Pandemic continues as tribes put measures in place to slow the spread

Emma Hughes

Gila River Indian News



As the United States and Arizona continue to struggle with the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic our tribal nations are quickly becoming hotspots for the pandemic spread. Many have reported positive cases and with new testing technology, those numbers will likely increase. Tracking the movement is a key to containment.


The Gila River Indian Community and other tribal nations have issued stay-at--home orders that remains in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This past holiday weekend was no exception. “You must all continue to do your part by sheltering in place, avoiding unnecessary travel outside your home, washing your hands frequently, and social distancing,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis in his April 13 video update.

Tribal Nations vary in the current impact of COVID-19 among members.


Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman, Ned Norris Jr. has stated that their nation is weeks away from needing federal help. The Tohono O’odham Nation has reported 8 positive cases and have received hundreds of tests as of last week, however these numbers are changing every day.


As of April 15, in a press release from the Navajo Nation, it was stated that there has been a total number of 921 positive cases for COVID-19 and 38 confirmed deaths related to the virus.


Each tribe is reporting numbers as they become available and hope resources will allow greater testing for a more accurate number of those affected with the virus.


Tribal gaming has been greatly impacted as casinos have been closed. Gaming operations continue to provide salaries and benefits but that may not last long if the closures remain. Many tribes depend on gaming revenue to sustain their tribal operations and important member services. The long-term effects of the economic losses are still to be determined.


Many tribal communities have received some assistance, from PPE supplies and food donations. Some tribal communities have distributed food, household items, and even provided financial assistance to their members during these hardships.


Although many studies are underway, there is currently still no vaccine for COVID-19. Practicing important safety measures is key to protection. Maintain social distance (at least 6-feet), cover your coughs and sneezes, continue washing your hands for at least 20 seconds, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.


The Center for Disease Control now recommends that everyone should wear a cloth face mask to cover your nose and mouth when around others in public. Surgical masks or N-95 respirators are critical supplies reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders. Cloth masks are a simple and inexpensive way to protect yourself and others. These masks should be cleaned routinely; a simple washing machine will suffice.


Limit your time in public facilities and only go out for important errands. Face masks are not a substitute for social distancing. Remember people could spread COVID-19 even if they do not look or feel sick. Protecting yourself, family, and community should be your greatest priority.