Navajo Nation bill seeks to honor COVID-19 victims, essential workers

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A new bill proposes the Navajo Nation Council formally recognize those who have recovered from or who have died of COVID-19 and honor essential and front-line workers.

Delegate Mark Freeland is sponsoring the bill, which would also acknowledge the impact of COVID-19 on families.

"It's about honoring and remembrance. Paying homage to the families and survivors and appreciating essential front-line workers," Freeland said.

"We have to remember all those lives that we lost and recognize the families," he added.

The tribe has reported 30,097 cases of the virus and 1,247 deaths due to the virus as of March 30.

Kendrick James, staff assistant with the Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President, lights a candle on March 17 for an event in Window Rock, Arizona to remember tribal members who died of COVID-19.

The bill will be eligible for consideration starting April 1, and it was assigned to the Health, Education and Human Services Committee and the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee, where final authority rests.

This is the latest action by Navajo leadership to document the impact of COVID-19.

The Office of the President and Vice President remembered those who died and marked one year since the first case was confirmed in events in March at the Veterans Memorial Park in Window Rock, Arizona.

On March 30, the Navajo Department of Health issued a health advisory notice after reporting the first case of the variant first detected in the U.K. was identified on the Navajo Nation.

The Window Rock formation is seen on March 17 during an event to remember members of the Navajo Nation who died of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states the U.K. variant spreads more easily and quicker than other variants, which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.

The case on the Navajo Nation was confirmed in mid-March in an older person living in the Western Agency, the tribe's department of health reported.

"Routine contact tracing was completed, and no additional cases were found," the advisory states.

The health department reminds the public to practice preventive measures against COVID-19 and to receive the vaccine when eligible.

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

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