This Area With Soaring Coronavirus Rates Just Went Back Into Lockdown

Coronavirus cases have recently spiked in the Navajo Nation, prompting a return to lockdown.

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The Navajo Nation—American Indian tribal land that spans more than 17 million acres throughout Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah—has once again returned to lockdown, thanks to rising coronavirus rates. According to a June 17 update from the Navajo Department of Health, the Navajo Nation has had 6,747 positive coronavirus tests and 322 deaths among its population of approximately 174,000 total residents—the highest per capita infection rates in the entire country.

Just one month prior, the total number of positive coronavirus tests in the Navajo Nation was 3,912, with 140 total deaths, according to a May 16 press release from the Office of the President and Vice-President of the Navajo Nation.

In response to the sharp increase in coronavirus infections, the Navajo Nation Department of Health has mandated two 57-hour lockdowns—one beginning on June 19 at 8 p.m. and ending at 5 a.m. on June 22, and one the following weekend—as well as daily curfews from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. In fact, the shelter-at-home measures are so strict that even grocery stores will be closed, with Navajo Nation officials recommending that residents stay within its boundaries whenever possible.

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In an interview with CNN, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez noted that the multigenerational housing in which many Navajo Nation residents live with their families has made containing infections a difficult proposition. Nez additionally pointed to the lack of running water in many homes—with more than 30 percent of Navajo Nation residents living without a toilet or tap, according to the Navajo Water Project—as a barrier to effective hand-washing.

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The coronavirus cases in the Navajo Nation have likely influenced and been influenced by the COVID-19 spread in surrounding areas of Utah and Arizona, according to public health officials, with many Nation residents forced to leave tribal land for access to necessary supplies. According to UCLA Health, there are only six hospitals on Navajo Nation land, while Partners in Health reports that the Navajo Nation has just 13 grocery stores.

"[This] means either more people use the same store or need to travel to neighboring states for essential items," says physician Leann Poston, MD, a medical expert with Invigor Medical. "Many households may share a vehicle to decrease costs—a practice that may increase the spread of infection."

"It only takes a few people traveling to Phoenix or other hotspots to catch the virus and start another wave of new cases here on the Navajo Nation," said Nez in a statement. "If we stay at home and limit all travels, we can beat this virus." And for more insight into where coronavirus cases are on the rise, check out these 5 States That Are "Losing Control" of Coronavirus.

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