Navajo Nation rescinds mask mandate on reservation

The Navajo Nation has rescinded a mask mandate that’s been in effect since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Friday, fulfilling a pledge that new tribal President Buu Nygren made while campaigning for the office.

The mandate was one of the longest-standing anywhere in the U.S. and applied broadly to businesses, government offices and tourist destinations on the vast reservation, which extends into New Mexico, Utah and Arizona. The tribe at one point had one of the highest coronavirus infection rates in the country and among the strictest measures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Nygren and Navajo Nation Council Delegate Otto Tso, who temporarily is overseeing the tribe’s legislative branch, jointly announced the lifting of the mask mandate on social media Friday evening.

They cited figures from tribal health officials that show there’s a low risk of transmission, based on the seven-day incidence rate of 51 cases per 100,000 people.

The number of positive cases overall during the pandemic still remains higher in the Navajo region than any other Indian Health Service region, except for Oklahoma. The Navajo Nation has tallied more than 2,000 COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began.

Nygren and Tso urged people to continue taking precautionary measures. Masks will still be required in schools, nursing homes and health care facilities, according to the latest public health order.

“It’s time for the Navajo people to get back to work,