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Navajo Nation Steps Up Enforcement Of Nightly Curfew With COVID-19 Cases Rising

Screengrab of a video of Phillip Francisco speaking while sitting behind a desk
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer Facebook page
Navajo Police Chief Phillip Francisco addressed enforcement of the Nation's nightly curfew during a press conference on Friday.

The Navajo Nation is stepping up enforcement of a curfew put in place earlier this week.

Navajo Police Chief Phillip Francisco said people traveling after curfew will be stopped and could be issued a criminal citation. 

“The biggest thing we’re trying to do is generate voluntary compliance with the order, so this doesn’t spread from family to family or area to area on the reservation, so we don’t overload our medical facilities anymore,” he said. 

The stepped-up enforcement comes as the number of positive cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation climbed to 241, with eight deaths due to the virus.

Francisco added that the Navajo Nation is asking Utah, Arizona and New Mexico for permission to narrow state highways entering the reservation to one lane, so they can put up signs informing people of the curfew in place each night from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

To date officers have only issued warnings to those in violation of the curfew, which started on Monday, Francisco said. But with the number of COVID-19 cases rising rapidly on the Navajo Nation, he added that his officers have been directed to start issuing criminal citations to anyone in violation of the curfew. 

During a press conference Friday, Navajo Nation Attorney General Doreen McPaul said that hospitals on the reservation are nearing surge capacity, and warned visitors to stay away. 

“As a visitor, if there’s an issue on the Navajo Nation, you might not receive medical care,” she said. 

Nez said during the press conference that tribal police will be checking people’s temperatures and credentials at roadblocks before allowing them to enter the reservation. But Francisco said that only people in violation of the curfew will be stopped, and his officers won’t be taking temperatures or erecting roadblocks.

Kate Groetzinger is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southeast Bureau in San Juan County. Follow Kate on Twitter @kgroetzi

Kate joined KUER from Austin, Texas. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Texas at Austin’s Moody School of Communication. She has been an intern, fellow and reporter at Texas Monthly, the Texas Observer, Quartz, the Texas Standard and Voces, an oral history project. Kate began her public radio career at Austin’s NPR station, KUT, as a part-time reporter. She served as a corps member of Report For America, a public service program that partners with local newsrooms to bring reporters to undercovered areas across the country.
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