Saturday, July 4, 2020


Moab, UT

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    COVID-19 is ravaging the Navajo Nation

    Conditions might be improving, but not significantly

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    Map data by San Juan County, NM, Esri, HERE, Garmin, FAO, NOAA, USGS, Bureau of Land Management, EPA, NPS; case data via Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Epidemiology Center

    As Utah and the U.S. each face spikes in cases of COVID-19 and top health officials express concerns about possibly needing to close down again to stem the spread of the coronavirus, the Navajo Nation continues to reel from months of viral spread that far exceeds any other state or territory in the nation and has so far claimed the lives of 336 of the territory’s residents.

    Across the U.S., one in 2,706 people have died of COVID-19 and roughly one in 140 people have tested positive or have been presumed positive for it.

    In the Navajo Nation, an American Indian territory roughly the size of West Virginia that physically overlaps with Utah, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico, these rates are more than four times worse.

    Within the Navajo Nation, about one in 514 people have died from the coronavirus and one in 24, or 4.1%, have tested positive for it as of June 24.

    For comparison, Utah’s death rate over the same period was one in nearly 20,000, and the state’s case rate was one in 174, i.e. less than 1%. Arizona, which overlaps a large portion of the Navajo Nation, has had rates of one in 5,207 people dying and one in 125 getting sick.

    Total deaths and cases out of New York are both the highest in the country (30,970 and 393,855, respectively) following a major outbreak in late March and early April. However, the case rate and rate of COVID-19 deaths in the state — that is, the number of people who have caught the virus and died from it compared to the state’s overall population — is still lower when compared to the Navajo Nation.

    In New York, one in 628 people have died of COVID-19 and one in 49 have tested positive for the virus. Neighboring New Jersey has the next-highest rate at one in 686 and one in 52, respectively.

    The two states have both passed spikes in cases that came around April 9, and the Navajo Nation also has fewer daily cases now than it has had in months. However, the shape of each of their COVID-19 curves are not the same; case counts shot down relatively quickly in New York and New Jersey after the states shut down, yet the Navajo Nation’s ongoing shutdown has not had such an impact.

    While New York and New Jersey have reached daily case counts that are roughly a tenth of what they were at their peak, the Navajo Nation’s current daily case counts are greater than one third of what they were at the peak the territory hit in mid-May.

    Additionally, daily death counts in the territory from COVID-19 have steadily risen since the start of the pandemic while New York and New Jersey have both seen significant drops in deaths.

    At the current rate of viral spread and death, the United States’ largest American Indian territory is suffering the highest death rates and COVID-19 case counts among any state or territory in the country, and conditions have barely improved in recent weeks.

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