One case of more contagious COVID-19 variant found on Navajo Nation

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON – The Navajo Nation reported March 30 that the first case of the U.K variant of the COVID-19 virus on tribal land has been identified, and the patient was recovering after hospitalization. 

That patient had been vaccinated one month before testing positive and was recovering at home, according to a release from the Office of the President and Vice President.

The news was announced during a town hall meeting held March 30 by Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer.

“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be informed about this new development,” Nez said in the release. “There is still much to be learned about this particular variant, but the evidence so far indicates that the UK variant is more contagious and is more severe in some cases. The U.K. variant has been detected in all 50 states, and now we have a confirmed case here on the Navajo Nation.”

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Health care workers from Northern Navajo Medical Center, San Juan County Public Health Office and the National Guard collected samples from the public at a free testing site for COVID-19 on May 5 at Shiprock High School in Shiprock.

Nez was joined during the town hall meeting by Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim, Navajo area IHS officials, Dr. Laura Hammitt of Johns Hopkins University and Dr. Amanda Burrage of the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation.

“In this particular case, the severity of the infection for this individual may have been reduced by the vaccine that the person received weeks prior,” Jim said. “As we’ve said before, the vaccines do not guarantee that a person won’t become infected with COVID-19 and the variants, so it’s very important to continue taking all precautions even after you are fully vaccinated.”

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Agencies continue to conduct contact tracing and work with agencies in other states to monitor the spread of COVID-19 variants. In this case, “no further spread was identified beyond the one individual who tested positive for the U.K. variant,” the release stated.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 31, 2020 at Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup.

Meanwhile, vaccination efforts on the Navajo Nation are ongoing.

“We continue to encourage our people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines, which are effective in reducing the effects of COVID-19. If someone misses their second dose, they should schedule an appointment to get the second dose as soon as possible,” said Jim.

Officials said continuing to protect oneself against the virus through protective measures and limited travel is the most effective way to stay healthy.

“We don’t want to cause panic, but we want to reinforce the need to take all precautions by limiting travel, getting tested if symptoms occur, wearing one or two masks, avoiding medium to large in-person gatherings, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands often,” Nez said.

The release stated that the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 Strain Variant B.1.1.7 — also referred to as the U.K. variant — was found in a COVID-19 test sample that was obtained in the western portion of the Navajo Nation.

Additional information and resources are available online from the Navajo Department of Health's COVID-19 website at Call 928-871-7014 to ask COVID-19-related questions by phone.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at Support local journalism with a digital subscription: