Wednesday’s presidential forum canceled for coronavirus
Tonight’s Navajo Nation presidential forum in Albuquerque has been canceled because of COVID.
The forum, which was supposed to be hosted by the Diné bi Ołta School Board Association, or DBOSBA, began emailing the presidential candidates that someone tested positive for COVID-19.
The association is having its summer conference in Albuquerque.
DBOSBA President Ervin Chavez said that the individual attended a conference session earlier when they began to feel ill. The person took an at-home COVID test, and the result was positive.
Presidential candidate Rosanna Jumbo-Fitch, from Chinle, said she passed through Grants, New Mexico, when she received an email about the forum cancellation.
“I understand the COVID protocols and restrictions are still a priority for our people. I look forward to the next proposed date,” Jumbo-Fitch wrote in an email.
The email, written by a DBOSBA official, stated an attendee tested positive. The email did not provide other details about the positive case.
“To ensure the safety of our participants, we will be canceling tonight’s (Wednesday night’s) Navajo Nation Presidential Forum and day two of our DBOSBA Summer Conference,” the email sent to the candidates read.
Candidate Buu Nygren also received an email when he was driving through To’Haajiilee, New Mexico, at the time.
Nygren wrote in an email he and his campaign team turned around after getting word of the cancelation.
“Out of an abundance of caution and concern for public health, we have made the decision to withdraw from the Presidential Forum tonight and will look forward to furthering the discussion of education on the Navajo Nation in the future,” he wrote.
Candidate Dineh Benally was already in Albuquerque when he got word of the forum cancelation. Benally expressed his disappointment and said it’s “unfortunate” that the organizers canceled the forum.
On Tuesday, the Navajo Department of Health reported 75 new COVID cases, bringing the overall COVID cases to 52,171, with 1,788 total deaths.
Jared Touchin, the spokesman for the president’s office, said President Jonathan Nez was at the New Mexico Tribal Leaders Summit when he got word of the cancelation.
It is not known if the other candidates, Greg H. Bigman, Earl L. Sombrero, Justin Jones, Frank Dayish, Leslie M. Tsosie, Ethel B. Branch, Frankie Davis, Emily Ellison, Sandra Jeff, Kevin Cody, and Dolly Manson, received the email.
Chavez added that the conference followed Navajo Nation protocols and required attendees to wear masks and social distance.
He said about 100 people registered for the conference.
“It’s very unfortunate, but we are following protocol,” Chavez said. “We want to apologize to all schools and attendees who had to leave early.”
He said he’s planning to speak to the board about rescheduling the forum at another date.
The Northern Agency Veterans Organization will host a candidates’ forum at San Juan College in Farmington on Friday. The forum begins at 4 p.m.