Jan. 21, 2023 -- The Navajo Nation ended its COVID-19 mask mandate on Friday, almost three years after it was instituted.
“It’s time for the Navajo people to get back to work,” Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren said in a news release. “It’s time for them to be able to open their chapter houses to conduct local business and to receive services they are asking for and deserve.”
The reservation has entered “low risk” status in terms of hospital usage for COVID patients, the release said. The reservation has recorded 2,009 COVID-related deaths and 80,539 cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Navajo Nation COVID dashboard. The Navajo Nation covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah and is home to about 250,000 people.
Nygren said the Navajo Nation is one of the last jurisdictions in the country to lift a mask mandate. He was sworn into office Jan. 10, replacing Jonathan Nez, who led the nation when the mask mandate was instituted.
In a tweet, Nez, asked whether the decision to lift the mandate was based on politics or public health.
“The reason why the Covid numbers have been relatively low compared to regions around the Navajo Nation is largely due to the mask mandate. To my knowledge, this new administration has yet to publicly share Covid-19 numbers since taking office and that’s a great concern,” Nez tweeted.
An indoor mask requirement still applies to early childhood education centers, primary and secondary schools, nursing homes, healthcare facilities, and people who have COVID-19 symptoms, test positive, or were exposed.
Native Americans have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic. Compared to non-Hispanic whites, American Indians and Alaska Natives have infection rates that are 3.5 times higher and hospitalization rates that are four times higher, according to the Indian Health Service. They have a higher death rate and die younger.