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COVID Devastating Navajo Nation

from AP

‘The grief is so unbearable’: Virus takes toll on Navajo

By FELICIA FONSECA and TIM SULLIVAN

Eugene Dinehdeal shields his face from the setting sun on the Dinehdeal family compound in Tuba City, Ariz., on the Navajo reservation on April 20, 2020. The Navajo reservation has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

TUBA CITY, Arizona (AP) — The virus arrived on the reservation in early March, when late winter winds were still blowing off the mesas and temperatures at dawn were often barely above freezing. 

It was carried in from Tucson, doctors say, by a man who had been to a basketball tournament and then made the long drive back to a small town in the Navajo highlands. There, believers were preparing to gather in a small, metal-walled church with a battered white bell and crucifixes on the window.

On a dirt road at the edge of the town, a hand-painted sign with red letters points the way: “Chilchinbeto Church of the Nazarene.” 

From that church, COVID-19 took hold on the Navajo Nation, hopscotching across families and clans and churches and towns, and leaving the reservation with some of the highest infection rates in the U.S. 

Crowding, tradition, and medical disparities have tangled together on the tribe’s land — an area nearly three times the size of Massachusetts — creating a virological catastrophe. 

And the most basic measures to fight the virus’ spread — handwashing and isolation — can be difficult. 

One-third of the homes across the vast, dry reservation don’t have running water, forcing families to haul it in. Many in close-knit Navajo communities live in crowded houses where self-quarantine is impossible, and many must drive hours to the nearest grocery store. To most Navajo, isolating an infected person from their family is deeply alien.

[ click to continue reading at AP ]

Posted on May 11, 2020 by Editor

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