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Coronavirus variant found in Navajo Nation

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The first case of the U.K. variant of the coronavirus has hit the Navajo Nation, according to a press release from the tribe on March 30.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer wrote on their Facebook page that Strain Variant B.1.1.7 was confirmed through a COVID-19 test sample received in the “western portion” of the Nation.

The person who has it had in fact received the COVID-19 vaccine over a month before testing positive and being hospitalized, the release, citing local health officials, said. But this person is now at home recovering. Additionally, health officials conducted contact tracing on this case and confirmed no further spread of B 1.1.7.

“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,” Navajo Department of Health Executive Director Dr. Jill Jim said. “The vaccines help to reduce the severity of the disease if you become infected with COVID-19.”

B 1.1.7. is a “more highly transmissible" version of coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of March 28, there were 10,579 cases of this variant reported in the U.S., according to the agency.

Nez made extensive remarks about the development in a Facebook Live town hall, which have become regular briefings regarding how the pandemic is affecting the Navajo Nation.

“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,” Nez, who noted the variant is active in all 50 states, said.

He added that the Navajo Department of Health is working with other states and partners to see if there are more cases involving the U.K. variant.

“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,” Nez said.

Lizer reinforced Nez’s message about his people taking precautions against COVID-19.

“We know how to prevent the virus from spreading, but we all have to do our part,” Lizer said. “Please remain vigilant, keep taking all precautions, and continue to pray.”

The Navajo Nation’s Department of Health website has COVID-19-related information at http://www.ndoh.navajo-nsn.gov/COVID-19 or you can call (928) 871-7014.