July 6, 2021

Coalition of Native women urge the public to keep wearing masks

On Thursday the state ended COVID-19 restrictions, including mask mandates, but Indigenous leaders with the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women urge the public to keep wearing the mask.

Angel Charley, Laguna and executive director of CSVANW, said this is a safety precaution.

“It requires a lot of sacrifice from all of us as individuals; it’s how we made this much progress,” she said. “But until we reach herd immunity, until there is vaccination access for kids under 12, until there is true equitable access to vaccinations then we’re asserting this is a safety precaution.” 

The World Health Organization recommended that vaccinated people continue to wear masks, especially in light of the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which is more contagious than other variants. Charley said the Navajo Nation is following WHO guidance and is continuing its mask mandate.

A person who answered the phone at the Navajo Nation Health Command Operations Center redirected NM Political Report to the Navajo Nation’s website, which contains a public health order that says that all individuals age 2 and older shall wear masks at all times while in public.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, along with the federal government, is following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, which says that vaccinated individuals can forgo wearing masks in public but unvaccinated individuals should continue to wear masks.

“We continue to encourage New Mexicans to use COVID-safe practices and, regardless of state guidance, the state supports businesses, workplaces and tribes continuing to require masks for employees, customers or visitors on the premises, regardless of vaccination status, at their discretion,” Press Secretary Nora Meyers Sackett told NM Political Report by email.

Charley said that from a Native perspective, continuing to wear a mask is for the collective wellbeing. It is also an equity issue, because Native communities and communities of color were impacted at higher rates than the rest of the population by COVID-19.

“It puts the collective needs above the individual. Those sacrifices mean better outcomes to folks who are disproportionately impacted by the virus,” Charley said.