Navajo Nation implements three-week public lockdown starting Nov. 16 as cases spike
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The Navajo Nation reinstated a three-week stay-at-home lockdown from Nov. 16- Dec. 6 for the Navajo Nation as COVID-19 cases spike across the reservation and the country.
The lockdown includes all executive branch government offices, with the exception of essential employees, calls for all schools to close temporarily and go to online learning and declared ‘red status’ for all businesses, which requires new safety measures. The lockdown includes the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise measures, which had tried to reopen its casinos at 50% capacity.
The Navajo Nation’s 56-hour weekend curfew remains in effect until 5:00 a.m. (MST) on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 due to the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation, largely due to travel off the Navajo Nation and family gatherings.
On Nov. 14, Navajo Nation reported 172 new cases of COVID-19, the state of New Mexico reported 1,180 new cases of COVID-19, the state of Arizona reported 3,476 new cases and Utah reported a single-day record-high of 5,352 cases.
“With nearly 900 new cases of COVID-19 reported on the Navajo Nation in the last week and with surging cases across the country, we have to implement these public health measures to protect our Navajo people and reduce the spread of this virus,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
Epidemiologists on the Nation recently identified 34 communities with uncontrolled spread of COVID-19.
“We are inching closer and closer to a major public health crisis in which we could potentially see our hospitals filling up with patients,” Nez said. “Our health care system on the Navajo Nation cannot sustain a long-term surge in COVID-19 cases. The safest place to be is at home here on the Navajo Nation.”
Executive Order No. 010-20 requires government offices and enterprises to close beginning Nov. 16 thru Dec. 6, with the exception of essential employees as determined by division directors and enterprise management, to maintain essential services and functions of government.
Nez noted that all CARES Act projects and processes are required to proceed without disruption or setbacks to meet upcoming deadlines.
The order also requires public schools, including state public schools, grant schools, private schools, higher education institutions, early childhood programs including CCDF, Head Start, FACE programs, and all after school programs on the Navajo Nation to be online from Nov. 16 to Dec. 6, to protect students, teachers, parents, and others from COVID-19 risks.
To view Executive Order No. 010-20, please visit: https://www.opvp.navajo-nsn.gov/From-the-Office/Executive-Orders.
Public Health Emergency Order No. 2020-30 implements a three-week stay-at-home lockdown order and restricts travel off of the Navajo Nation and in-person gatherings. Individuals may leave their place of residence only for emergencies or to perform essential activities such as obtaining food or groceries, obtaining medicine, gathering fire wood with appropriate permit, and others.
Only essential businesses will be allowed to operate during the hours of 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. (MST) daily — weekdays and weekends.
All essential businesses including gas stations, grocery stores, laundromats, and restaurants and food establishments are required to ensure employees and customers wear masks, practice social distancing, disinfect high-touch surfaces, access to hand wash stations, sanitizers and gloves, and limit the number of customers in any enclosed areas.
Restaurants and food establishments must operate on a curbside or drive-thru basis only. All places of business and governmental offices are encouraged to report employee exposures to the Navajo Health Command Operations Center at: https://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/covid-19.
“In order to reduce cases, we have to isolate the virus. The more people move about and travel, the more cases of COVID-19 we will see. The data from our public health officials indicates that we are near the peak of new cases that we experienced in April and May,” said Vice President Myron Lizer.
Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim said the daily increase of new COVID-19 cases on the Nation mirrors the U.S. upward trajectory and dangerously approaches the record-high cases from early May.
“The Navajo Healthcare System isn’t overwhelmed now, but further bed capacity with adequate medical staffing are a concern,” Jim said. “Isolation and quarantine sites are available for the Navajo people, please seek these services to further reduce the transmission of COVID-19. Safe isolation is important especially if this can’t be done at home. We all have a role to play to protect ourselves and our relatives.”
After several recent discussions with public health officials regarding the surge in COVID-19 cases, Nez vetoed a resolution that requested support for the Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise’s reopening plan for casinos at a minimum of 50-percent capacity. Nez said he recognizes and understands the economic impacts and remains committed to finding additional alternative funds to support businesses and enterprises. In August, the Navajo Nation approved $24.6 million in CARES Act funds to avoid lay-offs of gaming employees.
Nez said the Nation cannot put a price tag on the health, safety and lives of the Navajo people.
“Revenues do not outweigh the precious lives of our elders, children and gaming employees,” Nez said. “We recently learned that the enterprise did experience a positive case in their gaming facility, so how safe will our elders and visitors be when we cannot predict the spread of the coronavirus? To the gaming employees, board members, and their families, we ask for your patience and understanding due to the significant rise in COVID-19 cases and we are willing to find a way to provide additional support.”