Stepping up to help in a time of crisis was something woodworker Nicholas Beneli was thinking about when he saw the coronavirus hit the Navajo Nation so hard.
Beneli, who is Navajo, owns Summit Ridge Wood Design south of Dolores. He contacted tribal officials and found out there is a need for road signs with messaging about virus prevention.
“My staff and I got to work on building the signs to donate, and I’ve been driving them down to the tribe,” Beneli said. “My intent is to help out, and hopefully encourage others to see if there is something they can do too.”
In the last three weeks, his staff has built 42 signs that are being placed on roads entering Navajo towns and communities. The 4-by-2.5-foot signs with sturdy bases have messages such as “Stay Home Protect Your Family and Community,” “Wear a Face Mask in Public” and “Stay Home, Stay Safe, Save Lives.”
The signs have been placed on roads in Window Rock and Shiprock.
Beneli said Slavens provided a discount on the wood materials for the donated signs.
The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus. The sovereign nation of 170,000 people has the highest infection rate per capita in the U.S., recently surpassing New York and New Jersey.
The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation has reached 4,071, and the total number of deaths is now 142.
“The Navajo Nation is testing our citizens at a greater rate per capita than any state in the entire country, and that’s a major reason why we have high numbers of positive cases,” said Navajo President Jonathan Nez.
Preliminary reports from six health care facilities indicate that 928 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, although additional reports pending. A total of 25,682 COVID-19 tests have been administered, producing 19,964 negative results.
Nez emphasized prevention measures to stop the spread by staying at home, washing hands, staying at least 6 feet apart and wearing face masks when in public.
“The number of recoveries is increasing, and that gives us hope and strength to keep moving forward,” Nez said. “As Navajo people, we have overcome many adversities, and we will overcome this as well.”