Members of the Navajo Nation are advised to continue wearing masks on the reservation even in states where COVID-19 mandates have been dropped.
On Friday, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the mask recommendation would remain for the 298,000 residents of the reservation despite Arizona and New Mexico dropping the requirement.
"We are seeing a gradual decline in the numbers of new cases, but we have to remain diligent and keep taking precautions to lessen the spread of COVID-19 in our homes and communities," Nez said in a press release from the Navajo Nation Friday.
"Wearing two masks in public places and getting fully vaccinated are the best defense against this virus. Please be very cautious, encourage your elders to take precautions, and continue to pray."
The Navajo Reservation takes up about 27,000 square miles, and is included in the three states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, according to the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension.
It is the largest Native American reservation in the United States and has an area greater than the states of Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire combined.
The total number of enrolled members includes 173,000 that live on the reservation itself.
Enrolled members must have at least one-quarter Navajo ancestry to be allowed in the nation.
The nation reports that it has a total of 52,023 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began, and 1,641 deaths from the disease.
Eleven new cases were reported on Friday along with two deaths, according to the nation.
The move to continue masking comes as New Mexico on Thursday lifted its mask mandate for indoor public places, the Associated Press reports.
Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the move at a press conference after Thursday’s legislative session, even though a week earlier the state’s top health official said the state was still "in hot water" with the virus and that masks were effective, according to the report.
"It’s not a political decision," Gov. Grisham said."It’s the right time for us. We are conquering COVID, and we’ll keep doing that."
There are no state mask mandates in Arizona, according to Gov. Doug Ducey, and Utah ended the requirement in January.
"Our faith in our prayers and the love of our family and friends continue to carry us through this pandemic," Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said.
"Our frontline workers continue to fight hard for all of us each day. So, please help them by taking extra precautions and taking care of our elders and those with underlying health conditions. We are in this together."
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