The Navajo Nation reported no new cases of COVID-19 for the first time since March on Tuesday, according to an official press release.
This important milestone reflects the ongoing efforts by community leaders and individuals to enforce social distancing and other public health guidelines and embark on aggressive contact tracing. The public health victory also comes not long after the federal government disbursed, after months of delay, emergency COVID-19 funds to the Navajo Nation, allowing it to pay essential workers, provide aid to families, and invest in public health.
"No new cases reported today is good news, but the reality is that our daily numbers will continue to fluctuate as long as there is no vaccine available," Jonathan Nez, Navajo Nation president, said in the press release. "A portion of the positive cases over the last week is due to a few individuals hosting family gatherings. We have to remember that there is a public health emergency order in place that prohibits gatherings due to the threat of COVID-19."
The Navajo Nation has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. At one point, the reservation had the highest per capita rate of infection in the United States.
The pandemic shed light on glaring systemic inequalities. Many people on the Navajo Nation don’t have access to clean water and electricity, supermarkets are few and far between, and health facilities are underfunded and understaffed.
As a result, the hygiene measures essential to preventing COVID-19 became difficult, and when people did get sick, they often had to be flown to hospitals off the reservation for treatment.
Making matters worse, the virus was able to easily spread through tightly packed homes and community events.
In recent weeks, the community has been able to flatten the curve. Going a day without a new transmission suggests efforts are working.
“I am confident that we, the Navajo people, can minimize the impacts of the upcoming flu season by continuing to wear your masks, wash your hands, practice social distancing, stay home as much as possible, and avoid large crowds,” Nez said in the press release. “We know how to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but we have to be disciplined enough to continue practicing those safety measures on a daily basis.”
As Nez noted, the Navajo Nation is not out of the COVID-19 woods yet. Four people died on Tuesday from the virus, bringing the total number of deaths on the Navajo Nation from COVID-19 to 527, according to Navajo Times. In the weeks ahead, the government will continue to enforce lockdown measures to prevent new spikes in infections and will take precautions until a vaccine arrives.
"We appreciate all of the hard work that the Navajo people have done to this point, and we want everyone to stay the course and continue to bring the numbers down consistently,” Myron Lizer, vice president of Navajo Nation, said in a statement. “Our frontline workers are doing a great job in continuing to educate the public and bring awareness. We cannot thank them enough for fighting for our people each and every day. As we move into the flu season, please continue to pray for our Nation and to be diligent in your daily activities to avoid COVID-19 and the flu."