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Navajo Nation heads toward another weekend lockdown

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The ongoing rise in individuals testing positive for COVID-19 has prompted leaders on the Navajo Nation to implement a 57-hour lockdown for the upcoming weekend.

The lockdown was mentioned in a May 13 press release from the Office of the President and Vice President, which stated it "will have slightly stricter measures" than the weekend curfews that have been taking place since April.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez did not provide further details during an online town hall meeting on May 14 but said all businesses will be closed for the duration.

Nez, along with Vice President Myron Lizer, are scheduled to sign on Thursday the order to implement the lockdown.

A pickup truck travels on Navajo Route 13 near the Shiprock pinnacle on April 25. Travel has been reduced to essential due to the Navajo Nation being under a weekend curfew to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The Navajo Department of Health, Navajo Area Indian Health Service and Navajo Epidemiology Center reported 147 new cases of COVID-19 on May 13, increasing the total number of cases to 3,392.

Jill Jim, director for the health department, said during the meeting that the tribe remains in the "acceleration phase" of the coronavirus pandemic and there will continue to be more cases and fatalities. The death toll was 119 as of May 13.

"Keep in mind that we are testing very, very aggressively here on the Navajo Nation," President Nez said, then added that the action is leading to more positive test results.

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The Navajo Health Command Operations Center reported on Wednesday that 20,928 tests have been administered and there were 15,809 negative results.

Nez also had harsh words for those who are not following emergency public health orders to stay at home.

"I'm pretty frustrated guys. As your president, I'll be honest with you, let's work together. How hard is that? How hard is it to work together and just stay at home for 57 hours?" he said.

A minimum flow of traffic is seen on U.S. Highway 491 on April 25 in Shiprock, due to the weekend curfew on the Navajo Nation.

Under the executive order Nez and Lizer signed on May 12, the tribe will continue nightly curfews and a partial shutdown of the tribal government until June 7.

Delegate Charlaine Tso represents Teec Nos Pos Chapter on the Navajo Nation Council and was helping with the president's office on Thursday in distributing food and supplies to residents in the Arizona community.

"I say this with a lot heart and stressing concern, that shí Diné, please stay home. There's no need to travel and go about and be in town," she 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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