fox News).

“As Arizona and Utah open up their economies, we can voluntarily keep ours shut and that’s what we are doing because the COVID-19 pandemic is still, I don’t know if we’ve reached our peak yet, our numbers are still pretty high,” Lizer said.

VIDEO: COVID-19 devastates Navajo Nation, curve may soon be flattening

The Navajo Nation is home to nearly 175,000 people across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Lizer said about a third of families living on the reservation don’t have access to running water, making it hard to regularly wash hands. Doctors say multigenerational homes make social distancing near impossible, and underlying health conditions like diabetes are taking their toll.

Doctors and nurses have been working non-stop at the Gallup Indian Medical Center's COVID-19 Ward. (Indian Health Service).

“Never expected anything like this…it's extremely challenging … when we first started out there was severe shortages of personal protective equipment or PPE, we like everyone else ordered like crazy and the shipments are coming in,” said Dr. Jonathan Iralu, an infectious disease consultant with the Indian Health Service.

“It’s extremely challenging; not just speaking from myself but from a huge team of doctors, nurses, dieticians, custodial services, etc. — it is really hard work,” he told Fox News. “We have been blessed with a lot of wonderful support from the Navajo area office, the Navajo Nation, the states of New Mexico, Arizona supporting us, so, for instance, we have enough ventilators to do well here in Gallup Medical Center and a lot of the other sites have ventilators where they have staff that are able to run an ICU."

To help fight back, Navajo leaders have implemented weekend curfews, closed nonessential businesses, and increased COVID-19 testing throughout. Volunteers and the National Guard are delivering PPE, water and food donations as well.

Doctors on the reservation say this virus should peak any day now, hoping to flatten the curve (Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President).

“We’ll continue our 57-hour curfews. Again, during those curfews all of those businesses are shutdown. We simply want people to stay home and stay safe not going to border towns, not traveling, not assembling in large crowds here, maintaining their social distancing,” said Lizer.

Doctors on the reservation say the virus should peak any day now, and they're hoping to see a decrease in new cases soon.

“Our numbers are uncanny, we’re prayerful that our numbers are at about the peak right now and that we will be able to start seeing some continuing days, consecutive days of dwindling numbers and certainly that’ll speak towards our opening when we can open again and return back to our jobs and whatnot,” said Lizer.

The international humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders, which normally operates outside of the U.S., sent medical workers to the Navajo Nation to help out during this pandemic.

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