Upswing in COVID-19 cases in areas on Navajo Nation prompts 57-hour weekend lockdown

FARMINGTON — Due to an upswing in COVID-19 infections in certain areas on the Navajo Nation, the tribe will return to a 57-hour lockdown this weekend.

The Navajo Department of Health will revise the public health emergency order to have the weekend lockdown start at 8 p.m. on Sept. 25 and end at 5 a.m. on Sept. 28. In addition, residents are ordered to stay at home and the daily curfew will start at 8 p.m.

The changes were initially mentioned in a press release from the tribe’s Office of the President and Vice President on Sept. 21, which explained that Sage Memorial Hospital in Ganado, Arizona, has seen an increase in COVID-19 cases.

The release also stated there have been reports about large social gatherings in the satellite chapters in the Eastern Agency, where physical distancing and wearing face masks were ignored.

The chapters of Alamo, Ramah and Tóhajiilee are known as satellite areas because they are not located within the main area of the reservation.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez explained the reason for revising the order during the Sept. 22 virtual town hall meeting.

He said that contact tracers revealed a tribal member tested positive for COVID-19 after a trip to Utah.

The person then had a ceremony after returning to the Navajo Nation, leading to more than 40 people contracting COVID-19, the president said.

“You put your family in jeopardy when you have these family gatherings,” Nez said.

Jill Jim, director of the Navajo Department of Health, said the lockdown is a community mitigation strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Gatherings are not advisable, although they’re occurring. When we go out to a hotspot and coming back into the nation when we have very few positive cases, it can interrupt the entire mitigation strategy to keeping the curve down,” Jim said.

The health department was expected to release the updated public health emergency order on Sept. 22, according to the president’s office press release.

There were 11 new cases of COVID-19 reported by health officials on Sept. 21, bringing the total number of cases to 10,131 for the tribe.

The return of the 57-hour lockdown comes a day after Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, commended the Navajo Nation for reducing its infection rate.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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