First case of COVID-19 U.K. variant confirmed on the Navajo Nation
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On March 30, the Navajo Nation announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 Strain Variant B.1.1.7 also referred to as the U.K. variant, from a COVID-19 test sample that was obtained in the western portion of the Navajo Nation.
The U.K. variant is currently the most dominant variant in the United States and has been detected in all 50 states, including many cases in the Four Corners states.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez was joined by Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim, Navajo Area IHS officials, Dr. Laura Hammitt with John Hopkins University and Dr. Amanda Burrage with Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, as he made the announcement during a live online town hall on Tuesday.
“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be informed about this new development. 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,” Nez said.
Nez said 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.
“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.
According to the Navajo Department of Health, the person who tested positive for the U.K. variant received the COVID-19 vaccine over one month prior to testing positive and was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.
“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.”
Jim said the vaccines help to reduce the severity of the disease if someone becomes infected with COVID-19. But that everyone should continue to take all precautions including wearing a mask and limiting travel to essential activities only.
“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,” Jim said.
Contact tracing was conducted and no further spread was identified beyond the one individual who tested positive for the U.K. variant.
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.
“Personal responsibility is key to reducing the spread of the U.K. variant,” said Vice President Myron Lizer said. “We know how to prevent the virus from spreading, but we all have to do our part. Please remain vigilant, keep taking all precautions, and continue to pray. Our health care experts are doing their best to mitigate the spread of the U.K. variant and to save lives.”
More information, including helpful prevention tips, and resources to help stop the spread of COVID-19 is available by visiting the Navajo Department of Health's COVID-19 website at http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19 or by calling (928) 871-7014.