- By Native News Online Staff
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Tuesday, with the advice of health care experts the Navajo Nation re-issued a Stay-At-Home Order and stricter daily and weekend lockdown hours due to new reports of increases in COVID-19 cases in the Sage Memorial Hospital service area in Arizona and in satellite chapters in the Eastern Navajo Agency in New Mexico, which are directly related to travel off the Navajo Nation and family gatherings where social distancing and the wearing of face masks were not enforced.
Public Health Emergency Order No. 2020-023 was signed on Tuesday, to re-issue the Stay at Home (Shelter in Place) requirements, starting on Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020 and ending on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. The order also implements a full 57-hour weekend lockdown beginning at 8:00 p.m. (MDT) on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020 until 5:00 a.m. (MDT) on Monday, Sept. 28, 2020. Additional weekend lockdowns may follow. Daily curfew hours are Monday through Friday from 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. (MDT). Gatherings of more than five people are strictly prohibited.
“For the safety and health of all of our Navajo people, we must adhere to the advice and recommendations of our health care experts. Their expertise is what led to the decrease in the new cases over the last few months. It only takes a few new cases to create multiple clusters of positive COVID-19 cases. The latest reports of cluster cases result from individuals who traveled to cities off of the Navajo Nation, returned home with the virus, and spread it to others during family gatherings, despite active public health orders that clearly restrict any in-person gatherings. While these new cases are being investigated, our public health experts and contact tracers have begun to mobilize resources to help identify those who may have been exposed to the virus, to isolate positive cases, and provide food and other essential items to those who are now in isolation,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
Surrounding counties and states such as Coconino County and the state of Utah have reported increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases recently, which also increases risks for residents of the Navajo Nation, particularly when residents travel to other “hot spot” areas.
“The increases in new cases is very alarming. We do not yet know the full extent of exposures and infections due to the recent cluster cases, but everyone can do their part to protect themselves and their families. Unfortunately, we will see substantial increases in new COVID-19 cases. Our health care experts and Health Command Operations Center are moving quickly to identify and contact anyone who might’ve been exposed to the virus, and to get them the assistance needed to fight the virus and to isolate. We ask all of our Navajo people to continue to pray for our Nation and first responders,” said Vice President Myron Lizer.
Public Health Emergency Order No. 2020-023 states, “Individuals may leave their place of residence only for emergencies or to perform "essential activities," which primarily include activities and tasks essential to health, safety, and welfare. All businesses including all stores, gas stations, restaurants, drive-thru food establishments, hay and all other vendors are required to cease operations and close during the partial weekend lockdowns and daily curfew hours.
Individuals are permitted to conduct farming activities and tend to livestock, however livestock owners must plan ahead to purchase hay and feed – hay vendors will not be allowed to sell during the weekend lockdown and daily curfew hours. Residents are also allowed to exercise outdoors within their immediate residential area or home site area during non-curfew hours. Essential Employees reporting to or from duty are exempted from the weekend lockdown, but must carry official identification or a letter of designation from their employer on official letterhead which includes a contact name and number for verification.
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