Two pueblos in New Mexico have some of the highest infection rates in the United States. The numbers are stark. Zia Pueblo has 31 confirmed positive cases with a population of 900 people. And San Felipe has 52 cases with a population of 2,200.
To put those numbers in perspective there are 74,601 cases in New York City with a population of 3.2 million. That breaks down to an infection rate of 2.33 percent.
The percentage works out to 3.4 percent for Zia and 2.36 percent at San Felipe.
Officials from the New Mexico Department of Health announced the new case numbers in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
This increase in cases comes as Zuni Pueblo lost its first tribal member due to COVID-19, the tribe announced in a memo. Zuni leadership learned of the news on Sunday, the memo states. It is not clear when the tribal member passed.
“Our hearts go out to the family and everyone who is impacted by the tragic loss of a tribal member,” Governor Val Panteah, Sr. said in the memo.
People took to Facebook, where the memo was posted, to offer their condolences. In four hours of being shared, the post was shared by 500 others.
According to Zuni Pueblo’s Facebook page, they had four confirmed positive cases of coronavirus on Saturday. It is not clear whether the death of the individual diminishes the number of cases the pueblo currently has.
Across Indian Country, COVID-19 cases continued to climb.
The Cherokee Nation reported two additional cases. The Mandan, Hidasta and Arikara Nation reported two new cases. The Navajo Nation reported 42 new cases, including two additional deaths.
In total, there are 656 confirmed cases of COVID-19 across Indian Country. This includes 28 deaths, according to Indian Country Today's database.
Hate speech targeted towards Navajo Nation in Page
A 34-year-old man in a Navajo Nation border town was arrested on Monday night for attempting to incite an act of terrorism. This is considered a class three felony.
Daniel Franzen, 34, made statements alleging that Navajo people are “100% infected” with the coronavirus. Franzen then urged those reading the post: “if you see these Navajo” to “call the police or shoot to kill.”
Following Franzen’s arrest, the Page Police Department wrote a Facebook post outlining the incident.
“The Page Police Department recognizes the alarming nature of this incident and shared the justified concern this behavior has caused the Navajo community, and others.”
Page Police Department was made aware of the posts by Franzen on Monday night. They say they immediately began investigating the incident. A few hours later, they arrested Franzen.
Moving forward, the Page Police Department says it will continue to investigate any aggressive speech in their community.
“Additionally, threats towards Franzen, as well as other retaliatory measures will be invested in a like manner,” Page police said.
Tribal Nations encouraged to apply for FCC broadband access
The Federal Communications Commission has opened an application called “The Rural Tribal Priority Window” which allows for tribes in rural areas to get access to the internet.
Any federally recognized Tribe or Alaska Native Village that is rural (meaning with a population of less than 50,000 people) is eligible to apply.
If a tribe is selected, they will be given an Education Broadband Service license which would operate wireless networks with speeds up to 2.5 gigahertz. The FCC says this is suitable for mobile coverage, business and home connectivity.
“Licensure to access the EBS spectrum will enable Tribes, especially those in rural areas, to tap into previously unavailable but valuable telecommunications services,” Irene Flannery, director of AMERIND Critical Infrastructure said in a press release. “This is a historical opportunity to close the digital divide for Indian Country. Fortunately, the information needed to complete an application is available, and Tribes are encouraged to start working on them as soon as possible.”
The deadline to be considered is August 3, 2020.
Overcrowding makes it difficult to social distance
A new report from Wyoming Public Radio looks at the Wind River Reservation where, like much of Indian Country, there is a housing crisis.
Native families in Wyoming say practicing social distancing is difficult when they sometimes share a home with many relatives. What happens if someone in their household contracts the virus? Where would they quarantine their relative?
“Those kinds of living conditions, when you introduce a virus like this, could be catastrophic,” said Kevin Allis, CEO of the National Congress of American Indians.
Karen Snyder is an Eastern Band Shoshone Councilwoman who says that her tribe has a temporary plan to shut down their hotel into emergency quarantine housing if need be. Snyder also says she has seen more engagement in the housing crisis from the federal government at this time than ever before.
“We do see a silver lining with this. And it is for the federal government to actually start paying attention to Indian country,” Snyder said.
Webinar happening tomorrow: “Planning for College During COVID-19”
College Horizons, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing Native students in college, is hosting a webinar on Wednesday afternoon. The organization is inviting all Native juniors and seniors to join.
The panel, consisting of four admissions officers and college counselors, will discuss financial aid opportunities, standardized testings and making a college decision.
The webinar will happen on Wednesday April 8 at 2pm MST. Participants are encouraged to register in advance here.
First coronavirus case reported on Pine Ridge Reservation
The Red Cloud Indian School on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota reported that a school employee tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday.
School President Raymond Nadolny said on the school’s Facebook page that the employee returned from a California trip with their spouse on March 27 and went into a planned 14-day quarantine. The employee became ill on April 3 and after visiting the Indian Health Service hospital in Pine Ridge they were told to visit another facility in Martin, roughly 45 miles east, Nadolny said. The employee was tested in Martin on April 3 and returned to self quarantine at the Lady of Lourdes Elementary School campus in Porcupine. The employee learned they test positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday. Nadolny said the employee experienced respiratory distress and was hospitalized in Rapid City.
No other details about the employee were explained. It is unclear if the employee is a tribal citizen or Native American.
Oglala Sioux Tribe President Julian Bear Runner said he was aware of the case. On the tribe’s Facebook case.
Bear Runner mandated a 72-hour lockdown on the reservation starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Friday. Essential employees will still be able to work and grocery supply runs are limited to emergencies during this time period, he said. Non-residents will not have access to the reservation. Scheduled doctor appointments on and off reservation are allowed and essential vendors will be allowed in, he said. Traffic citations are possible.
Dalton Walker contributed to this report
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