Navajo Nation OKs reopening flea, roadside markets under yellow status

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Department of Health loosened restrictions for certain businesses and allowed flea markets and roadside markets to reopen beginning on May 24 under guidelines in the latest public health emergency order.

The health department is keeping businesses in the yellow tier of its reopening plan as its coronavirus case rate remains low with a slowed infection rate.

The order increased the capacity for indoor dining at restaurants to 50%. It also boosted capacity to 50% for marinas, parks, museums and zoos.

However, areas managed by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department remain closed to all.

Still not allowed to operate are youth programs, but the Navajo Health Command Operations Center is reviewing the possible reopening of these programs.

Gymnasiums, recreation facilities and movie theaters are not allowed to operate at this time.

The Tooh Haltsooí Council of Naataanii closed its flea market on March 13, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Navajo Department of Health authorized flea markets to reopen in the public health emergency order issued on May 21.

The public health order from May 21 is available on the Navajo Department of Health's website for COVID-19 and the tribe's reopening plan is available at

A well-known flea market is in Sheep Springs, which was closed last March by its operators, the Tooh Haltsooí Council of Naataanii, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Chapter Manager Kevin Begay explained that the chapter government was leasing the location that housed the flea market from the Regional Business Development Office under the tribe's Division of Economic Development.

Begay said he will contact the Regional Business Development Office in Shiprock about reapplying for the lease, then present the information to chapter officials about resuming the flea market.

"It would be nice to return because it was generating some revenue for us," Begay said adding that community members sold items like food for income.

The public health emergency order mentioned that while daily reports of new COVID-19 infection remain low, variants have been found, including those first detected in the United Kingdom, California and Brazil.

According to a May 10 report by the Navajo Epidemiology Center, there have been 21 cases of the strain detected in the UK identified in the Chinle, Gallup, Shiprock and Tuba City service units under the Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

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The epidemiology center's report states the Utah Navajo Health System Inc. had one case of the variant that originated in Brazil and the variant first detected in California has been found in cases from the Chinle, Gallup, Kayenta, Shiprock and Tuba City service units.

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

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