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Navajo Nation extends shutdown as COVID-19 cases spike in Arizona

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The curve of new virus cases on the Navajo Nation and border towns since early March. Navajo health officials said they have seen slight increases in new COVID-19 cases in towns bordering the reservation.

The Navajo Nation will have at least three more weekend-long curfews and will extend the closure of government offices until July 26, President Jonathan Nez announced Tuesday.

“Because of what’s happening all around us, it would be premature to open the Navajo Nation government back up at this time,” Nez said during an online town hall.

Nez cited rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Arizona, where a majority of the reservation is located. Arizona’s new virus cases have exceeded 3,000 for seven of the past 10 days.

On Monday, the Arizona Department of Health Services also reported a record-high number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The virus spread has prompted Gov. Doug Ducey to reclose bars, gyms, water parks and movie theaters.

As of Monday night, the Navajo Nation reported a total of 7,532 COVID-19 cases and 363 deaths from the disease. The reservation has performed 54,734 total tests and 5,095 people have been reported as recovered.

COVID-19 case increases in most areas of the Navajo Nation have held steady or declined for several weeks. But Dr. Jill Jim, Navajo Department of Health director, said virus spread in neighboring states has prompted reservation health care facilities to prepare for another possible virus surge.

“We are seeing border town chapter communities show an increase in positive cases,” Jim said.

Masks are required in public on the Navajo Nation and Navajo residents are advised to avoid travel outside the reservation.

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