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Navajo Nation to implement soft reopening as COVID metrics decline

(Wikipedia Photo/Gerd Muller)

PHOENIX — The Navajo Nation on Wednesday announced plans for a “soft reopening” for businesses as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations decline and vaccinations increase.

Going into effect on Monday, the move from “red status” to “orange status” will allow most businesses to operate at 25% capacity.

All businesses must submit a COVID-19 reopening plan to the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development prior to reopening, according to a press release.

Restaurants with permanent outdoor dining can be at 25% of maximum capacity as long as social distancing between tables is enforced, while restaurants without permanent outdoor dining can have up to 10 outdoor tables with a max of four people per table.

Other restaurants and dining facilities will be allowed drive-thru and curbside service under the new order.

Additional changes as part of the soft reopening include personal care and services – as well as marinas and parks – by appointment only and Navajo Nation casinos being allowed to open to residents and employees only.

Businesses shall limit operations before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m. as part of the order with the Navajo Nation’s daily curfew remaining in effect from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., seven days a week.

Youth programs, museums, flea markets, roadside markets, gyms, recreation facilities and movie theaters are not allowed to open in the orange status.

“This is not a full reopening as some states are doing,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in the release. “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% 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.”

All measures needed to move into the orange status have been met, according to the release, with an infection rate of 0.81 over the last seven days and less than 80% inpatient hospital and ICU bed usage.

The Navajo Nation reported 13 new COVID-19 cases on Wednesday, marking the 24th consecutive day with less than 50 new COVID-19 cases and the 13th consecutive day with less than 25 new infections reported.

“It’s been nearly one year since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation and we’ve all learned a lot about the virus and how to keep ourselves safe and healthy,” Nez said in the release.

“The COVID-19 variants are still a concern in many regions of the country and we will continue to monitor the spread and if there is a change in the trend of new infections and hospitalizations, we will quickly revisit our public health emergency orders.”

The Navajo Area Indian Health Service reported Wednesday over 141,000 COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered, with nearly 52,500 people having received both doses of the vaccine.

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