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FARMINGTON — The coronavirus outbreak led to the Navajo Nation Council holding the spring session by teleconference on April 20 and two top leaders broadcasting the State of Nation address on social media and on a regional radio station.

Prior to the address, the tribal president's office released the written version of the report, of which the bulk focused on the steps the administration has taken to address the pandemic, including closing the majority of the executive branch.

This closure will likely be extended for a second time, the report states.

The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Epidemiology Center reported 1,197 positive cases for COVID-19 for the tribe as of April 18.

There have been 44 deaths related to the disease. Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has previously stated that one is too many.

READ: 'We need all the support we can get': Tribal leaders talk challenges in COVID-19 response

In his comments, he commended those who are following the orders to stay at home and the nightly and weekend curfews.

"I truly believe, ladies and gentlemen, that these numbers would have been a lot worse if it wasn’t for each and every one of you staying home and abiding by these public health orders," Nez said.

He said health care officials predict the peak for the number of positive tests for COVID-19 will be in early to mid-May. As part of the work to obtain resources to address the pandemic, tribal officials have been talking to officials from different facets of government.

Nez mentioned that he recently had a conversation with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

"His state is peaking out and going down, so he said that he's willing to provide some of those unused equipment and supplies to come to the Navajo Nation," Nez said.

READ: Coronavirus in New Mexico: State agencies donate food to the Navajo Nation

Lizer mentioned he and Nez are close to ending their self-quarantine, which they entered on April 7 due to working near a first responder who later tested positive for COVID-19.

"I feel great," Lizer said, adding the leaders have been continuing their work using available technology.

On April 17, the Navajo Nation Council voted to cancel the spring session, but their decision was vetoed two days later by Nez and Lizer.

The two leaders told Speaker Seth Damon in a memorandum that the session can take place using safety precautions and by available technology.

The council convened the session with Speaker Seth Damon presiding inside the council chamber and delegates attending by teleconference.

The chamber, located in Window Rock, Arizona, is closed to the public and no more than four staff members from the legislative branch are allowed on the chamber floor, according to the speaker's office.

READ: Coronavirus in New Mexico: State agencies donate food to the Navajo Nation

A majority of delegates voted in favor to accept written reports submitted by officials and agencies, including the State of the Nation address.

Prior to the council's decision, the president's office announced that Nez and Lizer would address the public on a live presentation on their Facebook page and on radio station KTNN AM 660.

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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