Popular tourist sites in the Navajo Nation could soon reopen


FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Popular tourist destinations in the Navajo Nation, including Canyon de Chelly, can welcome tourists back Monday as part of the tribe’s reopening plan.

Much of the Navajo Nation has been shut down since March as the coronavirus swept through the reservation that spans New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The tribe released a plan this week that allows hair salons and hair salons to open by appointment only, businesses to operate at 25% of maximum capacity and the reopening of marinas and parks with guarantees.

Lookouts and restrooms at Canyon de Chelly National Monument will be accessible to tourists. But visitor centers will be closed there as well as at Hubbell Trading Post National Monument and Navajo National Monument. Ranger-led hikes will also not be available. All three sites are managed at least in part by the National Park Service.

“It’s really important for the National Park Service, especially in this area, to follow the lead of the Navajo Nation and slowly approach all three openings,” agency spokeswoman Vanessa Lacayo said.

Staff will be busy this weekend putting up signs, updating websites and social media accounts and preparing for visitors at a time when the parks are typically very busy with tourists, it said. she declared.

Goulding’s Lodge near Monument Valley was also gearing up for tourists. For months, it has mainly accommodated people traveling through the reservation who were unable to visit the tribal park known for its towering sandstone buttes, marketing manager Monica Lafont said.

“We never really closed. We just jumped into the 100% precautionary mindset, and our policy and procedures are being enforced,” she said.

The tribe’s plan has four color-coded phases for reopening – red with the highest restrictions, orange, yellow and green, which has the lowest restrictions. The tribe will operate in the orange phase from Monday.

As part of this phase, casinos, flea markets, gyms and cinemas will remain closed. Restaurants and banks can still only provide drive-thru.

Businesses and tribal executive offices must show they have met certain standards based on data and input from health experts to open. Tribal Chairman Jonathan Nez said the reopening plan has been in the works for weeks.

The tribe has confirmed 9,412 positive cases of COVID-19 on the reservation since the pandemic began. On Friday, 478 people died.

The numbers are a big change from earlier this year, when the tribe had one of the highest per capita infection rates in the United States. The tribe has had fewer than 50 cases a day for the past two weeks, he said.

The majority of people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 recover. In some people, it causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others who contract the virus, especially those who are older or have underlying health conditions, it can lead to more serious illness and death.

Nez said the tribe would not be rushing to fully reopen, acknowledging that cases could increase if residents become complacent. The reservation will be under another lockdown this weekend which begins after sunset on Saturday and ends early Monday. A mask requirement is also in place.

“Through contact tracing, we are learning more about the movement of the virus and we know the fight is not over, but we need to find new ways to move forward,” Nez said.

This week, Nez also urged all schools on the reservation, including those controlled by the states, the Navajo Nation and the federal government, to use online learning this fall to help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus.


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