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There have been 300 COVID-19 deaths in Navajo County since tracking began in April. This number includes cases on the Navajo Nation as well as areas in southern Navajo County including that are considered “off-tribal” lands such as Holbrook, Heber-Overgaard, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside.

The most recent deaths numbered 11 and were tracked during the week of Dec. 12 to 19, according to Navajo County Public Health Services.

The Arizona Department of Health Services and Navajo County Public Health reported a total of 307 deaths out of 10,548 cases of COVID-19 in Navajo County, as of Tuesday, Dec. 22.

The county reached the 300 mark for COVID-19 deaths on Monday. That number rose to 307 on Tuesday morning before 9 a.m.

As of last Friday, Public Health Nurses were monitoring 1,146 active COVID cases off-tribal lands, according to Navajo County Assistant Manager Bryan Layton.

“To put that into perspective, nurses were monitoring 478 active cases just 30 days ago and only 280 active cases the month before that in October,” said Layton. “So as the number of cases increases, so does the number of people who need a hospital—even if the overall percentage is low.”

What are

“off-tribal” lands?

Cases in “off-tribal” lands include areas like Heber/Overgaard, Holbrook, Joseph City, White Mountain Lake, Snowflake-Taylor, Show Low, Linden, Pinetop-Lakeside and Winslow.

“Off-tribal” land case numbers do not include the Hopi, Navajo Nation, San Carlos Apache or Fort Apache Indian reservations.

There have been 3,909 cases reported in “off-tribal” lands in Navajo County as of Monday. As summary in recent days shows “off-tribal” lands cases at 36 last Friday, Dec. 18 but then skyrocketing to 99 on Saturday.

New cases Sunday, Dec. 20 dropped to 23 and stayed relatively low at 32 on Monday, Dec. 21. Tuesday’s new cases numbers jumped to 126 and some of the total probably arose from numbers catching up from over the weekend.

Again, these are new cases in “off-tribal” lands only. For example, Monday’s 32 new cases do not include tribal cases reported in Navajo County. For perspective, when those are added in, the number of new cases in Navajo County was 121.

What is “active”?

The term “active” case is used to describe a person who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is still in isolation/self-quarantine, or has not been released by public health nurses or a healthcare provider/hospital.

Currently, the average age of those testing positive in Navajo County is 46 years of old. Last week, approximately 394 new cases were confirmed. Of those 394, 18 required hospitalization.

Apache County reported 46 new cases on Monday, bringing their total case number to 6,964. (27 of the 46 were “off-tribal” lands.)

Tribal update

Indian reservations in the White Mountains continue an uphill battle against the virus. The Navajo Nation is in the north end of Navajo County and the White Mountain Apache Tribe is in the south portion. The San Carlos Indian Reservation, to the southeast is struggling as well.

As of Monday, the Navajo Nation reported a total of 21,019 cases. Of those, 11,039 people have recovered. The three-state nation has administered 191,564 COVID-19 tests. They remain on the 57-hour weekend lockdown and are “urging everyone to celebrate the upcoming Christmas holiday safely with only those individuals that live under the same roof as you.”

“We saw a spike in new COVID-19 cases following Thanksgiving, so we want to avoid that happening again,” wrote Navajo Nation Jonathan Nez in a social media post Dec. 20.

Fort Apache Indian Reservation in Whiteriver reported 3,183 total cases. Of those, 3,005 people have recovered or completed 14 days of quarantine. They remain on a three-week shelter-in-place order through Christmas day.

San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation reported 3,359 cases Monday. Of those, 3,187 have recovered. They have administered 16,781 tests.

Hospital capacity

This information was provided via the Dec. 18 Navajo County Regional Update.

Little Colorado Medical Center (LCMC) reports seeing, on average, 12 COVID-19 positive cases in the emergency room per day. On average, they are treating 9 in-patients per day. They continue to test an average of 41 people per day with a 15% positivity rate.

As of 9:37 a.m. on Dec. 16, Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center reported a total of 1,157 positive COVID-19 tests. This count is as of March. Summit reports the number of positive tests bi-weekly, on Wednesdays. The number being treated in the hospital for COVID, was 35. The next update will be published Wed., Dec. 30.

“Summit Healthcare has implemented its surge plan, according to meet the healthcare needs of the communities,” stated the update. “The influx of inpatients has grown at Summit Healthcare, as it has throughout the state of Arizona, which take a toll on staff as some of these patients are critically ill and require a lot of care.”

Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center (SHRMC) publishes bi-weekly podcasts to keep the community informed. The number of positive cases in the Summit system can be found at www.summithealthcare.net/summit-healthcare-regional-medical-center-restrict-visitors-as-covid-19-coronavirus-precaution.

Also follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/SummitHealthcare. Finally, anyone can receive COVID-19 “Alerts on the Go” from Summit by texting “JOIN COVID19” to 66893.

White Mountain Regional Medical Center (WMRMC), located in Springerville, is designated as a level 4 trauma center with 21 patient beds.

As of Monday, 368 people had tested positive through their systems. They have been treating anywhere from 4 to 7 COVID-19 positive patients, daily, according to WMRMC Compliance Officer Brigid Holland.

WMRMC receives patients in their emergency department on a daily basis. Any patient requiring a higher level of care is transferred to another facility when needed.

“We don’t have an ICU so any COVID positive patient who needs to be on a ventilator is transferred to another facility,” said Holland. “Our average daily in-patient census has doubled in the past month.”

Vaccine update

Little Colorado Medical Center (LCMC) participates twice a week in Community Pandemic Care conference calls with all Winslow and regional healthcare organizations, first responders and community groups.

“ It is very important that each of us continue to remain vigilant and conscientious in adhering to COVID19 safety precautions such as: Wearing A Mask; Social Distancing; and Handwashing,” said Navajo County Public Health Director Jeffrey Lee. “In the days ahead, we’ll be providing information on the COVID vaccine, which we anticipate arriving at LCMC during Christmas week.”

Reach the reporter at

lsingleton@wmicentral.com

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