NAVAJO NATION (ABC4 News) – In response to record-breaking spikes of COVID-19 cases in neighboring states, Navajo Nation will re-issue their 57-hour weekend curfew beginning Friday.
As of Thursday, the Navajo Department of Health, the Navajo Epidemiology Center, and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service reported two more COVID-19 deaths, bringing the total count to 324.
The total number of COVID-19 positive cases is 6,832 with 3,414 people who have recovered from COVID-19. So far, 47,039 people have been tested for the virus.
With boots on the ground, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has been joining volunteers at multiple food distribution locations this week. On Friday, he said they were able to assist more than 700 families in Tuba City, AZ.
“It’s been a great story of people coming together and uniting. This is not just happening here in Navajo Nation, but clear across the country where people are helping each other out since at this time, we have no cure, no vaccine for COVID-19,” said President Nez in a video call with ABC4 News Friday.
Supplies have been made possible through donations coming on and off the reservation such as Salt Lake City, Albuquerque, Phoenix, and other areas in the Southwest.
“Half of our people live off the Navajo Nation so a lot of our citizens have given back during this pandemic. The others are groups donating to our Navajo people,” he said.
Tribal leaders said they wanted to make sure residents will have enough food, water, and supplies for the weekend.
“What we want to do is get it to our Navajo citizens so that they can hunker down and stay home. Right now, the safest place is to be is at home,” said President Nez. “No gas stations, no food places, no businesses will be open this weekend.”
Approximately two months ago, Navajo Nation was in the top three largest COVID-19 hot spots in the country, trailing only behind New York and New Jersey. But after seeing progress on the reservation in curbing the virus, they suspended their 57-hour curfew that lasted eight straight weekends.
“We’ve been able to flatten our curve. We’ve been able to mitigate the health crisis here that is COVID-19 pandemic,” said Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer in an online town hall Thursday.
But health officials in Navajo Nation’s neighboring states, Utah and Arizona are now seeing spikes in COVID-19 cases. This comes as a concern since hospitals in nearby areas have helped take on the reservation’s overflow during the past few months.
“Since they’re going up over there, if we go up over here, they might not take our relatives because they’re dealing with a big surge right now,” said President Nez.
As Navajo Nation is known as a “food desert,” he explained many residents often travel across state lines to buy groceries. That’s why they’re re-instating the 57-hour weekend curfew to keep residents away from the new hot spots.
“We will overcome COVID-19. We are all resilient, all five-finger beings. In Navajo – “Bíla’ashla’ii” … it means five-fingered beings. We’re all in this together,” said President Nez. “It affects us on the Navajo Nation, it affects those off the Navajo Nation and vice versa.”
Tribal leaders are also urging those living off the reservation to resist visiting family on Navajo Nation during Father’s Day weekend.
“We just respectfully ask our relatives just to stay put where they’re at. Maybe do a phone call. Now’s not the time to travel and vice versa because we need to keep these numbers down,” said President Nez.
He emphasized, “Please wear your masks. Practice social distancing and wash your hands with soap and water. Even if you’re somewhere that’s not mandating it, you as an adult, as a parent, can mandate that for your children and family. Experts have said these techniques help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Navajo Nation’s weekend curfew will begin Friday at 8 p.m. and go through Monday at 5 a.m. Visitors will be able to pass through. Checkpoints will be conducted throughout the area. Violators could face fines up to $1,000 and 30 days in jail. The curfew will also be implemented next weekend.