COVID-19 in Arizona: Navajo Nation sees a spike in cases

PHOENIX – Despite promising trends last week, the Navajo Department of Health reported a spike in COVID-19 cases Monday, with 98 new cases and five additional deaths.

As of Sunday, the total number of deaths on the Navajo Nation reservation was 246. Officials said 5,348 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, and they estimated 1,840 people have recovered.

“During this difficult time, we ask our citizens to practice preventive measures to minimize COVID-19 exposure,” Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said in a statement. In addition to urging tribal members to disinfect items that come into their homes, wear masks and use hand sanitizer, Lizer said, “Remember to maintain a distance of at least six feet from others and allow elders and others at high risk of severe illness to move up in shopping lines to lessen their exposure of COVID-19.”

Navajo leaders urged tribal members to stay diligent because Operation First of the Month, a program in partnership with Basha’s food stores that allows elderly Navajo to shop safely when their monthly benefit checks arrive, is in effect.

Last week, Navajo leaders had expressed concern of a potential spike in COVID-19 cases after the reopening of cities bordering the reservation, which covers parts of three states, Cronkite News reported. Before May 31, the Navajo Nation’s infection curve had been flattening.

As of June 1, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported 20,123 total cases of COVID-19 and 917 deaths in the state. It said 321,926 tests for COVID-19 have been completed as of June 1 in public and private labs in Arizona, and 5.6% of tests have come back positive for the virus.

Casa Grande seeks public input on how to spend relief funds

Casa Grande officials want public input on how they should use COVID-19 aid money. The CARES Act provided the state of Arizona with $1.86 billion, $6.7 millon of that is allocated to Casa Grande. The Casa Grande Dispatch reports that the city public information office is accepting suggestions at [email protected] until the end of the business day on Wednesday

Masks required for anyone entering Sky Harbor

June 1 marks the first day that Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is requiring masks to be worn by travelers, employees and anyone else who enters the airport. Visitors are encouraged to bring their own mask; however, the airport has masks and other facial coverings for purchase. Before traveling, refer to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport Health information.

Roadmap to Reopen Schools

The Arizona Department of Education has released 41 pages of guidelines for reopening schools in the fall. The document outlines a new normal for Arizona schools, and some of these guidelines include screening students before they enter the building, limiting class sizes and wearing cloth face coverings. The full list of guidelines can be found here.

Operation Hope

One way the Area Agency on Aging has responded to the coronavirus is through Operation Hope, which distributes food, water and other essential items to the vulnerable elderly population in Maricopa County. Since the program began March 17, they have distributed 1,812 food parcels. They also were able to purchase and distribute 275 cases of water, 1,495 dozen eggs, 1,377 loaves of bread, 5,270 fresh fruits and vegetables, 380 1.5-pound packages of cheese and 208 1-pound packages of chicken.

“One positive outcome from this terrible pandemic is how quickly, intensely and consistently our staff, volunteers and the community at large came together to ensure that the elderly and vulnerable individuals we serve were provided for,” Mary Lynn Kasunic, the agency’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “It shows, beyond question, that our community shares a very big heart.”

How to help

Krewe of Hope is a Phoenix group that crowdsources funds to purchase food items prepared by local or independent restaurants. Then they deliver them to nonprofit organizations that are assisting homeless seniors. This allows people to support those in need as well as local restaurants. For more information visit their Facebook page.

Abigail Vaerewyck

News Reporter, Phoenix

Abigail Vaerewyck grew up in Texas and plans to graduate in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and a certificate in nonprofit leadership and management. A former student athlete, she also has been involved with various student organizations at ASU.

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