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Otero County’s 2nd virus death is from the Mescalero Apache Tribe, which is now on lockdown

Mescalero roadblock
Mescalero Apache Tribe
A roadblock set up by the Mescalero Apache Tribe when the reservation went on lockdown due to the coronavirus in May.

MESCALERO, New Mexico – It turns out that Otero County's second coronavirus-releated death to date, reported on Tuesday, was a member of the Mescalero Apache Tribe.

The tribe has now locked down its reservation in response to the virus' arrival.

The Mescalero's top leader indicated in a statement Tuesday night that the county's latest victim, a woman in her 80s, was a tribal member. He added that her death came just days after the virus was confirmed to have reached the reservation.

“The individual that passed was the second resident to test positive. She was tested just hours after our first case was confirmed. It has been only a few days since the virus came to the Reservation. This virus moves quickly and targets our elders,” said tribal President Gabe Aguilar.

The Mescalero Apaches now account for half of Otero County's deaths and have four of the 17 cases reported among the county's residents. There are also 186 cases at two federally-run detention facilities in the county, but those outbreaks are being monitored and counted separately.

Many areas in New Mexico are slowly being allowed to open back up, with one notable exception being the northwest counties of the state which are on the edge of the hard-hit Navajo Nation.

Now, the Mescalero Apache Tribe becomes notable exception number two, implementing a 14-day lockdown. Tribal offices and business are closed and residents will be cited if they don't comply.

“The Tribe is being strict for a reason,” Aguilar commented. “The Tribe has worked hard over the last two months to avoid this. I am heartbroken. The family is heartbroken. But we must keep going. We must come together to stop the virus.”

The entrances to reservation land off of Highway 70 have been blocked, and the lockdown is in effect until June 8 with tribal members told to stay home except for essential trips to places like the grocery store.

Aguilar said his tribe has taken note of what's happened in Navajo Nation, where cases overwhelmed the community of Gallup in the northwest corner of New Mexico.

At least 800 Mescalero tribal members have been tested for the virus, according to CNN Albuquerque affiliate KRQE-TV, which said state health officials were working with the tribe for additional testing to occur on the reservation.

Article Topic Follows: Coronavirus

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Jim Parker

Jim Parker is the former Director of Digital Content for ABC-7.


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