First case of COVID-19 UK variant confirmed on Navajo Nation

Coronavirus New Mexico

NAVAJO NATION (KRQE) – The Navajo Nation has announced the first confirmed case of the COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 Strain Variant B.1.1.7, also referred to as the U.K. variant, at a virtual town hall Tuesday. The Navajo Nation says the test sample was obtained in the western portion of the Nation.

“We shouldn’t panic, but we should be informed about this new development. There is still much to be learned about this particular variant, but the evidence so far indicates that the UK variant is more contagious and is more severe in some cases. The U.K. variant has been detected in all 50 states, and now we have a confirmed case here on the Navajo Nation. The Navajo Department of Health continues to work with states and other partners to conduct surveillance to help identify if there are more variant cases. We don’t want to cause panic, but we want to reinforce the need to take all precautions by limiting travel, getting tested if symptoms occur, wearing one or two masks, avoiding medium to large in-person gatherings, practicing social distancing, and washing your hands often,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in a news release.

According to the Navajo Department of Health, the individual that tested positive for the U.K. variant received the COVID-19 vaccine over one month prior to testing positive and was hospitalized and is now recovering at home. The Navajo Nation conducted contact tracing and no further spread was identified beyond the one individual who tested positive for the U.K. variant. The Navajo Epidemiology Center, under the Navajo Department of Health and Health Command Operations Center, continues to coordinate with states and other testing facilities to sequence samples for the variants. 

“In this particular case, the severity of the infection for this individual may have been reduced by the vaccine that the person received weeks prior. As we’ve said before, the vaccines do not guarantee that a person won’t become infected with COVID-19 and the variants, so it’s very important to continue taking all precautions even after you are fully vaccinated. The vaccines help to reduce the severity of the disease if you become infected with COVID-19. Everyone must continue to take all precautions including wearing a mask and limiting your travel to essential activities only. We continue to encourage our people to receive the COVID-19 vaccines, which are effective in reducing the effects of COVID-19. If someone misses their second dose, they should schedule an appointment to get the second dose as soon as possible,” said Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim in the same news release.

“Personal responsibility is key to reducing the spread of the U.K. variant. We know how to prevent the virus from spreading, but we all have to do our part. Please remain vigilant, keep taking all precautions, and continue to pray. Our health care experts are doing their best to mitigate the spread of the U.K. variant and to save lives,” said Vice President of the Navajo Nation Myron Lizer in a news release. 

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