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Navajo Nation President Vetoes Plan To Reopen Roads To Vistors

Monument Valley on the Navajo Nation.(Photo by Phillip Smith)

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Navajo Nation President Johnathan Nez vetoed a resolution recently approved by the Council that would have reopened tribal roads to all visitors and tourists. Nez cited the discovery of the U.K. and California COVID-19 variants for his veto decision.

“We discussed this issue with our public health experts and agreed that we need to continue to monitor the variants to see the extent of their impacts in the next few weeks before we consider reopening our roads to visitors,” Nez said. “We also need to continue the efforts to vaccinate more of our residents here on the Navajo Nation to move closer to herd immunity and this will take time. I understand that people want to travel and visit our sites here on the Navajo Nation, but we have to prioritize the health and well-being of our people.”

The Navajo Council approved the resolution on March 26 with a 20-1 vote.

Nez added, “When the Council considered this resolution, they did not have the benefit of knowing that these two variants were present in our communities because the variants were detected days later. I respectfully ask the members of the Council to respect the advice and recommendations of our public health experts on this matter.”

The Navajo Department of Health reported 26 new COVID-19 cases on Friday no new deaths. Since the pandemic started 1,260 Navajo Nation residents have lost their lives to the disease.

Vice President Myron Lizer said, “Our daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases continue to fluctuate and our health experts are advising that we wait a little longer before reopening our roads to visitors. All around the Navajo Nation, we are seeing the numbers of infections fluctuate as well. We have to remain diligent and not let up our guard too soon.”

Nez said the end of Utah’s face mask mandate on Saturday and the lifting of nearly all COVID-19 restrictions in Arizona also contributed to his veto.

The Navajo Nation is in the Four Corners area with parts in Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico.

On Wednesday Nez asked Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to have the National Park Service delay reopening of the east entrance to the Grand Canyon National Park which is within Navajo Nation boundaries.

Haaland wrapped up a visit to Bears Ears National Monument in Utah on Friday.

Nez wants Navajo officials to meet with the National Park Service and the Grand Canyon National Park Superintendent.

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