According to Johns Hopkins University data, the Navajo reported 2,304.41 cases of Kovid-19 per 100,000 people at its peak in May, compared to the New York State rate of 1,806 per 100,000.
Since the pandemic began as of 22 November, the Navajo Nation has 15,039 cases out of the 173,667 population from the 2010 census, meaning that this hard-hit population has more than 8,659 cases per 100,000 people.
The recent increase in positive cases forced the Nawazo nation to go on lockdown by 6 December. The school is completely online, and most businesses are closed as the Nawazo nation works to reduce the spread of the virus. Necessary businesses should close by 3 pm each day.
Lack of government aid
Pionn High School Principal Timothy Nelson believes there are several reasons for the Navajo Nation’s high rate of infection, including lack of federal and state government support.
“I’ve always told people, ‘If you want to see a third world country, look within America,” Nelson said. “Where is the government money on Navajo to help fight this Kovid virus?”
He has not seen any evidence of government assistance in Pinon or its surrounding cities to help fight the epidemic.
“It makes me bright,” Nelson said. “We call ourselves the United States, and we are helping other countries, but we are not really helping ourselves.”
According to 2010 US Census data, 38% of people in the Navajo nation live below the poverty line. This is double the US poverty rate of 15.1% from the 2010 census numbers.
At the state-run Pion High School, more than 98% of students are eligible for a free or reduced lunch program compared to the state average of 55%.
As the rate of infection rose, Nelson said he was afraid to ask people how they were doing because they would know that someone in his family had passed away.
She could not attend a funeral
Beverly Mix, a mother of four who lives 15 miles east of Pinon, said her cousin died of the virus and never had a chance to say goodbye. Only the immediate family can attend the funeral, she said, and they were not allowed to see her body.
“What if they want to put stuff in the coffin?” Mix said. “From the hospital, they put him in the coffin, and that was it.”
Many other locals have shared similar stories of heartbreak and loss. Two faculty members of the Pinon School District died of coronovirus in the summer. Robert LaBarge, a teacher of English in high school, has a student in his class who is the grandson of one of the faculty members.
“He’s a kid who is always very upbeat, sarcastic and has got an outgoing personality,” LaBrease said. “Immediately you notice that it has gone a way.”
This nation has scarce resources
The Navajo Nation spans northeastern Arizona, southeastern parts of Utah and most of northwestern New Mexico, covering 27,000 square miles. The remote location makes it difficult for the people living there to access the facilities that are provided to the residents like Wi-Fi and running water.
It becomes difficult to follow the guidelines of the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention when people do not have water to wash their hands or bathe or bathe. Keeping up with the latest news and security information is also a challenge when internet usage is very low.
Saving the older generation
When people are able to watch the news, Navajo nation dwellers like Chinlay Begaye, Chinley High School and Mix’s daughter Sr., say it is a challenge convincing their older population to listen.
“Most of the natives do not believe what we see on TV,” said Begaye. “We have to let it affect our family and then say, ‘Oh well, this is serious.”
Begaye’s grandmother, who is Mix’s mother, is 72 years old and has had a difficult time listening to and adjusting her routine.
Mix said, “It’s trying to teach him, ‘Put your masks on mommy, put hands on sanitizer.”
Community and spending time with loved ones is highly valued on the Navajo Nation Reservation, so it has also been a struggle to help their mother understand that it is safest not to see others.
“She loves going on trips, and she likes having visitors come, and for us to tell her not to do that, it was life-changing for her,” Mix said.
As the coronovirus flowed into the reservation, Mix’s mother learned to adapt to these guidelines. Nelson also understands that following the rules is important because it saves precious lives. However, he admitted that the tight rules had made him mentally impaired.
“When you’re in the thick of it, when you’re in a hotspot, it takes a toll,” Nelson said. “I think when reality hits, when you lose someone you know, someone who was a Kovid, and what they went through.”
CNN features intern Megan Marvels to visit Navajo Nation On a reporting trip to Cronkite News At the Walter Cronite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University in Phoenix.