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As omicron subsides, Navajo Nation proceeds with caution

Many states and cities across the country have begun to relax COVID-19 safety measures as cases decline from the omicron surge. But the Navajo Nation is continuing to urge caution for its citizens.

The Navajo Nation has had a mask requirement in place since April 2020 and many businesses on the reservation are still required to operate at limited capacity. Navajo Nation leaders say these measures helped keep caseloads and hospitalizations lower than the U.S. average throughout the omicron spike.

The Navajo Nation reports it has recently seen about 400 cases per 100,000 people per week, while statewide, Arizona has been reporting more than 600 cases per 100,000 per week. 

In a  town hall video Tuesday, Navajo Department of Health director Dr. Jill Jim said it’s too soon to let up on mitigation measures.

“This was obviously the highest surge that we experienced on the Navajo Nation. Thankfully, we didn’t have high hospitalizations. But we want to continue to give our health professionals a break,” Jim said. “Stay vigilant. The numbers are going down, but we just want to make sure that we continue to encourage everyone to take all the precautions that they need to.” 

Vaccination rates on the reservation are higher than Arizona’s statewide rate. The tribe estimates about 65% of residents are fully vaccinated. Statewide, about 59% of Arizonans are fully vaccinated. 

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.