Navajo nation mask mandate lifted with four exceptions
FARMINGTON - The Navajo Nation announced the lifting of a years-long mask mandate on Jan. 20, 2023, with some exceptions to protect those most vulnerable to the virus. It's a move that Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said he'd promised to make when elected.
The mandate required the use of masks in public spaces over the last three years since the coronavirus outbreak across the nation killed an estimated 1.1 million people nationwide. According to the Navajo Nation Department of Health, 2,013 people have died from the virus in the Navajo Nation since the pandemic began.
"The order leaves the continued wearing of masks optional for the general public for all businesses with four exceptions," a news release from the Office of the President read.
Those exceptions include early childhood education, primary and secondary schools, nursing homes and healthcare facilities, where masks are still a required precaution.
"It's time for the Navajo people to get back to work," said Nygren.
"It is time for them to be able to open their chapter houses to conduct local business and to receive services they are asking for and deserve," Nygren said.
In his State of the Nation address on Jan. 25, Nygren asked individuals to continue to seek vaccinations and boosters.
"It's up to you," Nygren said in the address.
The week the mandate was lifted, the Navajo Nation reported 81 cases and a hospital bed rate of 1.8%, which is "classified as low risk," the release stated.
Data from the Navajo Department of Health showed 53 cases reported in the last update on Jan. 26, with four deaths in that same reporting period.
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"With the executive mandate being lifted, I want to ensure our people the welfare of our communities, families and elders is still a top priority," said Pro Tem Speaker Otto Tso.
"As we move forward, our Nation's safety will lie directly in our hands, a responsibility that should not be taken lightly, so I ask you to continue taking precautionary measures."
Those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 and who either tested positive or were exposed to the virus were asked to continue to wear a mask to prevent infectious spread.
The Navajo Nation is among the last jurisdictions in the U.S. to lift its mask requirement.
Occupancy restrictions because of COVID-19 were lifted Nov. 14.
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.
Jessica Onsurez can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JussGREAT.