The ‘big cough’: virus ravages Navajo on largest US reservation

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The ‘big cough’: virus ravages Navajo on largest US reservation

The elderly fear the doctor won’t understand their cultural beliefs, and so withhold important information

David Millward

Valentina Blackhorse was a much-loved pageant winner and public servant who dreamed of leading the Navajo Nation - and then she fell victim to what the tribe calls “the big cough”.

The 28-year-old mother was the 62nd Navajo to be claimed by the coronavirus. By the end of last week, the total had reached 88.

Coronavirus has stalked the Navajo Nation, the US’s largest Native American reservation, which has already been dealt its fair share of hardship. With a rate of 46 deaths per 100,000 people, the tribal nation has a higher death rate than every state in the country except New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. Drastic measures had to be introduced last week in a desperate attempt to stop the virus’s spread. Police and the National Guard were brought in to block traffic entering or leaving the city of Gallup, New Mexico, an urban hub for five Native American reservations, including the Navajo. Curfews were issued and masks made mandatory...

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