Small, in-person ceremonies may be allowed


The Navajo Nation’s low COVID-19 numbers and high percentage of vaccinated people may allow for small graduation ceremonies for high school seniors and college graduates.

During his virtual town hall this week, President Jonathan Nez said discussions are underway to allow in-person graduations but limiting attendance. As of May 2, vaccination numbers on the Navajo Nation were: 247,165 doses distributed; 224,465 doses administered; and 99,254 people — nearly 60% of the reservation population — fully vaccinated.

“Hopefully we will have a compromise because when this protocol comes out we’re not going to make everyone happy,” said Nez. “Not everybody is going to be able to do it. You can still do virtual … still do the drive-thru. If we want in-person it’s got to be outdoors. That’s what we all thought it would be safer.”

Twelve new COVID-19 cases were reported on the Navajo Nation Tuesday and one more death. The total number of deaths is now 1,282. Reports indicate that 16,606 individuals have recovered from COVID-19, and 266,423 COVID-19 tests have been administered. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases is now 30,543.

Also on Tuesday, the state of Arizona reported 701 new cases, Utah reported 259, and New Mexico reported 219 cases.

“These graduation guidelines are very difficult,” said Jill Jim, director for the Navajo Department of Health. “We’re still in a pandemic. We also understand there are various ways of trying to reduce the risk of transmission and (schools) are still in online virtual only.”

These guidelines were made with team members from the Navajo Health Command Operation Center, said Jim. Not only will the graduations need to be held outdoors but those in attendance should be fully vaccinated.

Schools should attempt to ensure that people who are supposed to be quarantined or in isolation do not attend the event.

“Getting vaccinated is still an important factor to combat COVID-19,” said Jim. Capt. Brian Johnson, acting deputy area director for Navajo Area Indian Health Service, said the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available from the IHS, as well as Pfizer and Moderna.

He also mentioned COVID-19 testing is available and people who are experiencing seasonal allergies should stay alert at the symptoms and get tested for reassurance.

The current “yellow” guidelines have been in place for two weeks. They include:

• 50% of maximum occupancy allowed for most businesses.
• Restaurants with permanent outdoor dining may provide outdoor dining at 50% of maximum occupancy, as long as social distancing between tables is enforced; drive-thru and curb-side permissible.
• 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 should be by appointment only and allow time for cleaning between appointments.
• Navajo casinos are open at 50% of maximum occupancy to Navajo Nation residents, citizens and employees only (no visitors and tourists).
• Restaurants may provide indoor dining at 25% of maximum occupancy.
• Marinas and parks are allowed to open at 25% of maximum occupancy to Navajo Nation residents, citizens and employees only (no visitors and tourists).
• Tour businesses must follow the HCOC Reopening Guidelines for Tour Businesses.
• Museums are allowed to open at 25% of maximum occupancy.
• Currently not allowed in the yellow phase are flea markets, roadside markets, and youth programs. The HCOC is the evaluating reopening these. Further guidance will be issued in the future.
• Also not allowed in yellow phase are gyms, recreation facilities, movie theaters.

Navajo Nation Parks and Recreations sent out a press release clarifying that “parks” that are allowed 25% occupancy to Navajo residents are only recreation parks and not tribal parks. Tribal parks are still closed and can only reopen by executive order.

Right now Legislation 0076-21 is making its rounds to open 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.

About The Author

Arlyssa Becenti

Arlyssa Becenti reports on Navajo Nation Council and Office of the President and Vice President. Her clans are Nát'oh dine'é Táchii'nii, Bit'ahnii, Kin łichii'nii, Kiyaa'áanii. She’s originally from Fort Defiance and has a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University. Before working for the Navajo Times she was a reporter for the Gallup Independent. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @abecenti


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