NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The Navajo Nation has been one of the hardest-hit areas in the country when it comes to coronavirus, but first responders there said things are finally starting to improve. Dr. Aaron Price is working on the frontlines. “We have lost colleagues to this virus,” Dr. Price said. “We are such a close-knit community. Everybody knows each other.”

Price, who is the Chief of Hospital Medicine at Fort Defiance Indian Hospital, said the virus has taken its toll on the reservation filled with multi-generational households. “You have an uncle that comes into the hospital, tests positive, then goes back and is in contact with several other siblings,” Dr. Price said. “It cascades from there.”

He said things are looking up. He estimated 95% of people are now wearing masks and limiting trips to town. “Before, you would have these larges droves of family come to the border towns like Farmington, Gallup, Flagstaff and lately, that has declined.”

At the hospital, he said they are getting more insight into how to treat the virus. “We recruited nurses coming from COVID hotspots like New York and New Orleans,” Dr. Price said. “Those nurses were able to bring experience and teach other nurses.”

They started using the drug Remdesivir which he said has shortened peoples’ hospital stays and decreased serious complications. He said they have gone from having to transport five people a week to other hospitals to just one. Plus, they have been able to relax restrictions on visitors, allowing two people to say goodbye to a dying loved one. “It is a pretty wide age range,” Dr. Price said. “One of the most common variables is diabetics. We have some unfortunately young folks with diabetes.”

He said while responding to COVID-19 does not get any easier, he thinks their team has not backed down from the challenge. “I feel like we are in a much better place than we were three, four, five months ago,” Dr. Price said. “Man, we have come a long way.”

Dr. Price said weekend lockdowns are helping fight spikes in the virus significantly, but they are still seeing surges after major holidays like the 4th of July.