Navajo-Hopi Nations,Flagstaff & Winslow News
Tue, Oct. 27

Nez-Lizer administration issues ‘Navajo Nation Reopening Plan’

Tuuvi Travel Center in Moenkopi, Arizona informs travelers that the main store is closed and with only the drive thru window open for business. (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Honanie)

Tuuvi Travel Center in Moenkopi, Arizona informs travelers that the main store is closed and with only the drive thru window open for business. (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Honanie)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation issued guidelines and a plan to carefully reopen the Navajo Nation with a phased in approach, which will include safety guidelines for residents to follow, directs businesses to implement COVID-19 policies and procedures to meet standards and provides a color-coded system for progressively reopening businesses on the Nation based on data driven analysis and input from health experts.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer said the ‘Navajo Nation Reopening Plan’ will serve as a guide to safely and gradually reopening businesses on the Nation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan prioritizes elders and individuals who are at higher-risk for severe illness. Nez said it ensures the Nation’s healthcare system is responsive to increases in admissions and responds to future crises and any resurgences while allowing a phased path to recovery.

“This will not be a rushed reopening,” Nez said. “We spent many weeks working together with the health care experts

and many others to develop the phased-in reopening plan.”

Nez recalled the first case of COVID-19 in the Navajo Nation was confirmed on March 17.

“That is the day we faced an invisible monster like we never dealt with before,” he said. “Since that day, we have combated the virus together, and it has made us stronger and more resilient.”

In May, the Nation saw the highest number of positive cases, but now it is seeing a consistent flattening of the curve.

“We have had 48 consecutive days with fewer than 100 reported daily cases of COVID-19, and 13 consecutive days under 50 daily cases,” Nez said. “We commend and thank our Navajo people for listening to our health care experts, law enforcement, leaders and others. Our frontline workers, such as firefighters, EMTs, police officers, doctors, nurses, grocery store workers and custodians, were working around the clock saving lives. Together, we helped each other through our way of life teachings to flatten the curve.”

According to the data, wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, staying home and being mindful of one’s surroundings has helped to flatten the curve on a consistent basis, Nez said.

Nez said through contact tracing, the Nation is learning more about the movement of the virus and that though the fight is not over, the Nation needs to find new ways to move forward.

“We cannot rush to reopen the Nation,” he said. “We must reopen slowly and cautiously, and most importantly, rely on the data and advice of our health care experts. When states reopened in May, we saw how quickly the coronavirus can re-emerge and spread and that’s what we want to avoid.”

Reopening businesses

Per the plan’s directives, all places of business on the Navajo Nation must develop policies and procedures to ensure physical distancing between personnel and customers.

They must also provide special accommodations for staff who are members of a vulnerable population as well as provide sufficient and appropriate PPE for personnel, carry sufficient disinfectant products, require hygiene practices and cleaning of frequently-touched surfaces.

Additionally, they must provide regular COVID-19 screening, provide COVID-19 training and have in place plans to respond to suspected and confirmed cases in the workplace.

Places of business on the Nation are directed to implement certain measures in their policies and procedures designed to further reduce the risks of COVID-19 exposure and spread, such as increasing facility ventilation, frequent screening and testing for employees, installing physical barriers, implementing flexible work schedules and providing employees with flexible leave policies.

Business on the Nation will reopen progressively, in accordance with a color-coded status schedule, each color in the schedule representing a different level of reopening activity.

The statuses include red (high restrictions), orange (moderate-high restrictions), yellow (moderate-low restrictions), and green (low restrictions). Public health data trends will drive the determination of the Nation’s status.

Depending on data trends, the Nation may move from a less-restrictive to a more-restrictive status and vice versa.

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