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Navajo Nation implements stricter virus mitigation to help hospitals

(AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

PHOENIX – The Navajo Nation is extending its state of emergency order and asking President Donald Trump to approve a major disaster declaration so they can get access to more supplies as coronavirus cases spiral out of control on the reservation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and health care officials continued to plead with people on Thursday to wear masks, prohibit visitors from outside of the household and to stay on the reservation to curb the spread of the virus and protect its health care resources.

“We plead with your to stay on Navajo, to buy Navajo because we can’t control what’s outside our boundaries,” Nez said.

Dr. Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for the Navajo-area Indian Health Service, said the hospitals are seeing a high number of COVID-19 patients and are reaching a critical capacity.

She also noted the Navajo Nation is competing for critical supplies like oxygen and medication as vendors struggle to keep up with the supply needs. They’re also preparing to extend bed space and are focused on recruiting more nurses to help with the increase in patients.

“We’re having some challenges in transferring out patients for a higher level of care as regionally in Albuquerque, Phoenix, Tucson and Flagstaff, we’re seeing increasing numbers in both of those [cities] which then creates for us a challenge to get our patients into those hospitals that need intensive care treatment,” Christensen said.

The Navajo Nation on Wednesday reported 310 new coronavirus cases and two additional deaths, bringing the total to 17,035 cases since the pandemic began and 658 known deaths. Its seven-day average is 194 cases, according to the Navajo Department of Health.

Nez said they are extending the lockdown order for another three weeks and reinstating the weekend curfew.

Starting Monday, one person from each household will be able to visit essential businesses Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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