Northern Navajo Medical Center is shown as staff inside begin receiving the COVID-19 vaccine December 16, 2020 in Shiprock, New Mexico. Northern Navajo Medical Center’s medical staff are among the first in the Navajo Nation to receive their Pfizer BioNTech vaccinations today.
Micah Garen | Getty Images News | Getty Images
The Navajo nation, which inhabits the largest area of an indigenous tribe in the United States, reported Monday that it had no new coronavirus cases and deaths in the last 24 hours of launching an aggressive vaccination campaign.
The tribe, whose land stretches across Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, had the highest per capita infection rate in the United States at the height of the pandemic.
The last time the tribe didn’t report any new cases was on September 8, when four people died of Covid-19. That hope was short-lived as cases rose again after Labor Day and up to 400 new daily cases were reported by November.
“No deaths and no cases in 24 hours – yes, it’s remarkable,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez during a town hall meeting Tuesday. “But let’s not let that get into our heads. This is not the time to travel.”
The number began to decline when Pfizer and Moderna rolled out Covid-19 vaccines across the Navajo nation and the rest of the US after drug makers received emergency clearance from the Food and Drug Administration in mid-December.
As of Tuesday, 57% of Navajo citizens had received at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine, and 38% had been fully vaccinated with both doses. Vaccines are available in the strain for anyone aged 16 and over. According to the University of Arizona, there are approximately 298,000 enrolled members of the Navajo Nation, of whom approximately 173,000 Navajos live on the reservation.
The tribe also still has a mask mandate and a daily curfew, and health officials continue to offer free masks and hand sanitizer to citizens.
49 new cases have been recorded in the past seven days, and tribal health officials say an average of 285 tests are performed per day. As a former hotspot in the United States, the strain is in the second lowest place per 100,000 population in the United States in new cases for the past seven days. It ranks third between Puerto Rico and Hawaii the lowest.
Tribal health officials said the Navajo Nation has been in Code Orange for three weeks, meaning the cases are on a downward trend. Its outbreak is so limited that it now falls under the yellow code, which would mean there is no evidence of a sustained recovery in coronavirus cases in the strain, officials said.
Acting Assistant Area Manager Captain Brian Johnson said five rounds of U.S. government funding under the CARES Act, along with Navajo Citizens’ compliance, made a significant difference in the tribe’s ability to fight the pandemic.
Last Monday, some companies were allowed to reopen with a capacity of 25% under certain restrictions. Parks and lakes will soon be reopened only to Navajo citizens. The tribe still doesn’t allow outside visitors and requires that all schooling be virtual.
“We’re not out of the pandemic yet,” Nez said when addressing the Navajo Nation. “Be strong and resilient like our ancestors from time immemorial. … Covid-19 will also be defeated because we are strong warriors and have the armor and weapons to fight this modern monster.”