Utah moves toward opening while Navajo Nation institutes restrictive weekend curfew
The local response to the COVID-19 pandemic is moving in two opposite directions at once. At the same time that Utah Governor Gary Herbert announced that San Juan County will move to the Yellow, Low-Risk Phase of Health Guidance, the Navajo Nation is instituting its most restrictive policies yet.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has declared a weekend curfew, stating that all businesses on the Navajo Nation with close on Friday, May 15 at 8 p.m. and cannot reopen until Monday, May 18 at 5 a.m.. Those closures include gas stations and grocery stores, businesses that had been previously deemed as “essential”.
At the same time, the Utah policies significantly lighten the voluntary restrictions that have been in place for the past two months.
Groups of 50 people are allowed, pools can open, businesses are open, dine-in service is allowed, and social distancing is requested at group gatherings.
The San Juan Public Health Department reports 154 cases of COVID-19 in the county, with 18 hospitalizations and three deaths.
Of the total, 151 cases were reported by Utah Navajo Health Systems. The unincorporated areas of San Juan County are experiencing the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the state.
The contrast is stark, with the zip codes covered by Monticello and Blanding reporting fewer than five cases.
On the Navajo Nation as a whole, there are 3,632 COVID-19 cases and 127 deaths.
In San Juan County, the local healthcare agencies, hospitals, and health department hosted an open-testing event at Centennial Park in Blanding on Thursday and Friday.
More than 700 people participated in the drive-thru testing event on Thursday. Free COVID-19 testing resumed again Friday at the same location. Testing is offered free of charge, and open to anyone.
San Juan Public Health director, Kirk Benge, stated, "I anticipate that we will uncover many more positive cases with our Blanding outreach testing on Thursday and Friday this week.
"The rapid uptick in new cases may make some people nervous at first, but this increased testing will also shed more light on the current status of COVID-19 infections in our community, and will provide valuable information to help ensure we are informed
as we move to the Yellow risk level.”