NAVAJO & APACHE COUNTIES — Apache and Navajo counties continue to struggle with a surge in new COVID-19 cases and deaths, according to the figures released on Sunday.
Navajo County has at least 416 cases and 10.1 deaths per 100,000 population, one of the highest rates in the state and among the highest in the country outside the epicenter areas like New York. The virus appears to have at least slowed down, with cases doubling every 14 days.
Apache County so far has 236 confirmed cases and 5.6 deaths per 100,000 – far lower than Navajo County. However, Apache County still has one of the highest death and infection rates in the country. Worse yet, the number of confirmed cases is doubling every 5.5 days.
On the state Department of Health Services website on Monday morning, Navajo County has 473 total confirmed cases and 11 deaths. Apache County had 202 confirmed cases and 4 deaths.
By contrast, Maricopa County has an infection rate of 59 per 100,000 and a death rate of just 1.6 per 100,000, with a doubling time of 18 days.
One of the nation’s worst outbreaks on the Navajo Reservation accounts for a large share of the cases in Apache and Navajo counties, although the virus also continues to spread in the southern reaches of both counties as well.
Computer models suggest that new cases and deaths have plateaued statewide and nationally. However, rural areas may be an exception to that national trend. Rural areas are much less likely to have undertaken widespread testing and have fewer doctors, nurses, hospital beds and ICU hospital beds. Moreover, rural residents generally have more risk factors, including lack of access to healthcare, age and other risk factors like diabetes, obesity, heart disease and lung disease.
Only 1,800 patients in Navajo County have been tested in a population of 110,000. About 24 percent of those tests are showing the presence of the virus. The high percentage suggests most of the infections in the county are likely still not detected. Perhaps 50 percent of those infected with the virus show only mild symptoms and may not ever know they’re infected.
In Apache County 1,300 people have been tested in a population of about 70,000. About 12 percent of those tests are coming back positive. That’s only half the rate as Navajo County — but it’s about 50 percent higher than the rate of positive tests statewide.
On the Navajo Nation Reservation, which includes portions of Apache, Navajo and Coconino counties in Arizona and well as areas in western New Mexico and southern Utah, the Navajo Nation Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Services and Navajo Epidemiology Center were reporting 70 new cases of COVID-19 on the vast reservation over the weekend. The latest reported total number of cases on the reservation is 1,197, with 44 total deaths, as reported by tribal officials.
Growing outbreak on
Fort Apache Reservation
On April 16, the White Mountain Apache Tribe was reporting 32 cases of the virus among tribal members. Three days later, the total had jumped by 26 to 58 cases on April 19.
On April 19, the tribe also issued a press release stating that “… 9 incarcerated individuals housed within the White Mountain Apache Department of Corrections and 4 correctional officers tested positive for COVID-19.” The press release further stated that the inmates were quarantined and that the officers were isolated at home, and that “all inmates and correctional officers who tested positive are in good condition.” Staff and inmate populations will be closely monitored, the tribe states.
A total of 194 people on the Fort Apache Reservation have been tested.
Statewide, COVID-19 has hit Native American populations hard, representing at least 18 percent of deaths statewide, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS). Less than five percent of Arizona residents are Native American.
Winslow and Holbrook hotspots
Information about COVID-19 cases is becoming more widely available both statewide and locally. Navajo County is now posting the number of cases in local communities on their website. As of Monday, Winslow had 50-59 cases; Holbrook 10-19 cases; Snowflake-Taylor 5-9 cases; Show Low, Pinetop-Lakeside and Heber-Overgaard each had five or fewer cases, see the data graphic at https://reports.mysidewalk.com/ebaab58e56?fbclid=IwAR1_todfDaefEQ6WiaZfQJBGaBkG47aOzupypVasTdZEkAkSP8SCAa9BFBM
A total of 80 cases have been confirmed in the county outside of tribal areas. Summit Healthcare in Show Low has posted that a total of 10 cases have been confirmed at that facility as of today, according to information provided through their mobile app.
In Apache County, the Arizona Department of Health Services is reporting 202 cases; with only one case, so far, outside of tribal lands.
Statewide, the number of new cases has continued to rise steadily, along with the number of tests administered weekly. However, the number of deaths has declined.
Moreover, the number of hospital visits and admissions for people with COVID-19 symptoms like fever and shortness of breath has declined steadily since the week of March 21. Visits peaked at 7 percent of all outpatient visits the week of March 21 and 3.8 percent of hospital admissions the week of April 4.
The death rate remains highest among those over 65 and Native Americans. Those over 65 accounted for 73 percent of deaths and those 55-66 for 16 percent. Men accounted for 59 percent.