Weekend curfew starts as cases near 600
As the 57 –hour curfew began Friday evening, Navajo had 597 positive COVID-19 cases. But for the first time in weeks there were no new deaths. That number remains at 22.
This weekend is also Easter weekend. President Jonathan Nez, First Lady Phefelia Nez, Vice President Myron Lizer, and Second Lady Dottie Lizer issued a proclamation declaring April 10-13, 2020, as “Navajo Nation Family Prayer Weekend,” in observance of Good Friday and Easter.
“For many of us, prayer is an important expression of faith, love, and hope,” stated Lizer. “It is an act of worship, and it offers healing, guidance, and comfort. Through prayer, we find the strength to overcome challenges and heartache.”
Orders such as shelter in place, the 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, and no mass gatherings, including church gatherings, have been implemented. According to the Navajo Attorney General Doreen McPaul during a previous town hall meeting, Christian gatherings are still happening throughout Navajo, and these can be shut down.
But on Friday the Navajo Office of Environmental Health and Protection Program signed off on “drive-in” church services for the Ganado Baptist Church. The service was slated to happen this evening 6 pm – 7pm. A telephone call to the church to define what a “drive-in church service” is was not answered.
“In consideration of the protocol presented, the Regulatory Authority grants a waiver for, and only for, the church services as proposed. Further, said service are to end reasonably to allow congregation members to return safely to their place of residence in a timely manner to comply with the curfew per the Public Health Emergency Orders governing curfew,” wrote Henry Shorty, Program Supervisor III for the OEH.
In a comment to the Times Nez said he’s been talking to the faith-based community and many pastors are following the shelter-in-place order. Churches have also assisted with resources for the first responders and front-line employees.
But when it comes to the drive-in church service Nez said his office did not authorize it.
“It was not authorized by the Office of the President and Vice President,” Nez said. “We understand that the health of our Navajo people is the top priority and we stand by that. Everyone is expected to comply with the 57-hour weekend curfew with certain exceptions for essential workers.”