Virus counts more than double in past week

The number of reported cases of the COVID-19 virus in San Juan County exploded in the past week, largely due to more than 1,500 additional tests that have been administered.

The Utah Department of Health and Utah Navajo Health Systems (UNHS) teamed up for two days of free testing on April 30 and May 1, this time in Montezuma Creek.

The tests were offered free of charge to everyone who sought one. The testing results provide proof to what is already clearly known, that there has been a significant outbreak of the virus in San Juan County and beyond, with the Navajo Nation particularly hard hit.

Health officials remind the public that increasing local testing uncovers existing infections, and while the numbers increase rapidly as new cases are identified, the numbers do not necessarily reflect changes in the rate of spread.

“These types of testing events help us find cases rapidly,” says Kirk Benge, Director of San Juan County Public Health. “COVID-19 has spread throughout many of our communities and continues to spread, but our official case counts jump up dramatically whenever we increase testing.”

On May 5, the number of reported cases in San Juan County totaled 119, with 12 hospitalizations and two deaths. By contrast, the county had reported just 12 cases just three weeks ago.

The two local deaths are an elderly mother and son from Navajo Mountain who passed away in late March at a hospital in Tuba City, AZ.

Of the 119 cases of the virus, 116 were reported by UNHS, and the patients are primarily Native American. Outbreaks are reported in Blanding (2), Bluff (5), Montezuma Creek (46), Aneth (9), Monument Valley/Oljato (25), Navajo Mountain (13), and Mexican Hat (12).

Local medical workers have been infected by the virus.

In total, UNHS has tested 3,049 people, with 185 positive results. The results of another 129 tests were still pending at the press deadline.

The free testing unit has been at Montezuma Creek (1,462 tests), Monument Valley (1,113 tests), and Navajo Mountain (231 tests).

The UNHS testing has also identified 69 positive cases in Arizona residents and three cases in New Mexico residents.

Benge states that all residents should continue to follow state, tribal, and federal precautions as directed. Current state orders are available at

The outbreak resulted in closure of roads leading into Gallup, NM, where there have more than 1,000 cases of the virus.

At the same time, the State of Utah has initiated a gradual lifting of restrictions that were instituted to limit the spread of the virus.

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