Stay-at-home order lifted as Navajo Nation starts reopening

By The Associated Press

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has lifted its stay-at-home order but is encouraging residents to leave their homes only for emergencies or essential activities.

The stay-at-home order was rescinded Sunday, when 24 additional coronavirus cases and zero deaths were reported. The numbers are a vast change from earlier this year when the tribe had one of the highest per-capita rates of infection in the U.S.

The tribe’s executive branch released its reopening plan last week. While some tourist destinations partially overseen by the federal government reopened Monday, tribal officials discouraged visitors from off the reservation.

The National Park Service said it is working within the tribe’s guidelines but could not police who visits Canyon de Chelly National Monument in Chinle, Navajo National Monument near Shonto and Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado. Limited services such as restrooms, self-guided trails and overlooks were open.

Tribal parks such as Monument Valley and the Four Corners Monument were not open, Navajo President Jonathan Nez said Monday. Representatives for Nez didn’t respond to requests for further comment.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been closed since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation that extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona.

A Navajo Nation Council resolution approved in late March has been loosely characterized as “banning tourists,” but council spokesman Byron Shorty said the verbiage doesn’t necessarily accomplish that. The resolution closes Navajo-owned and maintained roads, about 5,000 miles, to outside tourists and visitors. County, state, federal roads aren’t included, but Shorty said that shouldn’t be construed as an invitation for tourism.

“At this point, we’re trying to prevent a second wave,” Shorty said. “The president’s comments should be taken in that context.”

In all, the Navajo Nation has recorded 9,400 cases of the coronavirus and 480 deaths since the pandemic began.

The majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover. For some people it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can cause more severe illness and death.

In other Navajo Nation developments:

— Nez approved more than $476 million in spending from a federal coronavirus relief funds, about 72% of what was in a bill passed by the Navajo Nation Council. The tribe received more than $714 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The tribe previously approved about $62 million in spending, leaving more than $176 million that Congress said must be used by the end of the year.

The Associated Press

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