First case of COVID-19 variant from California confirmed on Navajo Nation

Prevention key to halting spread of the virus, officials say

John R. Moses
Farmington Daily Times
Miss Navajo Nation Shaandiin Parrish walks by luminarias as part of tribute to tribal members who died of COVID-19 in an event on March 17 in Window Rock, Arizona.

FARMINGTON – A COVID-19 variant first identified in California was found in a test sample from the Chinle Service Area on the Navajo Nation, tribal leaders and health officials announced April 6 during a virtual town hall meeting.

Officials said the variant has been detected across the southwest states. This is the first time it has been confirmed on the Navajo Nation, and the second variant to have been confirmed. The arrival of strain known widely as the U.K. variant was announced on March 30.

The Navajo Department of Health, the release noted, has completed contact tracing, and the person who tested positive for the B.1.429 variant has recovered. The release did not state whether that person had been previously vaccinated, and a request for more information was not answered by the Daily Times press deadline.

“There is still much to be learned about the B.1.429 variant, commonly known as the California variant,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a release. “At this point, the California variant has been detected in all of the states that surround the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Department of Health continues to work with states and other partners to conduct surveillance to help identify if there are more variant cases.” Nez said prevention is key.

“We have to continue taking all precautions by wearing one or two masks, avoiding medium to large in-person gatherings, practicing social distancing, getting tested if symptoms occur, and washing your hands often,” President Nez said in the April 6 press release.

Also attending the town hall event was Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim, officials from the Navajo Area IHS and Dr. Laura Hammitt of John Hopkins University.

The release stated that the Navajo Epidemiology Center, "under the Navajo Department of Health and Health Command Operations Center, continues to coordinate with states and other testing facilities to sequence samples for the variants."

Details about the COVID variant from California

The B.1.429 variant is of concern because “it has increased transmissibility, meaning that it can spread from person to person at a greater rate,” the release said. In addition, the release noted that “one of the monoclonal antibody treatments (bamlanivimab) has limited activity against the B.1.429 variant. However, other monoclonal antibody treatments are available that are effective.”

Vice President Myron Lizer stressed the importance of self-isolation if one feels symptoms of COVID-19, suspects exposure or has an active diagnosis.

“We already know how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and it’s no different with the two variants that have now been identified on the Navajo Nation,” Lizer said in the release. “If we isolate the ourselves, we isolate the virus and that’s why it’s very important to get tested if you feel symptoms related to COVID-19.”

More information on the virus, including prevention tips, and resources to help stop its spread, can be found on the Navajo Department of Health's COVID-19 website at

Call (928) 871-7014 to get answers to COVID-19 related questions by phone.

Contact John R. Moses at 505-564-4624, or via email at

This story appears free online in front of our paywall, but we need the support of readers like you to continue to provide free updates on important health and safety news. Please support local journalism by buying a digital subscription: