Navajo Nation repeals several COVID-19 restrictions

FARMINGTON – Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez signed a comprehensive bill that repeals several restrictions put in place last year to address the coronavirus pandemic and rescinds the closure of the tribal land to visitors.

On July 6, Nez concurred with the Navajo Nation Council’s decision to reopen the region based on lower rates of new COVID-19 cases and 70% of residents on the tribal land being fully vaccinated.

“I think this is a turning point,” Nez said during the signing ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Arizona. Nez said the tribe will reopen its doors July 8.

The resolution also allows in-person instruction at schools located on the tribal land, authorizes the opening of tribal enterprises and businesses owned by tribal members – particularly those that generate income from tourism – and allow chapter governments to revise quorum requirements for meetings or continue using telephonic or other electronic means to meet quorum.

The action by tribal leaders was embraced by business owners and vendors who attended the event and cheered when repealing business restrictions was mentioned.

It has been more than a year since parks and recreation areas managed by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department were closed. Among the department’s popular tourism destinations are Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Welcome Center, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, and the Four Corners Monument.

“We welcome back our friends, our visitors from all over the world. The Navajo Nation is back in business,” Nez said.

A spokeswoman with the parks and recreation department confirmed locations will reopen July 8, but at 50% capacity because of concern about COVID-19 variants.

Each park and recreation area will continue to follow public health orders issued by the Navajo Department of Health, including requiring face masks, she added.

The Navajo Nation’s continuing mask requirement was reiterated by officials throughout the signing ceremony. The Department of Health is expected to develop and release this week a new public health emergency order.

Delegate Paul Begay represents LeChee Chapter, which is home to Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona.

Begay talked about the economic hardship and uncertainty faced by small business owners and vendors and how they have been waiting to reopen.

“With the signing of this legislation, our Navajo and other businesses in the Navajo Nation boundaries can now pick themselves up, recover. … That’s what we wanted, to save the businesses, to save the employment – those two things were very important to us,” Begay said.

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