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Indybay Feature
Navajo Nation cases of coronavirus increase to 214 with seven deaths
by Brenda Norrell
Thursday Apr 2nd, 2020 2:07 AM
The Navajo Nation has 214 cases of coronavirus, 40 new cases in the past 24 hours, and seven deaths. The Navajo President said they are in urgent need of more test kits. Doctors on the Navajo Nation said they need more critical care nurses, ventilators and masks.
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By Brenda Norrell
Censored News

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. -- There were 40 new cases of coronavirus on the Navajo Nation within the past 24 hours, with a total of 214 cases and 7 deaths.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said, “We’re two weeks into this pandemic and we need many more test kits, we need testing labs in our communities so we can get results much quicker."

A medical doctor in Chinle, in the center of the Navajo Nation, said, "Many are feeling alone on the Navajo Nation right now, especially in the remote community of Chilchinbeto, which is essentially on lockdown due to the major outbreak of SARS-CoV-2, the virus causing COVID-19."

"As a public health physician living in this area for the past 8 years, I am part of the Epi Response Team, and have already witnessed the terrible impact this virus has had, and it’s only just the beginning. It is rapidly spreading to surrounding communities, mostly due to a multi-church gathering that occurred in Chilchinbeto in early March, and the handful of emergency rooms on the reservation are already overwhelmed with people presenting in respiratory distress."

"Many are being intubated, stabilized, and flown out to tertiary care centers scattered across Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado; but some are also dying at home or shortly after arrival to the Emergency Room, and not being tested at all because we don’t have a system in place for post-mortem testing."

"General testing is also not widespread, so the true numbers are grossly underestimated. Our tertiary care centers in the surrounding states are filling up fast -- likely reaching capacity by next week -- and we will have to keep these incredibly sick patients at our facilities on the reservation, without enough critical care nurses or PPE."

"We have smart doctors and nurses here and we are actively surge planning: designing respiratory care units in existing spaces and purchasing more ventilators (that are on backorder), but it’s just not going to be enough."

"The National Guard made press releases yesterday about how they set up a "federal medical station" in Chinle (my home) and how they are providing assistance to the Navajo Nation, but what they failed to share with the press is that they basically delivered a kit to set up a hurricane-like shelter (or, rather, camp) in an existing structure that is too far away from the hospital to serve as medical overflow, and only has a couple of restrooms, NO staff, and no essential medical supplies."

"Had they discussed any of this with the local IHS Hospital beforehand, they could have learned key things about the area and potential resources already in place to develop a better plan (which the local Indian Health Service has formulated), but again, communication between these entities has not been very straightforward."

"I spoke with the National Guard and FEMA in Kayenta on March 30, 2020, about all of the above concerns, and the National Guard, point-blank to my face, said that they are 'spread too thin' and that 'your hospitals need to focus on your ethics plan for rationing care.'"

The Navajo Times reports that the initial outbreak in Chilchinbeto on the Navajo Nation followed a rally of the Nazarene Church.

More Navajos were infected at a separate church gathering in Pine Hill, New Mexico, near Gallup, and the pastor's family was hospitalized.

Across Indian country, Native American communities are locking down to prevent the spread. There is a cluster of coronavirus cases on the Lummi Nation in Washington. There have been at least two deaths of Native Americans, in Washington and Oklahoma, and seven on the Navajo Nation.

The Indian Health Service reports ten or more cases of coronavirus in each of the service agencies of Portland, California, Oklahoma and Phoenix.

Joye Braun, Cheyenne River Lakota Nation in South Dakota, writing for Censored News, urges caution.

"As Indigenous people we have DNA memory and realistically that memory is not that long ago of smallpox blankets, or other pandemics that spread in our communities. Diseases like the Spanish flu or tuberculous are not that long ago."

"We have relatives in our family trees that are simply not there anymore because they passed on during these epidemics. This new disease is not an epidemic. It is a pandemic. We need to be good relatives," Braun said.

Navajo President Nez in his daily reports said new field medical stations have been established, a curfew is in effect, and elderly shopping times are established on the Navajo Nation.

(Photo Navajo President's Office: New field medical station on Navajo Nation.)

Read more coverage at Censored News.
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