Outgoing Navajo Nation president asks constituents to keep wearing masks to fight COVID-19

The Daily Times staff
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The outgoing president of the Navajo Nation urged tribal members to keep adhering to a mask mandate imposed by health officials early in the pandemic, even if the incoming administration nullifies the policy.

President Jonathan Nez included that message in his office’s regular report on COVID-19 case numbers and deaths, which was issued on Jan. 6.

Byron Shorty, a spokesperson for Navajo Nation President-Elect Dr. Buu Nygren during the transition period, said he had read the release and he knew of no statements issued by the incoming administration on that subject. Shorty said there are many priority issues to be addressed by the new leadership, starting on inauguration day.

Shorty noted that mask and occupancy rules that are in effect will be respected during the inauguration events.

“When the Navajo Department of Health implemented the mask requirement in April 2020, the primary intent was to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and ultimately to save lives,” current Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez stated in the news release. “The mask mandate has saved many lives here on the Navajo Nation.”

Then the outgoing leader made a request to his constituents.

Visitors to Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Arizona are reminded on Aug. 4, 2021 to wear face masks on the Navajo Nation.

“As the Nez-Lizer Administration comes to an end in a few days, we strongly urge our Navajo people to continue to listen to our public health experts and to continue wearing a mask in public places even if the mask mandate is lifted by the incoming administration,” Nez continued. “We have to remember the hardships that we faced together at the onset of this pandemic and remember that together we pushed back on this modern day monster by taking precautions, protecting ourselves and others, and through prayer.”

The 2023 Navajo Nation Inauguration happens on Tuesday, Jan. 10, at the Window Rock Scouts Events Center in Fort Defiance, Arizona.

New cases, deaths reported

The Navajo Department of Health and other agencies reported 141 new COVID-19 cases on the tribal lands and three new deaths over a one-week counting period spanning the days from Dec. 29 to Jan. 4.

The pandemic’s death toll on the Navajo Nation rose to 1,994 people as of Jan. 4, the Office of the President and Vice President reported on Jan. 6.

The number of recorded COVID-19 cases reached 80,305 during that counting period, including 20 cases in which test result reporting had been delayed. There have been 653,358 COVID-19 tests administered since the pandemic began.

Free vaccines are available by appointment, the news release said.

Information, including prevention tips, and resources to help stop the spread of COVID-19, are available via the Navajo Department of Health's COVID-19 website, http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19.