NAVAJO COUNTY — Creeping silently, the impacts of the coronavirus continue to grow and spread across the White Mountain region.
Over the weekend, the virus claimed a life in Navajo County.
There have been two confirmed deaths from COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation Reservation. Now, for the first time a resident of Navajo County from outside of the Navajo Nation Reservation has died from the virus.
In a press release issued Sunday, the Navajo County Public Health Services District (NCPHSD) confirmed that ”the individual who passed away was in their 60s with underlying health conditions. No additional information will be provided out of respect to the family and privacy laws. NCPHSD is in the process of notifying close contacts of these persons and is asking them to monitor for symptoms. If you are not contacted by public health, your risk of exposure to these cases are minimal.”
“We express our deepest sympathy to the family and friends grieving their loved one during this difficult time,” said Jeff Lee NCPHSD Director. “COVID-19 is a serious disease that can be fatal. We expect to see more cases of COVID-19 in Navajo County, and there could be more deaths. It is imperative that everyone takes precautions to protect yourself and your family from this disease, ” the press release stated.
The press release stated that additional cases of the virus in Navajo County have been confirmed outside of the Navajo Nation Reservation, although it did not specify how many or where the cases were located.
The total number of cases in Navajo County Monday were 88 and 17 in Apache County. Numbers continue an alarming climb across Arizona, reaching 1,157 cases on Monday, with deaths reaching 20. Last week, Dr. Cara Christ, head of the Arizona Department of Health Services said all Arizonans should consider that the virus is “widespread” and circulating in all communities.
Over the weekend, President Trump extended social distancing guidelines through the end of April. Earlier comments he had made concerning re-opening businesses in some areas of the country by Easter, Vice President Mike Pence called “aspirational,” according to CNBC.
“The president expressed, really, an aspirational goal,” Mr. Pence said on CNBC. “The president said he would love to see it around Easter.”
Governor makes stay-at-home, order, extends school closures
Gov. Doug Ducey has resisted calling for a statewide shelter-in-place order, but apparently changed his mind on Monday afternoon, and issued an order to "Stay home, stay healthy, stay connected," just before 3 p.m. On Monday, the governor also extended statewide school closures through April 30
According to the New York Times, 26 states have issued such orders, requiring people to stay home and only leave the house for necessities such as groceries, medical appointments and to step outside for fresh air. Thirteen states have orders in portions of the state — usually large cities or metropolitan counties. About 7 in 10 Americans are now living under these orders in an unprecedented effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Arizona was one of only nine states that has no requirements to shelter in place.
Locally, the Navajo Nation has a shelter-in-place order and a curfew that begins today, ordering residents to stay at home from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. President Jonathan Nez has also placed strict rules for social distancing on businesses that remain open, such as limiting the number of customers in the store.
One case now confirmed by Whiteriver Indian Health Service
Whiteriver Indian Health Service confirmed one positive case on Sunday, within their extended service area, according to a post on their Facebook page. The White Mountain Apache Tribe has also instituted a curfew, of 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. and closed public areas such as playgrounds and recreation areas in their forests.
No cases confirmed at Summit
Summit Healthcare in Show Low confirmed last week that they have conducted tests on some individuals, but have not reported any positive results thus far. Some test results have taken a week to come back from labs, they said. There are no confirmed cases at Summit Healthcare, according to their text messaging service.
Will testing expand?
While at least one healthcare provider, North Country Healthcare, has promised to bring expanded testing for COVID-19 to the area, they offered no timeline as to when the drive-thru testing clinics they proposed would open.
Shortly after North Country made that announcement, Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, advised healthcare providers that widespread testing isn’t feasible due the lack of medical and testing supplies. She advised healthcare providers to simply treat all patients with symptoms as though they were infected. The state also has a critical shortage of the gear doctors and nurses need to even administer a test.
“Keep working with your commercial vendors for testing, but do not depend on having test results for your management,” she said in guidelines to doctors. “There is no specific treatment or manage strategy and results should not change clinical management.”