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Navajo Nation President describes water, internet issues amid COVID-19

(Wikipedia Photo/Gerd Muller)

PHOENIX — Along with having positive coronavirus cases approach 600 as of the daily report on Friday, the Navajo Nation is facing other problems related to the outbreak of the virus.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez joined KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad on Friday and described issues with telecommunication and the scarcity of water.

“There is a large population on our nation that don’t have running water, so they have to go and haul water for their household,” Nez said.

“Especially if you have a shelter in place order … it’s kind of hard for them to go and travel to get some water for them to practice good hygiene at home by washing their hands with soap and water,” he added.

The Arizona National Guard received a call on Friday from the Navajo Nation asking for water, according to ABC15.

Maj. Gen. Michael McGuire, Arizona’s Director of Emergency and Military Affairs, told the television station potable water would be on its way to the Navajo Nation as well as non-potable water for livestock.

Along with the delivery of water, the Arizona National Guard recently put a temporary medical facility tent in Chinle, Arizona, to help with the outbreak of cases.

Nez also disclosed his worry for students due to the Navajo Nation not having the best high-speed internet access.

Public district and charter schools across Arizona, one of the three states that the Navajo Nation is located in, were forced to close in-person instruction for the remainder of the scheduled year because of the outbreak.

“We got college students, university students, even high school students being told to log onto the internet and do your homework,” Nez said.

“I fear that some of our students that are at home are going to fall behind because we don’t have the best broadband connectivity here on the Navajo Nation,” he added.

In an effort to assist the issue, the Navajo Nation’s telecommunication service providers, including AT&T/Cricket, CellularOne, Choice/NTUA Wireless, Frontier, Naked Mobile, Sacred Wind, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless, took the “Keeping Americans Connected Pledge.”

The pledge promises to not cut off service to residents or small businesses that can’t pay their bills, waving late fees incurred and the opening of WiFi hotspots to those who need them.

The Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission worked with Choice/NTUA Wireless and Sacred Wind to set up three WiFi hot spots at the Chinle and Dilkon NTUA District Offices and NTUA headquarters in Fort Defiance.

Students can use these hotspots from their vehicles on weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., according to a press release.

Navajo Nation Telecommunications Regulatory Commission Executive Director Christopher Becenti said in the release there would be additional remote WiFi hotspot locations for students throughout the nation.

The Navajo Nation enacted a 57-hour curfew on Friday evening to stop the spread of the virus. It will last until Monday morning at 5:00 a.m., with the exception of essential employees who are required to have documentation from their employer.

Navajo police will enforce the curfew with citations that may include a fine of up to $1,000 or 30 days in jail, according to a press release.

Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer, meanwhile, recently announced they are self-quarantined after being near somebody who later tested positive for the virus.

No additional deaths related to the coronavirus in the Navajo Nation were reported on Friday, leaving the total at 22.

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