Navajo Nation casinos remain closed amid COVID-19 pandemic

The Navajo Nation’s casinos will stay closed into next month, a decision that is in line with the tribe’s partial government closure and a stay-at-home order for the reservation’s residents.

The tribe has three casinos in New Mexico near Farmington, Shiprock, and Gallup, and one in Arizona east of Flagstaff. They have been closed since mid-March and will remain shuttered until at least June 7.

The Navajo Nation Gaming Enterprise said its employees, 82% of whom are Navajo, are still receiving paychecks and health benefits. They also have access to mental health and other services. Board chairman Quincy Natay said officials wanted to ensure employees didn’t face additional hardships.

On Wednesday night, the Navajo Nation reported 100 new cases of coronavirus and two more deaths, pushing the total number of COVID-19 cases now to 4,253 with 146 known deaths.

The tribe is among the hardest-hit areas in the U.S., due partly to a higher percentage of residents being tested, Navajo President Jonathan Nez has said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death. The vast majority of people recover.

A reopening plan for Navajo Nation casinos includes “extensive countermeasures so patrons and team members are assured they’ll have a safe and sanitary casino resort experience,” said Brian Parrish, the enterprise’s chief executive.

The Navajo Nation’s judicial branch announced Tuesday that it will provide public services electronically through July. Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne said her staff will be looking at the court facilities to ensure they are safe for the staff and the public when it comes time to reopen.

The Navajo Agricultural Products Industry — a commercial tribal farm near Farmington — said an on-site store that sells livestock feed, flour, corn, and other items under the Navajo Pride label will remain open with reduced hours. Its main office and other locations are closed to the public.

In order to protect yourself from a possible infection, the CDC recommends: 

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

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