Navajo Nation mask mandate lifted, President Buu Nygren signs executive order amending Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-001

Navajo Nation mask mandate lifted, President Buu Nygren signs executive order amending Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-001

WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — On Friday, Navajo Nation President Buu Nygren signed an Executive Order to amend the public health order that made wearing of a mask mandatory in enclosed areas and in public on the Navajo Nation.

The intent and purpose of Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-002 is to amend the Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-001, which lifted the indoor mask mandate.

The President emphasized the amendment does not mean masks cannot continue to be worn.

Primarily, early childhood education — childcare and preschool, including primary schools and secondary schools, school sponsored events held indoors, could continue to comply with the COVID-19 Safe School Framework and their respective mitigation plans.

Nursing Homes located within the Navajo Nation and individuals who provide care to the vulnerable population, such as elders, immunocompromised, and those who have pre-existing conditions, could also continue complying with their mitigation plans. Healthcare facilities that require masks pursuant to their guidelines, procedures and protocols.

Individuals with COVID-19 symptoms, who tested positive for COVID-19, or who have been exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.

“One of my campaign promises was to help our  Nation move on from the COVID-19 pandemic and one of the ways to do that is by lifting the mask mandate,” said President Nygren on Friday. “Today, under my leadership, the Department of Health is lifting the mask mandate for the Navajo Nation.”

The President indicated that anyone still choosing to wear a mask while on the Navajo Nation, could continue doing so. However, the signing of the executive order means the Navajo Nation is no longer requiring masks.

“As always, anyone should feel free to wear a mask if they so choose. If institutions such as healthcare facilities, nursing homes, and schools choose to require masks, they may do so under their own guidelines,” he said.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on the Navajo Nation. According to the Navajo Department of Health COVID-19 statistics, 2,117 Navajo people have lost their lives to the virus.

NDOH report the “current risk for infection is low,”which allows for the issuance of Public Health Emergency Order No. 2023-002 — lifting the indoor mask mandate within the Navajo Nation.

They added from April 20-26, the Navajo Nation encountered 207 cases with a seven-day incidence.

President Nygren, in January announced in coordination with the Navajo Department of Health,  the COVID-19 mask mandate on the Navajo Nation has been lifted.

In the mask mandate lifting, the public health emergency order applied to public spaces that included the 110 chapters. The wearing of a mask at that time remained an option.

After 1,007 days, or nearly 3 years, of requiring masks on the Navajo Nation, the president noted that this is one of the last jurisdictions in the country to lift the mandate that was ordered by the Navajo Department of Health.

President Nygren said he will respect healthcare facilities, schools, senior centers to continue enforcing their COVID-19 protocols. He added many schools across the Nation wanted the mask mandate to be lifted because it was difficult for schools to require students to wear them in class.

“It was really tough on the (school) administrators,” he said.

President Nygren faced criticisms in January when he lifted the mask mandate. He said being a leader meant making decisions that weren’t popular with the general public.

“You got to make decisions that’s not going to make a lot of people happy, you’re not here to please everybody,” he said. “In order to move out Nation forward you have to make bold decisions.”

President Nygren reiterated wearing a mask is an option and encouraged everyone to continue staying safe.

“Let’s continue to be diligent,” he said.