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Former state disaster manager and ABC15 analyst Wendy Smith-Reeve talks challenges for Navajo Nation

Wendy Smith-Reeve
Posted at 9:20 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-14 20:34:02-04

New data shows the number of COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation jumped by 115 in just two days. The total is now at 813 cases and 28 deaths, more than 65 percent of those cases are in Arizona.

These sobering statistics carry even more weight when it comes to getting resources and help to those who need it most.

"The situation on the Navajo Nation is really unprecedented," said former Director of Arizona Division of Emergency Management and ABC15 Analyst Wendy Smith-Reeve.

"You need to characterize what your capability is and how the current environment is exceeding that capability, so those statistics and those details are critical," said Smith-Reeve.

She cannot say for sure why the numbers are so dire but points to multi-generational housing and large gatherings before the virus was well-known as potential contributing factors. The requests for support are now going through county, state and federal entities.

"You look for who is your closest neighbor that could possibly provide the resources that you need," Smith-Reeve said.

The National Guard has already stepped in to transport critical supplies, much like it did back in 2010 when flooding from snow melt cut off access to some areas.

"Every day is evolving, it's just a matter of getting the ground truth from the communities as to what is working, what is not working and then how do you adjust collectively as a group," said Smith-Reeve.

On Monday night Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said they, "saw good results with the 57-hour curfew this past weekend," but still more than 100 citations were issued. Meanwhile they are hopeful rapid COVID-19 test kits can speed up diagnosis and treatment.

Only time will tell if steps like these are enough to stop the spread.

"The members of the Navajo Nation are also citizens of Arizona and so we are all here together to support one another and to provide whatever assistance we can," Smith-Reeve said.