SHOW LOW — On Wednesday, Oct. 21, the Navajo County Public Health Services Department reported the number of positive COVID-19 cases at 6,197. This number includes 1,739 cases off-tribal lands which refers to towns and cities outside the reservations such as Heber-Overgaard, Holbrook, Pinetop-Lakeside, Show Low and Snowflake-Taylor.
At this time the case reporting indicates an increase in cases both on, and off, tribal lands. Navajo County has the fifth highest number of cases in the state, by county. Maricopa, Pima, Yuma and Pinal counties have higher case numbers than Navajo County. Apache County comes in at eighth place when comparing all 15 Arizona counties.
AzDHS reported 12 new cases in Apache County, 48 new off-tribal land cases in Navajo County on Wednesday, Oct. 21. “White Mountain Apache, Hopi and Navajo Nation are all experiencing the rise in cases,” said Navajo County Public Health Department Director Jeffrey P. Lee.
The Navajo Nation and Fort Apache Indian Reservation lead in total cases since tracking began in March and April.
Sage and urgent advice comes from tribal leaders.
The total number of cases on the Navajo Nation grew from 7,397 on Wednesday morning to 11,030 on Wednesday night. That's an increase of 3,633 in one day across three states - Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
“The state of New Mexico broke the daily record for new cases of COVID-19 once again, with 827 new cases today," said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a post on their Facebook page Wednesday evening. "The state of Utah has a record-high of hospitalizations and Arizona reported another large number of new cases as well. Throughout the country, we are trending in the wrong direction, but it is not too late to change that trend. We have to do better."
"If our cases on the Navajo Nation continue to rise, we are going to see a massive health care crisis," Nez warned. "Our healthcare system is underfunded and lacks the resources to handle another large surge. Stay home, wear a mask, avoid crowds, practice social distancing, and wash your hands often."
The Navajo Nation will have a 56-hour weekend lockdown beginning on Friday, Oct. 23 at 9:00 p.m. (MDT) until Monday, Oct. 26 at 5:00 a.m. (MDT), and another from Oct. 30 until Nov. 2. The daily curfew remains in effect from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on weekdays.
San Carlos Apache Tribe
The San Carlos Apache Tribe to the southwest of Show Low is also experiencing another surge of cases. They reported over 1,500 cases on Wednesday. They currently have 66 active cases with 138 test results pending.
The updated number of cases on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation reported by the White Mountain Apache Tribe on October 21 was 2,549. This is an increase of 106 cases since Oct. 1. There were 20 new cases reported between Oct. 17 and 18 alone. (See reporter Barbara Bruce's story in this edition of the Independent for details.)
Navajo County (off-tribal lands)
After the Navajo and White Mountain Apache Tribal reservations, the next highest number of cases are reported in Winslow with 677 cases (zip 86047). Show Low was next highest with 499 cases (zips 85901, 85902). Pinetop-Lakeside followed just behind Show Low at 323 cases (zips 85929, 85935).
Snowflake-Taylor is next with 226 cases (zips 85937, 85939), followed by Holbrook and Joseph City at 168 cases (zips 86025, 86032).
Areas that report less than 100 cases include Heber/Overgaard with a range of of 48-59 cases (zips 85928, 85933). Sun Valley had 29 cases. Pinedale and Clay Springs both report only 1 to 10 cases in each community for a combined high range of 20 cases (zips 85938, 85933).
“We are seeing a steady rise in cases both on and off reservation, this increase is being seen statewide and in all of our cities and towns which tells us that community spread or transmission risk remains extremely high in Navajo County and throughout Arizona,” said Lee. “So we are really encouraging everyone to get back to the basics and follow the CDC guidelines for personal precautionary measures. Physically distance, stay home when unwell, wearing a facial covering in public, hand washing, etc.”
Lee also acknowledged that the number can be challenging to comprehend. For example, 48 news cases were reported in Navajo County on Wednesday. There were 112 new tests reported the same day, however this doesn’t mean that 42% of the tests are coming back positive.
“The percent positivity is a tricky number to calculate, the new number of tests reported by ADHS doesn’t mean they were administered within the last 24 hours,” says Lee. “So we have to wait for ADHS to assign them to the day the test was performed before we can calculate the percent positivity for a particular day or week. That being said, we have seen a significant reduction in the number of tests performed. So we anticipate with the rise in cases and low numbers of testing, our percent positivity will rise.”
Summit Healthcare reports 11 COVID-19 positive or suspected positive patients in the hospital as of Wednesday, Oct. 21.
Summit Healthcare Regional Medical Center reported a total of 688 cases as of October 14. This reflects the total number of cases that have come through their "system" which means all facilities/locations.
Cases tracked "in the system" refer to positive cases since tracking began. Cases “in the system" does not mean the cases are in-patient (admitted) to the hospital. That’s an important distinction because many people who test positive recover at home, according to AzDHS, the CDC and other public health agencies.
Summit’s inpatient bed availability is 84 inpatient beds. Summit Healthcare facilities have completed over 5,600 COVID-19 tests.
In Apache County, the total number of cases is 3,810 which is almost double that of Navajo County. Springerville reports less than 100 cases with 80 cases (zip code 85928) and Eagar reports only 61 cases (zip 85925). Their combined total is 141.
Other towns or cities of note are Chambers with 114 cases, St. Johns with 34, Sun Hannagan Meadow/Clifton with 28 and Concho with 27.
Alpine reported 1 to 10 cases as did zip code 85545. Zip codes 85932, 85922 and 85931 had zero reported cases.
Arizona counties comparison
As news cases are confirmed, agencies scramble to update their databases and dashboards. On Thursday morning, AzDHS reported just over 234,000 cases statewide. Maricopa County and Pima County still have the highest total number of cases at 151,527, and 27,128, respectively. There is a big gap between the two which also represents the population difference.
The remaining counties, in order by number of cases are: Yuma at 13,297; Pinal at 11,538; Navajo at 6,197; Coconino at 4,814; Mohave at 4,223; Apache at 3,810; Santa Cruz at 2,961; Yavapai at 2,814; Cochise at 2,075; Gila at 1,777; Graham at 1,063; La Paz at 606 and Greenlee at 82.
Note: The above information is updated regularly by health agencies and reporting organizations. The information provided is what was available at press time.