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Navajo Nation eases COVID restrictions; mask mandate remains

The Navajo Nation, has been more cautious with the pandemic than the states that surround it.

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Navajo Nation loosened coronavirus pandemic restrictions Tuesday to allow more people into businesses, including casinos, and for social and other gatherings.

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Tribal casinos, restaurants, movie theaters, campgrounds, museums, movie theaters and other businesses now can operate at 75% capacity, up from 50% capacity that had been in place since last summer. Businesses must submit a plan to the tribe's Division of Economic Development before they can implement the new limits.

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

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

Schools also have capacity limits for orientations and other gatherings not related to instruction and for sporting events. Indoor arenas can be at 50% of maximum capacity, and outdoor seating areas at 75%.

The Navajo Nation, which is largest reservation in the U.S. at 27,000 square miles (69,930 square kilometers), has been more cautious with the pandemic than the states that surround it. Utah, New Mexico and Arizona do not have mask mandates, and businesses there have been fully reopened for months.

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

Tribal President Jonathan Nez said the new guidelines are based on what's been a consistent 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 delayed reporting and reconciliation of data, tribal spokesman Jared Touchin said.

As of Monday, the tribe reported 53,082 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since the pandemic began. The death toll was 1,734.

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