California variant found in Chinle Service Unit
The California variant of the coronavirus, B.1.429, has been reported on the Navajo Nation making it the second new variant to be identified on the Nation in less than a week.
The variant was found in a sample test from a patient at the Indian Health Service’s Chinle Service Unit.
Last week, the variant B.117 was reported to have infected an elderly man in Western Agency. But because he was fully vaccinated he was able to recover quickly.
“The California is highly transmissible and found in the central part of the Navajo Nation,” said President Jonathan Nez during Tuesday’s town hall meeting. “The individual has recovered.
Contact tracers have isolated it and there’s no spread and no positive cases from that as well.”
On Tuesday, the Navajo Nation Department of Health and Epidemiology Center reported three new COVID-19 cases for a cumulative total on the Nation of 30,182, meaning 17 percent of people living on the reservation have been infected. The number of deaths is 1,259 as of Tuesday. Reports indicate that 16,425 individuals have recovered and 256,231 tests have been administered.
The Nation has received 236,086 doses of coronavirus vaccine, of which 206,658 have been administered and the number of fully vaccinated people is 82,396.
Currently, there are 220 contact tracers, for a ratio of 19 for every new daily COVID-19 case.
Dr. Laura Hammitt, with John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, explained the California variant is the leading cause of COVID-19 in the Southwest and is responsible for 50% of the cases in California, 40% in Nevada, and 25% in Arizona.
“We know this is capable of spreading rapidly and efficiently,” said Hammitt. “We need to be mindful of our mitigation strategy. The current available COVID-19 vaccines are expected to greatly reduce the chances of severe disease in people infected with the B.1429 variant.”
In an attempt to keep the virus at bay, Dr. Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer for Navajo Area Indian Health Service, said a new testing strategy, known as surveillance testing, is underway.
This periodic testing will be provided in locations where there are more than 20 people who gather such as at boarding schools, colleges and large businesses.
“We want to know that everyone is safe and no one is exposing anyone to possible COVID,” said Christensen. “We’ll be able to broaden our surveillance and intermittent testing of our work staff and students who return for the weekend from boarding schools and colleges.”
Regarding those who tested positive for COVID-19 during the year, Christensen said they are working on a post-COVID work team.
This team wants to meet with those who had COVID-19 to see if they received medical follow-up and care.
More information will be on the Navajo Nation Department of Health website.