Coronavirus: Navajo Nation prepares as New Mexico confirms 3 COVID-19 cases

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — The Navajo Nation continues to monitor, plan, prepare and coordinate precautionary efforts to address the coronavirus.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and the New Mexico Department of Health announced on March 11 that three residents in the state tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.

New Mexico was the last state where the Navajo Nation is located to confirm cases of the new virus.

Navajo Area Indian Health Service spokesman Jenny Notah said there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation as of March 11.

The Navajo Nation has been monitoring the new virus through the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team, an entity created on Feb. 27.

"We've been monitoring these states and counties around the Navajo Nation," Nez said, adding his staff and executive branch employees have been distributing information about the coronavirus.

MORE:Governor declares health emergency over coronavirus, recommends large events be canceled

The tribe has been sharing recommendations from the CDC.

"The message I have is to take care of yourself," Nez said.

This includes checking on elderly Navajos and providing them in the Navajo language the recommendations by the CDC, he said.

Travel restrictions added

To further the response effort, Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer issued restrictions on March 11 for off-reservation travel for all employees under the executive branch. This elevated the travel advisory the two leaders made on March 3.

"Those that are on travel right now need to return," Nez said, adding his administration had discouraged employee travel to areas with high cases of the coronavirus.

MAP:Where is coronavirus? Interactive map shows cases in New Mexico and beyond

Speaker Seth Damon and Chief Justice JoAnn Jayne have issued travel advisories for employees in the legislative and judicial branches.

"It is our duty and priority to prevent the spread of this disease as much as possible for the safety of our employees and our Diné people," Jayne said in a judicial branch press release.

Rather than travel, the leaders recommend employees meet by teleconference or by video conference when possible.

The announcement of the coronavirus in the state caused the governor to instruct EXPO New Mexico to postpone the 37th annual Gathering of Nations Powwow in Albuquerque.

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The annual powwow was scheduled for April 23 to April 25 at Tingley Coliseum, which part of the state's multi-use entertainment and events facility.

Event organizers announced the postponement at about noon on March 11.

Navajo coronavirus preparedness team

The Navajo Nation COVID-19 Preparedness Team consists of health care professionals from the Indian Health Service, personnel from the Navajo Department of Health, the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Bureau of Education and members of the Nez-Lizer administration.

Their most recent meeting was on March 9 in Window Rock, Arizona.

Nez said officials have also been meeting with the IHS on Tuesdays and Thursdays, where updates from the federal, state and county health departments are presented.

MORE:Coronavirus is spreading in the US. Here's everything to know, from symptoms to how to protect yourself

To share information with the public, the administration has been sharing updates on social media, hosting radio forums Thursday evenings on KTNN 660AM, developing flyers for distribution at chapter houses and senior citizen centers, and setting up a website at

The administration also announced the translation of COVID-19 into the Navajo language, Dikos Ntsaaígíí-Náhást'éíts'áadah.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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