Navajo Nation eases COVID-19 restrictions as cases decline
Throughout the pandemic, the Navajo Nation has had a much stricter approach to COVID-19 than surrounding states. But as cases decline, the reservation plans to relax some long-standing business restrictions.
The reservation has been operating under "orange" status in its reopening plan since last August. Since then, many Navajo Nation businesses, including popular tourist sites, casinos, and hotels, have been limited to 50% capacity. Now, the reservation will enter the "yellow" phase in its reopening plan, increasing capacity limits in most cases to 75%.
In a town hall video Tuesday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said COVID-19 data shows signs of significant improvement on the reservation.
“Thank God that we’re seeing some very, very low COVID-19 rates here on Navajo," Nez said.
The reservation has recently been averaging about five new cases per day. At the peak of the omicron wave in mid-January, more than 360 Navajo Nation residents were being infected per day, according to the Navajo Department of Health. Nez noted the pandemic is not over, but said he's optimistic the nation's relatively high vaccination rate is helping to keep cases low. Nez reports about 75% of eligible Navajo Nation residents are fully vaccinated. The statewide rate for eligible Arizonans is about 65%.
Nez said he looks forward to the return of graduations, fairs and parades under the new reopening guidelines.
“We’ll be monitoring it," Nez said. "If for some reason, the variant ends up taking off again here on Navajo, that will all go away, but right now it’s looking favorable that we’ll be having fairs and parades.”
He said masks will still be required for now, and if cases spike again he’ll consider additional restrictions.