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Navajo Nation to stop weekend lockdowns as new COVID-19 cases slow down

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation will halt its 57-hour weekend lockdowns after Jan. 25 and replace them with a daily curfew.

The update was done since the tribe is experiencing a downward trajectory in new COVID-19 cases, according to the public health emergency order the Navajo Department of Health issued on Jan. 21.

However, health officials are cautious about the decline and the plateau in patient services at health care facilities.

"We remain vigilant as new cases are fluctuating in neighboring states and similarly trending to the Navajo Nation, although Arizona remains a concern," the order states.

Facilities under the Navajo Area Indian Health Service and tribal health organizations have been distributing COVID-19 vaccines under a three-phased approach based on the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flowing Water Casino in Hogback shares the message for residents on the Navajo Nation to stay at home due to concerns about the coronavirus.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez viewed the end of weekend lockdowns as an opportunity to conduct more vaccine clinics.

"By lifting the 57-hour weekend lockdown, our health care facilities on the Navajo Nation will be able to administer more COVID-19 vaccines on the weekends. Our goal is to vaccinate as many of our people as possible and this helps with that effort," Nez said.

Nez, along with health officials, remind the public that it is important to continue wearing face masks and following other guidelines after receiving the vaccine.

Residents on the tribal land have been under weekend curfew or lockdown since April but starting on Jan. 25, they will be under a daily curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The curfew does not apply to essential employees traveling to or from worksites and essential businesses may operate from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Activity was minimum on April 25, 2020 on the U.S. highways 64 and 491 bridge in Shiprock. The Navajo Nation will suspend its weekend lockdowns after Jan. 25.

But the public health emergency order reissues the stay at home requirement for residents through Feb. 15.

The document also mentions that areas, locations and sites operated by the tribe's Parks and Recreation Department remain closed to tourists and visitors. 

"These measures are intended to further ensure an effective response to the COVID-19 pandemic by restricting movement of individuals on the nation, to limit contact to prevent the spread of the virus, and to minimize the strain on medical response capabilities," the order states.

Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer signed an executive order to limit services provided by the tribal government.

This order is in effect through Feb. 7. It requires divisions, departments, programs, offices, non-certified chapters, enterprises and casinos to have a recovery and workplace safety plan that includes awareness to employees about opportunities to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of returning to work on Feb. 8.

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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