The Associated Press
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation has extended the closure of tribal government offices and ordered residents to stay home for another three weeks as the number of coronavirus cases rises outside the reservation.
Navajo President Jonathan Nez said Tuesday that the tribe had been developing a plan to reopen the government and ease restrictions but "because of what's happening all around us, it would be premature" to implement it.
The reservation stretches into northeastern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico and southeastern Utah. It initially was one of the hardest-hit spots in the U.S. Tribal officials urged residents Tuesday not to travel outside the reservation, even during times when they're not under a daily curfew.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey issued an executive order Monday to shut down bars, nightclubs, gyms and water parks amid a surge of coronavirus cases. He also pushed back the start of school in the fall.
In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has paused plans for reopening more of the economy as state officials there cautiously monitor coronavirus case numbers.
The Navajo Nation's restrictions had been set to expire July 5. They are now in place until July 26 and include three more weekend lockdowns.
Nez has credited the restrictions, a shutdown of tourist areas and a requirement to wear masks on the reservation for a downward trend in the number of cases on the reservation.
The tribe's Department of Health reported 63 additional cases of coronavirus Monday, with no new deaths. That put the number of positive COVID-19 cases on the reservation at 7,532. The death toll remains at 363.
Reports from a dozen health care facilities on and near the Navajo Nation indicate more than 5,080 people have recovered. More than 54,700 people have been tested so far.
"Here on the Navajo Nation, we certainly don't want another spike in cases, so we need to stay the course and keep fighting this modern-day monster together," Nez said.
The president said the Navajo strategy is working. "The data presented by the Department of Health strongly indicates that the precautionary measures we have implemented since the start of the virus on the Navajo Nation in mid-March are working. We have to remain focused and not let up. Other states began relaxing their precautionary measures far too soon and now they are seeing the consequences with large increases in new cases, hospital visits, and hospital bed usage. Here on the Navajo Nation, we are seeing good signs, but we have to keep the weekend lockdowns and other measures in place for the time being," he said.
In addition to the weekend lockdowns, the daily curfew also remains in effect from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. on weekdays to help flatten the curve.
"The data supports the measures we are taking to keep our people safe and healthy. This has been a long battle, but it’s not over. We know some people are frustrated, but we have to stay diligent and stay on this path until we see consistent decreases in new cases of COVID-19. Please continue to pray for our people, first responders, and many others who are fighting along-side us," said Vice President Lizer.
The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough for most people. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Indian Country Today contributed to this report.