Navajo Nation extends casino closures

The Associated Press

The tribe had 269 deaths and 5,808 coronavirus cases as of Friday, health officials say

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. (AP) — The Navajo Nation's gambling operation had hoped to reopen its casinos in mid-June, but they'll stay closed until at least early July because of the coronavirus outbreak.  

Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise officials said Friday that closures ordered to help curb spread of the virus will stay in place due to a recent order by tribal President Jonathan Nez that continues closures of tribal government operations through July 5.

All properties have been deep-cleaned and sanitized with additional steps taken for safety of patrons and workers, Gaming Enterprise officials said in a statement.

"When appropriate, we are prepared to safely reopen with new protocols that surpass industry standards and guidance provided by the Navajo Nation Department of Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance," the statement said.

The tribe's sprawling reservation includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and its casinos are located near Flagstaff, Arizona, and Farmington, Gallup and Shiprock, New Mexico.

In other developments:

— Tribal officials relaxed distancing restrictions imposed because of the outbreak to permit drive-in mass gatherings for purposes such as using Wi-Fi hot spots and attending funerals, graduations and fireworks displays.

Under a public health order issued Friday, people attending such gatherings must wear masks and remain in their vehicles and all people in a vehicle must be from one household.

— Another public health order issued Friday extends until further notice a daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

"We must not let our guard down and protect each other," Nez said in a statement.

— The reporting of five additional deaths and 78 additional cases increased the Navajo's totals as of Friday to 269 deaths and 5,808 cases, health officials said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

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