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Entire Navajo Nation locked down after coronavirus cases increase

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Entire Navajo Nation locked down after coronavirus cases increase

  • A Navajo Police Department checkpoint near Chilchinbeto, Ariz., on Saturday.
    Navajo NationA Navajo Police Department checkpoint near Chilchinbeto, Ariz., on Saturday.

The vast Navajo Nation in northeastern Arizona has been told to "shelter in place" as COVID-19 cases increased. Earlier, just a small village had been quarantined over the outbreak, which has now hit at least 26 residents.

While the state of Arizona reported that the number of coronavirus cases grew 50 percent overnight, to more than 150 in the state, the cases on the Navajo Nation have apparently not been included in the state count.

A "stay at home order" on the reservation requires all non-essential businesses to close and residents to remain at home and isolated. Saturday, 14 Navajo had tested positive in total, up from 7 on Thursday, officials said. Sunday, the number grew to 26 on the remote tribal lands.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez issued the lockdown order.

"Everybody needs to stay home, that's how we will start to beat this virus," Nez said. "To prevent a massive health crisis, every person must remain at home."

"We know some may need food, medicine, or other essential items, but beyond that we shouldn't have anyone traveling or going out into the public," he said Sunday in issuing the order.

"Stay home, stay safe, safe lives! That's the message we are sending out to the Navajo Nation to protect our communities," said Vice President Myron Lizer.

The Hopi Tribe, which has a reservation entirely surrounded by the Navajo Nation, has not reported any coronavirus cases.

Navajo officials said the majority of the cases on the reservation, which extends across state lines into New Mexico, Utah and Colorado, involve patients who reported their symptoms to the clinic in Kayenta, Ariz., with others treated in Chinle, Ariz., and Shiprock, N.M.

Earlier, a Diné community of Chilchinbeto, Ariz., just south of Kayenta, has been quarantined after at least 7 cases were diagnosed there, Navajo officials said.

Residents have been instructed to self-quarantine, with anyone with symptoms told to self-isolate. Tribal police have set up checkpoints to discourage travel on the reservation.

The 22,000-square-mile reservation has a population of 148,000. About 30 percent are under age 18, with another 60 percent under age 65. The per capita income is $12,500, with a poverty rate more than double the U.S. average.

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