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Coronavirus takes heavy toll on Navajo Nation

The flag of the Navajo Nation flies in tandem with the U.S. flag. (Navajo Nation Facebook)

The Navajo Nation has paid a particularly heavy price due to the coronavirus epidemic that has swept the nation in recent weeks.

The number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation – the largest American Indian reservation in the U.S. – is greater than some states with larger populations.

According to a report in the New York Times, Navajo Nation leaders are instituting checkpoints, organizing field hospitals and threatening to enforce curfew violators with 30 days in jail or a $1,000 fine.

The Navajo Nation’s reservation has more than 150,000 people on it, and tens of thousands more immediately surrounding it. It encompasses 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

According to the report, the virus had killed 20 people on the reservation as of April 8. For a comparison, the entire state of New Mexico, with a population of about 2.1 million, has had 16 deaths as of April 8.

Navajo Nation officials expect that the virus will first surge and then peak in about a month.

Many Native Americans across Indian Country are at a higher risk of getting the virus. Factors include a higher than average prevalence of diseases like diabetes, as well as lack of running water on some reservations, and homes with several generations living together.

Read the full report in the New York Times here.