COVID-19 claims 33rd victim in San Juan County

The list of COVID-19 fatalities in San Juan County grew this week, with the 33rd local resident falling victim to the pandemic.

A woman in her 50s from the Monument Valley / Navajo Mountain area succumbed to the effects of the coronavirus in recent days.

According to public health officials, she suffered from underlying health conditions and was hospitalized at the time of her death.

In order to protect confidentiality, the San Juan Record does not list personal details about the deceased local residents. However, the list of families impacted and lives forever changed grows with each new fatality.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise throughout San Juan County, with the highest numbers located in the southeast corner of the county.

“We had the highest number of active cases (233) we have ever had over the weekend,” said Kirk Benge, director of San Juan Public Health. “The risk of transmission between individuals is higher than ever.”

The mostly recent figures from San Juan Public Health show 1,177 total cases in San Juan County since March, representing 115 new cases in one week. Total cases have impacted nearly eight percent of the county population.

At the current time, there are 227 active cases in San Juan County, which is an increase of 47 active cases over a one-week period.

The number of active cases continues to grow in several areas, including increasing from 72 to 94 in the Montezuma Creek / Aneth area and from 37 to 53 in the Monument Valley / Navajo Mountain area. Blanding area cases grew from 41 last week to 51 this week, while Bluff has 12 cases

Monticello saw a decrease from 15 cases to 13. The Mexican Hat area had less than five cases as did the La Sal and Spanish Valley area.

“It is everywhere,” said Benge, who adds, “We have seen a drastic increase in Montezuma Creek and Aneth.”

In total, 118 local residents have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 symptoms throughout the pandemic. The local hospitalization rate of 10.2 percent far exceeds the state and national hospitalization rates, although the percent has been dropping over time.

With the continued spread of the virus, local public health and government officials ask residents to exercise caution during holiday gatherings.

“A number of the most recent cases were transmitted at Thanksgiving gatherings,” said Benge.

Initially, state guidelines restricted holiday gatherings to groups of ten people or less.

Utah Governor Gary Herbert recently extended a series of emergency orders, while eliminating the earlier restrictions regarding holiday gathering of more than ten people.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez extended restrictions through December 28. Navajo Nation restrictions impact the southern portion of San Juan County.

The Navajo Nation Stay-At-Home Lockdown requires all residents to remain at home 24-hours, seven days a week, with the exceptions of essential workers that must report to work; emergency situations; to obtain essential food, medication, and supplies; tend to livestock; outdoor exercising within the immediate vicinity of your home; and wood gathering and hauling with a permit.

Additionally, President Nez extended the 57-hour weekend lockdown through December 28.

Essential businesses including gas stations, grocery stores, laundromats, restaurants and food establishments that provide drive-thru and curbside services, and hay vendors can operate from 7 a.m. (MST) to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday only.

Distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine is beginning to roll out. The vaccine will likely be distributed first to front-line and at-risk residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers.

It may take months before it is available to the entire population.

San Juan Record

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