Navajo Nation president, vice president order partial government shutdown
NASCHITTI — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer have implemented a three-week closure for non-essential departments and services under the executive branch as part of the ongoing concern over the coronavirus.
Nez and Lizer signed an executive order on March 13 to close part of the tribal government from March 16 to April 3, according to a press release from the president's office.
The release states that the closure does not include personnel who work for the tribe's police and fire departments, emergency medical services, the Department of Emergency Management, the divisions of finance and social services, and other agencies that provide essential and direct services.
It also does not affect the departments, services and offices under the legislative and judicial branches.
There continues to be no confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, Nez said in the March 13 press release.
"However, under the careful advisement of health experts, emergency preparedness personnel and other experts, the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team continues to move forward with preventive measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the Navajo people," he said.
The executive order also mentions that the Navajo Nation Board of Education closed from March 16 to April 3 all Bureau of Indian Education, contract and grant schools, higher education institutions, early childhood programs – including Navajo Head Start – and after school programs located on tribal land.
"We are not intending to create panic, but we want everyone to be prepared. We're staying on top of the situation and we are constantly monitoring the spread of the virus," Lizer said.
Nez and Lizer continued to meet with division leaders and members of the COVID-19 Preparedness Team during the weekend for ongoing monitoring and preparing for issues related to COVID-19, which is called Dikos Ntsaaígíí-Náhást'éíts'áadah in the Navajo language.
The chapter house in Naschitti was open the morning of March 16, but with limited services until further direction from the Division of Community Development is given.
Chapter Manager Carissa Wood said events and meetings scheduled at the facility have been cancelled to protect the health of community members.
The Naschitti Senior Center was closed as well on March 16. Several signs were posted about the closure and stated, "until further notice."
Arlene Bia manages the center in Naschitti and the one in Sheep Springs.
She said the closure order was made on March 13 by the tribe's Department of Health, then added that employees will sanitize both senior centers on March 17.
"We had about four people (visit) then we got several calls this morning, but we've been telling them the same," Bia said about informing community members about the closure.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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