Monument Valley MAY 17, 2020 AT 9:23 AM
A sign reads "Navajo Monument Vally Tribal Park Closed Until Further Notice" posted at the entrance of Monument Valley in Oljato-Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo reservation April 19, 2020. The reservation has some of the highest rates of coronavirus in the country. If Navajos are susceptible to the virus' spread in part because they are so closely knit, that's also how many believe they will beat it.
The Navajo Nation went into lockdown this weekend and will remain that way for now as most of Utah enters the “yellow” phase of COVID-19 response.
For the Navajo people, this pandemic has not yet hit its peak. Yet, COVID-19 has been given the name “Dikos Ntsaaigii,” a Navajo phrase meaning “the cold that is enormous.”
In San Juan County, the majority of COVID-19 cases reported came from the Navajo Nation, where healthcare services are in short supply and the community faces a lack of electricity and water. One of the doctors working on the Navajo Reservation in Monument Valley, Dr. Phillip Smith, said that COVID-19 has had a great impact.
“We probably have about 190 cases and we’ve had three deaths (in the Utah portion of the reservation),” he said.
His daughter, Tanana, a research professor with the Stegner Center at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, said, “That’s where our Navajo is leading, with the third-highest infection rate in the country when you look at the entire country.”
As of Saturday, the death count on the Navajo Nation reached 140 with 3,912 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Smith’s sister, Florence, was amongst the casualties on one of the hardest-hit reservations which is located in McKinley County, New Mexico.
“She passed away in an ICU and we had her funeral on Thursday. Of course, it was a difficult setting, mainly because we couldn’t gather,” Smith said.
The Navajo Nation went on lockdown with a strict curfew in place, as most of the rest of Utah entered the “yellow” phase of the state’s virus response plan.
The reservation will remain in lockdown for the next three weeks, during which all stores, gas stations and restaurants will stay closed. Residents must remain in their homes unless they are an approved essential worker with a permission slip.
Non-compliance could result in a fine up to $1,000, and Smith said, “police are enforcing.”