As COVID-19 vaccines begin to arrive, Navajo Nation President urges residents to not let their guard down

The Navajo Nation saw a spike in COVID-19 cases after Thanksgiving, and leaders are hoping there's not a repeat after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

As the Native American nation battles the pandemic, 7,800 doses of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine are being delivered to the nation. On Dec. 22, the nation received a number of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Navajo Nation’s president, Jonathan Nez, says the vaccine’s arrival is a step in the right direction, especially after the nation put in strict lockdowns to get those numbers down.

"We will be ready to administer into the arms of our healthcare providers [on Dec. 23]," said President Nez. "This next dose of Moderna, we’ll begin to give them to healthcare workers like the EMTs and our frontline workers, so we're looking forward to that.

President Nez says of the 3,900 Pfizer vaccine doses the nation has received, more than 90% have already been given to healthcare workers. Those doses arrived on the nation a week ago.

The Navajo Nation is one of the hardest-hit areas in the country, forcing leaders to take strict measures like lockdowns and curfews. Currently, a stay-at-home order remains in effect on the nation through Dec. 28.

"We are in the fifth week of our six-week lockdown right now, and we are now seeing in the statistics, the data, that we are now flattening the curve and we are in a slight downward trend here in Navajo Nation," said President Nez.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, the Navajo Nation saw coronavirus cases spike, and as Christmas approaches, President Nez is encouraging people on the Native American reservation to spend the holiday only with those in their household.

"We have to tell our Navajo people that now is not the time to let down," said President Nez. "I know that a lot of people are seeing that the vaccines are here and they might begin to let down, but please let's not do this. All across the country, let's not do that. We’re in this together by just honoring and respecting our healthcare professionals and our leaders."

The Navajo Nation is reporting 151 new coronavirus cases and seven more deaths from COVID-19.

The latest figures reported Tuesday by the Navajo Department of Health bring the total number of cases on the reservation that extends into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah to 21,327. The Navajo Nation has reported 755 deaths since the pandemic hit.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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COVID-19 symptoms

Symptoms for coronavirus COVID-19 include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. These, of course, are similar to the common cold and flu. 

Expect a common cold to start out with a sore or scratchy throat, cough, runny and/or stuffy nose. Flu symptoms are more intense and usually come on suddenly, and can include a high fever. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 may appear more slowly. They usually include fever, a dry cough and noticeable shortness of breath, according to the World Health Organization. A minority of cases develop pneumonia, and the disease is especially worrisome for the elderly and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes or heart conditions.

RELATED: Is it the flu, a cold or COVID-19? Different viruses present similar symptoms

COVID-19 resources

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)