Navajo Nation implements a COVID-19 curfew




U.S. Air Force Academy cadets and faculty work with site managers to help build low-cost housing on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. U.S. Air Force photo/John Van Winkle

The Navajo Nation is under a mandatory curfew due to the rapidly increasing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across its territory, which encompasses a large portion of Arizona, as well as parts of Utah and New Mexico. 

On Sunday, the order for the curfew was issued, which extends a previous “stay at home” order to include a curfew which barring residents from leaving their homes between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they are an essential employee with the proper paperwork to prove so. 

As of March 30, there are 128 confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, the bulk of them in Arizona’s Navajo County. There are two deaths related to COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation, according to tribal officials.

“This curfew is an added measure to protect our Navajo people, especially our elderly and high-risk. Everyone should read the new order entirely,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement about the order. 

The order comes nine days after one community was put on lockdown after its number of cases of COVID-19 rose to 14

The Arizona Department of Health Services has been having bi-weekly conversations with tribal leaders to discuss what needs to be done, Democratic Rep. Arlando Teller said. 

In a Monday press conference, Gov. Doug Ducey said that a pair of Black Hawk helicopters had been deployed to Chinle, Arizona, to set up a field hospital with 50 beds to help the Navajo Nation treat COVID-19 patients. 

Major Gen. Michael T. McGuire, director of the Arizona Department of Emergency and Military Affairs, said that his agency received a call from FEMA on Saturday night that a hospital in Tuba City had more patients than staff available. 

On Sunday morning, the helicopters, along with an eight-person medical team, were deployed to assist the hospital, while an additional 14 person team was sent to set up the field hospital in Chinle. It was completed Monday afternoon, McGuire said. 

McGuire said the field hospital will help serve the entire Navajo Nation. 

“I am concerned for the elderly that live in the remote parts of the reservation,” Teller, a Navajo from Chinle, told Arizona Mirror. “Our concern is some of the roads can be impassable.” 

Three-fourths of roads owned by the Bureau of Indian affairs are unpaved, an issue that has made news in recent years for the negative impact it has on schooling for children on the reservation

“All the rural counties are being covered today,” McGuire said when asked by the Mirror how this issue was being addressed. “If there are medical needs in those rural areas, that’s why we have two Black Hawk helicopters on alert in Papago Park.”

Teller said that some services are already being stretched thin in the Navajo Nation, such as two nursing homes which are asking for donations as staff and supplies are running short. The Guy Gorman Nursing Home in Chinle and the Annie Wauneka Life Care Center in Ganado both have limited staff, resources and money, Teller said. 

“My main concern is for the vulnerable population,” Teller said. 

How you can tell if you might be ill

Symptoms of COVID-19 resemble that of the flu. So, if you’re experiencing coughing, fever, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath, you should consider getting checked out. Call your primary care physician or visit an urgent care center or emergency room — but call the health care provider before you go so they can be prepared for your arrival. The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is taking COVID-19 calls: 1-844-542-8201

How COVID-19 spreads

  • Through the air by coughing or sneezing
  • Close personal contact, such as touching or shaking hands
  • Touching an object or surface with the virus on it

How to prevent spreading COVID-19

  • Cover coughs or sneezes with your elbow. Don’t use your hands.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Clean surfaces frequently, including counter tops, light switches, cell phones, remotes, and other frequently touched items.
  • Contain: If you are sick, stay home until you are feeling better. Once symptoms are gone experts recommend staying home an additional 72 hours.