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Navajo Nation limits access to visitors

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez will sign an executive order to limit the number of visitors to the Navajo Nation due to positive cases of COVID-19 on tribal land in northern Arizona.

Two members of the tribe, both with recent travel history, tested positive for the COVID-19, tribal officials reported on March 17.

Nez explained in a March 18 press conference that the executive order is necessary to curb tribal members' exposure to the coronavirus.

This step is similar to actions taken by officials in California and New York, Nez said.

"There's high concern. There are governments and communities that are closing their doors. It's not just closing our doors to visitors … if there's a bigger spread of the virus, we don't want to have our people taking that on the nation as well. Containment is important here," he said.

Last week, the tribe's Division of Natural Resources closed parks, recreation areas and points of interest managed by the tribe's parks and recreation department due to public health concerns for tribal members and visitors.

"Of course, we can't put road blocks throughout the Navajo Nation, but we ask our visitors to respect the nation," Nez said.

The president's action comes a day after his office announced the first positive case of the COVID-19 in a 46-year-old person from Chilchinbeto, Arizona.

Nez announced the second positive case during a radio forum on radio station KTNN later the same day.

Read more:Coronavirus: Navajo Nation prepares as New Mexico confirms 3 COVID-19 cases

The second individual was described in a press release from Nez's office as a middle-aged male from the same region who reported his symptoms to the Kayenta Health Center in Kayenta, Arizona.

The man was taken to a hospital off the Navajo Nation for testing.

"Officials are in the process of determining the extent of the relation of the two cases," the release states.

Del Yazzie with the Navajo Epidemiology Center said both individuals are in "stable condition" and remain hospitalized in Phoenix.

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Yazzie said the epidemiology center is compiling information about the two cases and on cases involving potential exposures on the Navajo Nation.

This action is in collaboration with state governments, county health departments and the hospitals managed by the Navajo Area Indian Health Service and those with '638 federal contracts, he said.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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