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Navajo Nation continues to be hit hard by coronavirus as Arizona reopens

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Posted at 4:32 PM, May 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 22:18:19-04

NAVAJO NATION — Vehicles lined the road outside the small Navajo Nation town of Aneth Thursday. A remote area on the edge of the Utah border, like many others desperate for supplies.

“We started out actually in Arizona and now we’re in Aneth, the next stop along the way Blanding, all the way back into Mexican Water,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.

In less than an hour, hundreds showed up for the help.

Fresh produce donated by southern Arizona farmers now finding its way into their cars.

“Even a box of food can help go a long way into keeping our citizens at home because right now the safest place to be is at home,” said Nez.

As Arizona and New Mexico begin opening up their economies, Navajo Nation, which finds itself in both states, continues to lock itself down, extending its weekend curfews for the sixth straight week.

The area reported 16 new deaths Thursday, 147 new cases with positive cases now totaling near 3,400.

Numbers influenced by the influx of testing, says Nez, much more than what the U.S. as a whole is averaging so far.

“We were told only a little bit over two percent of the United States have been tested, total population, where as here on Navajo, eight percent of our people here on the Navajo Nation have been tested,” said Nez.

President Nez says Abbott Rapid tests are nearly depleted. Tests that deliver results in less than 15 minutes.

He says getting more won’t be easy.

“Right now the company has a backlog, so we’re gonna have to go back to the old testing which takes about 48 hours before we get accurate results,” said Nez.

He says on top of that challenge, recovery facilities meant to house patients on the mend from the virus remain unused.

Built by the Army Core of Engineers, staffing shortages have left them empty.

But some help has arrived. A team of 16 medical professionals and support staff from the University of California San Francisco as well as a crew from Doctors Without Borders plan to help staff those facilities.

“Rather than send COVID positive patients back to their homes, we want them to have a place to stay so that they don’t go home and infect their entire family,” said Nez.

Many infected have recovered but efforts are letting up anytime soon.

Stay home orders on the nation remain in effect Until at least June 7.