Navajo Nation keeps mandate to wear face masks
GALLUP — The Navajo Nation is keeping its mandate for people to wear face masks when in public, despite last week's shift by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that lessens restrictive mask guidance for those fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Navajo Department of Health Director Jill Jim reaffirmed on May 13 the tribe's mask requirement, which has been in place since last April.
Earlier that day, the CDC announced that individuals who are fully vaccinated no longer need to wear masks indoors or outdoors and eased social distancing requirements.
However, the exception is when masks are required by state, local, tribal or territorial laws as well as businesses and workplaces.
"We are staying the course with our mask mandate here on the Navajo Nation. Everyone is still required to wear a mask in public, indoors and outdoors," Nez said in a press release from his office.
He added, "we will continue to be very cautious and take careful steps to gradually lift restrictions once we see our vaccination numbers increase, but we need to do more to reach our goal of community immunity."
Nez has stated previously that 75% of residents on the tribal land need to be vaccinated before officials and health professionals consider reopening the region to tourists and visitors.
People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after receiving a second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, according to the CDC.
The New Mexico Department of Health announced on May 14 relaxed mask and social distancing requirements in certain situations for individuals who are fully vaccinated.
Nez mentioned the CDC's latest guidance and reiterated the tribe's stance during the Navajo Technical University spring commencement on May 14.
"As you heard yesterday, the CDC and the White House are throwing their masks away. Not us here on the Navajo Nation, because we're doing it – not for ourselves – when we wear our masks, we're doing it for our elders, we're doing it for our children, we're wearing these masks because we want our communities to be safe," Nez said.
Among the graduates who heard the president's remarks was Anthony Joe, whose four relatives and two friends died from COVID-19.
He commended the decision to keep the mask requirement on the Navajo Nation.
"This is us fighting our own war individually to keep ourselves safe, our families safe," Joe said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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