Navajo Nation implements ‘soft reopening’ of some businesses, moves to ‘orange status’

Coronavirus New Mexico

New guidelines go into effect on Monday, March 15

NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The Navajo Nation says they’re easing some of their COVID-19 restrictions as their numbers are dropping. The Navajo Department of Health announced and issued a new public health order Wednesday that will transition the Navajo Nation from “red status” to “orange status.” According to a news release, under a separate “safer-at-home” order the Navajo Nation will continue its curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. The health orders go into effect on Monday, March 15. 

“This is not a full reopening as some states are doing. Instead, this is a carefully-crafted soft reopening that includes specific guidelines to continue helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 while allowing more businesses to reopen at no more than 25-percent capacity along with strict provisions. We continue to rely on the data and the advice of public health experts as we move forward in this pandemic. The recent data shows that there is a consistent reduction in new infections, a reduction in hospital visits and hospital bed usage, and very high rates of vaccinations across the Navajo Nation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in the same news release.

Operating businesses on the Navajo Nation must submit a reopening plan to the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development before reopening in orange status. Reopening plans can be emailed to navajoeconomy@navajo-nsn.gov. Things like museums, markets and gyms, and other recreational facilities, and movie theaters are not allowed in the orange status.

The Navajo Nation also says the public health orders do not address the reopening of schools but support for online learning for all schools continues. They also say traditional ceremonies can happen with no more than ten people and churches can operate at 25% capacity.

According to a news release, the following are other provisions for businesses under the “orange status”:

  • 25% capacity allowed for most businesses
  • Restaurants and Dining facilities: drive-thru and curb-side permissible
  • Restaurants with permanent outdoor dining structures may provide outdoor dining at 25% of maximum capacity, as long as social distancing between tables is enforced
  • Restaurants without permanent outdoor dining structures are allowed up to 10 outdoor tables (max 4 persons per table), as long as social distancing between tables is enforced
  • Personal Care and Services: Service by appointment only and allow time for cleaning between appointments
  • Marinas and parks usage are by appointment only
  • Casinos and video poker: Navajo casinos are allowed to open to Navajo Nation residents and employees only, in accordance with a reopening and workplace safety plan
  • Businesses shall limit operations before 6:00 a.m. (MDT) and after 8:00 p.m. (MDT)

According to the same news release, as of Wednesday, the Navajo Nation has had 24 consecutive days with less than 50 new COVID-19 cases and 13 consecutive days with less than 25 reported. As of March 9, the Navajo Area Indian Health Service reported that 195,554 total vaccine doses have been received, 141,797 administered, which represents nearly 73%; 52,433 individuals have received a first and second dose of the vaccines.

“Personal responsibility is key to staying safe and continuing the reduction in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. For nearly a year, we’ve implemented many safety and preventative measures, but at some point, we have to take careful steps to safely reopen in stages. We strongly encourage everyone to continue practicing all precautions and keep your guard up. Vaccinations are another key component that is helping to reduce the number of new cases, and we hope to continue seeing more of our Navajo people receiving the vaccines. Please be safe, make good decisions for you and your loved ones, and keep praying,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer in a news release.

As of Thursday, the Navajo Nation reported 13 new cases of COVID-19 and one new death. For more information, visit ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19.

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