Navajo Nation eases COVID restrictions; the mandate of the mask remains

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WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation on Tuesday eased restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic to allow more people to enter businesses, including casinos, and for social and other gatherings.

Tribal casinos, restaurants, cinemas, campgrounds, museums, cinemas and other businesses can now operate at 75% capacity, up from 50% capacity in place since last summer. Businesses must submit a plan to the tribe’s economic development division before they can implement the new boundaries.

Up to 25 people can now gather in person for traditional ceremonies, church, youth programs, training events and holiday gatherings – up from 15 previously.

Outdoor events, such as races or organized walks, and bike rides can now accommodate up to 50 people.

Schools also have capacity limits for orientations and other non-teaching gatherings and for sporting events. Indoor arenas can be at 50% capacity and outdoor seating at 75%.

The Navajo Nation, which is the largest reservation in the United States at 27,000 square miles (69,930 square kilometers), has been more cautious about the pandemic than the states around it. Utah, New Mexico and Arizona have no mask mandates, and businesses there have been fully reopened for months.

A mask mandate in public places on the reservation remains, and tribal officials have again insisted on a safer order at home.

Tribal Chairman Jonathan Nez said the new guidelines are based on what has been a steady decline in daily coronavirus cases since a large spike in January after the holidays. A spike in the number of deaths reported by the Navajo Nation in late March was due to a delay in reporting and reconciling data, tribal spokesman Jared Touchin said.

The tribe reported a new confirmed case of coronavirus on Tuesday, bringing the total since the start of the pandemic to 53,089. Three more deaths reported on Tuesday brought the total to 1,737.

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