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Associated Press

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation officials cited a declining number of new COVID-19 cases and other improving conditions as they announced a new public health order that will allow some businesses to reopen under certain restrictions, including tribal casinos and churches.

The daily curfew for residents on the reservation that stretches into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah will remain under a separate health order. However, residents no longer will be required — but will be encouraged — to stay home.

Both orders take effect Monday.

Officials cited testing availability, hospital capacity and contact tracing in addition to the decrease in new cases as factors in the transition to a status that will allow some businesses to reopen at 25 percent capacity.

“This is not a full reopening as some states are doing,” tribal President Jonathan Nez said Wednesday. “Instead, this is a carefully crafted soft reopening that includes specific guidelines to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.”

Businesses that want to reopen will be required to submit a plan to the Navajo Nation Division of Economic Development. Marinas and parks can reopen by appointment only.

The tribe's three casinos in northwestern New Mexico and one east of Flagstaff can reopen but only to tribal members and employees. The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise has spent more than $1.6 million on equipment, supplies and training to prepare for reopening the facilities that have been closed since last March, said interim chief executive Brian Parrish.

He said all employees will be tested for COVID-19, and the casino properties will be deep cleaned and sanitized.

Museums, flea markets, roadside stands, gyms and movie theaters still are closed.

The tribe reported 13 additional COVID-19 cases and one more death on Wednesday.

The latest numbers pushed the tribe’s pandemic totals to 29,900 confirmed cases and 1,205 known deaths.

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