Briefs: Omicron variant is detected on Navajo Nation

WINDOW ROCK - The Navajo Nation reported 10 new confirmed COVID-19 cases and no deaths Monday, but tribal health officials say the first case of the omicron variant has been detected on the vast reservation.

Based on cases from Dec. 17-30, the Navajo Department of Health has issued an advisory for 42 communities due to uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus.

The latest numbers pushed the number of cases on the Navajo Nation at 41,657 since the pandemic began.

The death roll remains at 1,590.

“The first known case of the omicron variant has been found here on the Navajo Nation,” tribal President Jonathan Nez said in a statement Monday. “This is not a time to panic, but we must step up our efforts to take the necessary precautions to limit the spread of this new variant in our communities.

“Health officials recommend wearing two masks in public due to how quickly the omicron variant has spread in other parts of the world. In many parts of the country, more and more health care workers are having to isolate due to the spread of the omicron variant,” Nez added.

Water shut-offs for non-payment start in Phoenix

PHOENIX – Water service shut-offs are scheduled to begin again for Phoenix customers who are 31 days past due on their statements.

The Phoenix Water Services Department announced Monday on its website that the shut-offs for non-payments will resume next month. Officials said Phoenix has different financial assistance programs for customers who qualify. In March 2020, Phoenix City Council voted to restore water service to all residential customers regardless of their account statuses.

It was unclear Monday why the Phoenix Water Services Department decided to resume shut-offs for non-payment. The department brings water to over 1.5 million residents.

Mesa PD kills man who charged with metal object

MESA – Police in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa fatally shot a man who charged at them Monday while holding a sharp metal tool, authorities said.

The incident happened after a homeowner called police at about 7:30 a.m. to report someone they did not know had jumped a fence into their backyard, according to Mesa police spokesman Sgt. Chuck Trapani .

As officers gathered in the home’s front yard, police said 49-year-old James Schild of Mesa came out of the back yard holding a large framing square over his head.

Officers told Schild to drop the item and they used a stun gun and bean bag rounds to get him to comply. They said Schild got back up after being struck and charged at officers as they tried to back away from him. At least one officer opened fire and Schild was declared dead at the scene, according to police who said no officers were injured.

Noon sworn in as Navajo Police Department’s chief

WINDOW ROCK – Daryl Noon was sworn in Monday as the Navajo Police Department’s new chief.

Window Rock District Court Judge Malcolm P. Begay administered the oath to Noon during a ceremony at the offices of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

Noon succeeds Phillip Francisco, who resigned on Nov. 30 and now is the chief of the Bloomfield Police Department in New Mexico.

Noon was born in Fort Defiance, Arizona, and previously resided in Shiprock, New Mexico.

He has served as the Navajo Nation’s deputy police chief since January 2019.

Noon previously worked with the Farmington Police Department in several capacities, including deputy chief of police, for more than 23 years.

Arizona tribe builds affordable housing

TUCSON – A Native American tribe in southern Arizona plans to begin construction on an affordable housing development for its members.

The Pascua Yaqui Tribe is using a low-income housing tax credit award from the Arizona Department of Housing to help secure $8.3 million in private investment. That will mainly fund the $9.6 million development of 27 townhomes on the tribe’s southwest Tucson reservation.

The development is expected to be completed by the fall of 2023, the tribe’s housing director, Keith Gregory, told the Arizona Daily Star. Up to 200 workers will be employed on the project.

The new townhomes are the second phase of a master planned subdivision that launched a year ago. The first phase containing 50 single-family housing units should be done by October, Gregory said.

The new development is the tribe’s eighth low-income housing tax credit project. It will include three four-bedroom and 24 three- or two-bedroom townhomes.

Under the tax credit compliance period, the units are rentals for 15 years, and then families have an opportunity to buy the house.

The tribe manages nearly 700 housing units but still has 1,100 members on a waiting list.

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