Navajo Nation president: Still not safe to go out in public

(Carolyn Kaster | AP) A sign reads "Navajo Monument Vally Tribal Park Closed Until Further Notice" posted at the entrance of Monument Valley in Oljato-Monument Valley 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.

Window Rock, Ariz. • Additional deaths and COVID-19 cases on the Navajo Nation’s sprawling reservation indicates it’s still not safe for residents to go out in public, the tribe’s president said.

The tribal health department late Wednesday reported 147 more confirmed COVID-19 cases with 16 additional deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. The increases put the number of cases at 3,392 with a total of 119 deaths.

The reservation includes large areas of Arizona and Utah and a small part of Utah.

The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with the tribe implementing curfews to try to stop the spread of the disease among residents of its far-flung communities.

[Read more: Bluff will stay at ‘red’ alert as some Utah counties are denied request to ease into ‘yellow’ coronavirus status]

Tribal President Jonathan Nez said some states are starting to reopening but that the latest case and deaths numbers indicate that residents should still should stay home and only go out in public when necessary.

"It's very disheartening to see more and more traffic on our roads and more people going into border towns, but we're not giving up. We're going to look at what else we need to do to bring the numbers down," he said in a statement.

Nez said he wants to see more use of facilities constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to house positive COVID-19 patients so they can isolate themselves and prevent further spread of the virus.

On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation extended its state of emergency and the closure of Navajo Nation government offices until June 7.

Tribal health officials said many of the people who tested positive for coronavirus have recovered or are in the process of recovering.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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