Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a virtual town hall Tuesday that the reservation hit its peak number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and emergency room visits a few weeks early thanks to social distancing and mask-wearing.
That peak came in late April, not in mid-May as Indian Health Services had projected.
Nez credited social distancing, strict curfews and Navajo citizens' willingness to wear masks.
"You might be thinking, 'Well, I didn’t have that much to do with it.' Yes you did. If you’re wearing a mask, you’re a warrior," Nez said.
The Navajo Nation reported 157 deaths out of 4,689 cases of COVID-19 as of Tuesday.
If the reservation were a state, it'd have the highest amount of positive cases per capita in the country – but it also has the highest testing rate. All that testing means that people who don't need hospitalization are finding out they have the virus, staying home and slowing the spread, Nez said.
He is concerned about neighboring communities though.
“We have to also monitor the people around us, right?... Like this past weekend, Grand Canyon was open. I hope not to see a spike," he said.
One of the routes into the popular park is through Navajo lands. The Navajo Nation implemented a 57-hour curfew over Memorial Day weekend while part of the park was open.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
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