Letter: Mask-wearing still effective against COVID, RSV, Flu



Yee Ha’ólníi Doo DBA the Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund is encouraging continued mask-wearing as an effective form of protection against COVID-19, RSV, influenza and other airborne viruses.

On Jan. 20, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren, in coordination with the Navajo Department of Health and the 24th Navajo Nation Council Speaker Pro Tem Otto Tso, lifted the mask mandate on the Navajo Nation.

The president issued Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-001, in which the intent was to lift the indoor mask mandate for the general public and all businesses.

The exceptions to the Order are early childhood education, primary and secondary schools, nursing homes, healthcare facilities and individuals with COVID-19 symptoms who have tested positive for COVID-19 or have been exposed to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

President Nygren based his rationale on opening up all tribal departments and businesses to provide services without restriction. The Relief Fund views this order as premature and detrimental to the health and safety of the elderly, immunocompromised and other vulnerable segments of the Navajo population.

Yee Ha’ólníi Doo Interim Executive Director Mary Francis said she’s encouraged to see a continued decline in the number of new Navajo COVID cases but thinks it’s too soon to lift the mask mandate. Yee Ha’ólníi Doo is concerned about inconsistencies in data reporting from the Navajo Department of Health.

“We still receive COVID assistance requests but we currently only offer isolation kits through our Tsé Bii’ Ndzisgai Community Center in Monument Valley. These kits consist of PPE supplies,” Francis said. “We refer all COVID assistance calls to the Navajo Nation COVID-19 Relief hotline.

Many regions of the country and world are being impacted by the highly transmissible XBB.1.5 Omicron variant.

“We have to remember these viruses are continuously evolving and we shouldn’t let our guards down so easily,” she said. “Dropping the mask mandate increases the vulnerability of our Navajo people to any possible surge that could happen with this new variant or any other variant.”

Mask-wearing on the Navajo Nation should remain mandatory as it provides a significant amount of protection.

The Center for Disease Control and the World Health Organization both encourage mask wearing as part of a comprehensive strategy to suppress transmission of COVID-19 and save lives.

Masks are made to contain droplets or particles that you cough, breathe or sneeze out. Safe and effective mask wearing can block these particles and prevent the spread of any airborne virus between people gathering in close proximity.

The Relief Fund encourages the Navajo people to continue adhering to safety precautions such as mindful social distancing, hand washing, mask wearing, and vaccinating.

Mihio Manus

Yee Ha’ólníi Doo

Public Relations Director

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