Halloween Got Weird as Cases Rose

Friday, Oct. 30 I was on my usual Friday round of Zoom calls when my phone went haywire, alongside every other device in the house that gets alerts. What may go down in history as the oddest emergency text message I think I have ever received, N.M. told me, “EMERGENCY ALERT: EXTREME NM virus risk. Stay safe, NO non-household contacts. Celebrate Halloween at home.” Not since possibly Orson Welles have the airwaves sent such a randomly spooky message. But this was no War of the Worlds storyline; this was real life.

Like a zombie that we can’t stop, the numbers keep climbing, and more and more are infected each day. Months ago we thought we had this settled. The numbers were below the 1 percent infection rate. Soon summer gave way to fall, and we lost the routine. Test numbers started climbing a few weeks ago, nearing and finally topping 1,000 people per day. Seriously, when in N.M. has anything ever been handed out 1,000 at a time efficiently? This virus is just that: efficient. Efficient enough in design to make it easily catchable doing what we all do, breathe. And breathing a sigh of relief is no longer the case in N.M. 

Tribal COVID numbers have also spiked around N.M. For these communities closures and curfews have again become a way of life. It is incredible that even with strict protocols you find the virus able to spread quickly once it is in the right environment. That environment consists of large groups of people in close proximity. I have seen the case study with my own two eyes. It was a funeral in my community that led to hundreds being quarantined as a precaution. In one week our numbers of possible cases tripled.

Taos, Las Vegas and other communities have taken the drastic measure of implementing curfews. Even Mayor Tim Keller stated that a city curfew like that now in place in El Paso could be in our near future. Is this overkill? I wish it was. I come from Acoma Pueblo, which consists of fewer than 4,000 people on the reservation.  For a community of this size, 100 cases is a positive rate of four percent. Then you think about the variable of how many people each of those sick people may have come in contact with, and the numbers rise exponentially. Then comes all the logistical concerns, including things that run the gamut from food and health care to laundry—oh, and don’t forget we have kids to educate and people that need to get to work! Our Tribal communities are burning through money coffers to just keep things manageable. With casinos and other businesses closed and winter not yet in full effect, it’s getting spooky around here.

The election is over this week, and hopefully soon too the apathy many have regarding something that has now killed more people in this country than many military conflicts. That is staggering. Even more staggering is that half of this country doesn’t seem to care. With the majority of N.M. communities being similar to my own—small and rural—it is up to us to do what’s right for everyone. If the big city of Albuquerque is on fire with COVID, soon our small towns and tribal communities will spark up; we are intertwined. So everyone out there: Stay masked up. Stay safe. We’re only as safe as our neighbors are, and some of you have me concerned right now. [ ]

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