FARMINGTON – Navajo Nation tribal leaders have ordered a curfew to take effect this weekend as the coronavirus spreads across the Four Corners.
The 57-hour curfew is issued for residents of the Navajo Nation from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, according to a public health emergency order from the Navajo Department of Health.
“The public health emergency order is intended to restrict the movement of Navajo citizens during the full weekend curfew,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a news release earlier this week. “We are seeing way too many people contract the virus, and we need to step up measures to begin to reduce the numbers.”
The public health order says the weekend curfew will not apply to essential employees, such as first responders and medical providers. But they are still required to have official identification or a letter from their employer on official letterhead.
The weekend curfew comes as cases continue to rise. On Monday, confirmed cases rose by 30, by 42 on Tuesday and by 62 on Wednesday, bringing the total number of cases to 488 with 17 deaths on the Navajo Nation.
As of Thursday evening, the state of New Mexico reported 989 positive cases and 17 deaths related to the coronavirus.
The sharp increase in Navajo Nation cases has led leaders to ask for field hospitals, increased infrastructure and more streamlined federal funding.
“Our health care system cannot manage the growing number of patients and those who need to be admitted,” Nez said. “We continue to receive reports of people on the road and traveling with families to nearby border towns.”
On Monday, with reports of continued travel and groups congregating, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer sent letters to the New Mexico and Utah governors asking them to shut down liquor stores along the borders of the Navajo Nation. The letters said stores near Mexican Hat, Utah, and Window Rock, Arizona, on the New Mexico border were allowing people to gather in groups and potentially spread COVID-19.
“The weekend curfew helps to combat the virus,” Lizer said. “The latest virus projections show that we have not reached the peak, or the highest number of cases, so please stay home and abide by the curfew order.”
On Tuesday, Nez and Lizer announced the Navajo Nation was coordinating with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Arizona National Guard to determine where to place federal medical stations near the communities of Kayenta and Tuba City to assist with overflow from local health care facilities.
On Thursday afternoon, Nez and Lizer both announced they were self-quarantining because of close contact with a first responder Tuesday who later tested positive for COVID-19.
“This is real and no one is immune from contracting the virus,” Nez said. “We will continue to help fight for our people while we self-quarantine. This is a precautionary measure.”
The additional 57-hour curfew will not affect the standing daily curfew – from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. – announced March 29 by the Navajo Department of Health.
And the Navajo Police Department announced it would increase monitoring over the weekend to enforce the curfew, with citations and fines up to $1,000 for those it found to be in violation of both the daily and weekend curfew.
Phillip Francisco, Navajo Police chief, said citations for those violating the curfew and stay-at-home orders with nonessential travel began on April 4.