Legislation to reopen tribal parks floated
Legislation to reopen Navajo tribal parks to visitors is currently in its five-day comment period, after the Navajo Nation reported a large increase of 31 new COVID-19 cases on Friday.
Last year, before a COVID-19 case was reported on the Navajo Nation, the Parks and Recreation Department under the Division of Natural Resources shut down all parks until further notice. Up until Friday the Navajo Nation had been experiencing low case numbers and went from orange to yellow status, allowing for parks to reopen but only to Navajo Nation residents.
“We are taking baby steps to reopen,” said President Jonathan Nez in his weekly town hall meeting. “Everyone around the country knows how hard Navajo Nation was hit. Visitors, I just ask for your patience and consideration. We are focusing on our Navajo citizens. We will reopen but we are doing this very slowly.”
This new legislation to reopen of the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley Welcome Center, Little Colorado River Navajo Tribal Park, Four Corners Monument and Tséyi’ Diné Heritage Area, is sponsored by Council Delegate Paul Begay and co-sponsored by Mark Freeland, Nathaniel Brown and Thomas Walker Jr.
The legislation quotes Public Health Emergency Order No. 2021-005, which stated, “The Navajo Nation is experiencing a gradual downward trajectory of new cases, with slowed infection rate and no sustained rebound.” The legislation was developed when Navajo was in “orange” status, which allows businesses to open under some restrictions.
“Navajo Nation residents who derive their income from selling their arts and crafts and services … have felt the adverse economic efforts of the closure of these parks,” stated the legislation. “Given that the ‘Navajo Nation is experiencing a gradual downward trajectory of new cases, with a slowed infection rate and no sustained rebound,’ these vendors should be allowed to resume their livelihood generated from at the Navajo parks.”
But on Friday 31 new cases were reported, bringing the total number of positive COVID-19 cases to 30,435. The total number of deaths remains 1,263 as previously reported. Reports indicate that 16,524 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 262,574 COVID-19 tests have been administered.
On Friday, the state of Arizona reported 896 new cases, Utah reported 344, and New Mexico reported 245 new cases. On Monday, April 26, the Navajo Nation will transition to “yellow status” in accordance with Public Health Emergency Order No. 2021-009 issued by the Navajo Department of Health. Provisions under “Yellow Status” include the following:
- Restaurants may provide indoor dining at 25% of maximum occupancy;
- Marinas and parks are allowed to open at 25% of maximum occupancy to NavajoNation residents, citizens and employees only;
- Tour businesses must follow the HCOC Reopening Guidelines for Tour Businesses;
- Museums are allowed to open at 25% of maximum occupancy;
- 50% of maximum occupancy allowed for most businesses;
- Restaurants and Dining facilities: drive-thru and curb-side permissible;
- Restaurants with permanent outdoor dining may provide outdoor dining at 50% of maximum occupancy, as long as social distancing between tables is enforced;
- Restaurants without permanent outdoor dining are allowed up to 10 outdoor tables (maximum four persons per table), as long as social distancing between tables is enforced;
- Personal care and services: service by appointment only and allow time for cleaning between appointments;
- Casinos and video poker: Navajo casinos are allowed to open at 50% of maximum occupancy to Navajo Nation residents, citizens and employees only.