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Navajo Nation

COVID-19 Safe Schools Framework

April 2022


Order shall take effect Tuesday, April 5, 2022 at 5:00 A.M.

Public Health Emergency Order No. 2022-06

. There is moderate transmission of cases, therefore, schools should maintain the frequency and HCOC also recommends implementation of the prevention strategies, consistent with the COVID-19 Safe Schools Framework. Accordingly, HCOC recommends to schools the following particularly with communities with high transmission rates (listing of health advisories can be found at Navajo Department of Health):

  • A. Limit gathering to 25 or fewer persons for non-classroom instruction events such as back-to-school, orientations and other community gatherings.
  • B. Limit sport event attendance to 50% of maximum occupancy for indoor seating areas and 75% of maximum occupancy for outdoor seating areas, and consistent with HCOC guideline for school sporting events.
  • C. Require students, staff and visitors to stay home if they are sick.
  • D. Promptly report exposures using the HCOC portal (available at Navajo Department of Health) and notify the nearest local health facility (Indian Health Service or Tribal Health Organization). Exposures will be reported on the HCOC webpage of school exposures to notify the public.

View Public Health Emergency Order No. 2022-06


The Navajo Nation COVID-19 Safe Schools Framework has been developed to guide the reopening of all schools and Head Start across the Navajo Nation. This framework offers in-person learning recommendations with core and conditional prevention strategies, based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

The CDC School Operational Strategy document (updated 5/15/21) states that schools should be the highest priority in-person essential service (i.e. last to close, first to open). This is because the benefits of in-person school are critically important to promote child development, education, and physical and mental health. This is especially true among communities such as the Navajo Nation that have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.


Continual Best Practices to Prevent Spread of COVID-19 The general guidelines are for everyone living on or visiting the Navajo Nation for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

  1. Get fully vaccinated for COVID-19 for best protection for yourself and for unvaccinated children or high-risk family and co-workers.
  2. Wear a well-fitting face‐mask when in public.
  3. Socially (physically) distance yourselves. Keep at least six‐feet apart from others in public.
  4. Avoid crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation where COVID germs can more easily spread through the air and physical distancing is not possible.
  5. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, or having been in a public place. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  6. Avoid touching your face, nose, eyes, and mouth.
  7. Avoid close contact with people who are sick or have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
  8. If you feel sick, get tested for COVID, then stay home and do not go to work or school. Contact your medical provider for advice.
  9. Continue to follow the local health department, state, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) guidelines.


The Safe Schools Framework includes core and conditional prevention strategies that will allow the Navajo Nation to safely resume critical essential services for children and families. These guidelines apply to Head Start and Pre-K through 12th Grade.

  1. “Core prevention” refers to the basic core set of COVID-19 prevention practices that should be always in place. See Table 1.
  2. “Conditional prevention” refers to additional strict prevention strategies that will be implemented in phases with higher transmission according to Navajo Nation Gating Criteria.
  3. Guidance for schools to implement COVID-19 prevention strategies can be found at  DODE Website
  4. All schools must develop, implement and submit a School Reopening Plan and a completed Reopening Readiness Assessment Attestation form to the Department of Diné Education prior to reopening for in-person learning. Reopening plans and completed forms can be emailed to:

These guidelines establish that schools should be open for in-person learning across all phases,
with core prevention strategies including washing hands, masking, physical distancing, and contact tracing

The decision to move between the phases will be dependent upon the rate of new COVID-19 cases, availability of testing, and hospital capacity. Before advancing to a less-restrictive status, the Navajo Health Command and Operations Center (NHCOC) will determine whether or not certain “gating criteria” have been satisfied. The gating criteria are based on the “Guidelines for Opening up America Again” issued by the White House and CDC.

If there is high transmission, schools should enhance the frequency and implementation of the prevention strategies set forth in this document.


✔ = required Critical/ Very High Transmission High Transmission Substantial Transmission Moderate Transmission Low Transmission
Schools OPEN for in-person learning Selected students
Parent Options
For hybrid and/or virtual learning
Universal and Correct Use
Physical Distancing
At least 3-6 feet between students in classroom
Student Cohorting
Divide students into smaller groups by classrooms and buses
Hygiene, Cleaning and Ventilation
Handwashing, Maintain healthy facilities
Diagnostic Testing
Referral of symptomatic or exposed individuals to health care facility for testing
Contact Tracing
Timely Isolation & Quarantine, and contact with local health care facility
Reporting Required
To local health care facility HCOC exposure portal, and weekly public notification
COVID-19 Vaccination
Strongly encouraged (★) for eligible staff and students

For more detailed guidance on these strategies, refer to the School Reopening Readiness Assessment.


Strategy Setting & Description Frequency based on transmission level
Screening Testing
(Options are in the Additional Information section)
Classroom Testing of select groups of unvaccinated teachers, staff, and students
Low and Intermediate Risk
High Risk
Critical/Very High High Substantial Moderate Low
Recommended 1-2x per week
for teachers/staff/students
Optional 1x per week
for teachers/staff
1x per week
1x per week
2x per week
1x per week


Screening testing is an option for schools to use as part of their conditional prevention strategies. Screening testing is highly recommended to be conducted by trained individuals at the school through a contractor or from the local health facility. There are various testing options available for schools. HCOC will issue separate guidance on Screening Testing for schools.


More specific guidance on each of these topics is outlined in supplemental documents from Department of Diné Education available at: Navajo Nation DODE.

  1. Navajo Nation School Reopening Plan
  2. Navajo Nation School Reopening Readiness Assessment Attestation form
  3. Navajo Head Start Roadmap for Teachers


Cohorting – Involves creating groups of students that are separated from other groups by at least 6 feet through the entire day.  Cohorts can reduce the number of people exposed to COVID-19 if someone tests positive, meaning fewer students and staff would need to be quarantined if there is a positive case.

Contact Tracing – Part of the process of supporting patients and warning contacts of exposure to stop chains of transmission. Contact tracers inform people if they have been exposed to COVID-19 and to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19, get tested, and to self-isolate if they have COVID-19 or were in close contact with someone who tested positive.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019) – a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Diagnostic Testing – Intended to identify current infection in individuals and is performed by a health care facility when a person has signs or symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or when a person is asymptomatic but has recent known or suspected exposure to someone with COVID-19.

HCOC – Health Command Operations Center of Navajo Nation

High Risk Sports – sports that cannot be done outdoors or with masks.

Low and Intermediate Risk Sports – sports that can be conducted outdoors, or indoors with masks.

Navajo Nation Gating Criteria – measures including the rate of new COVID-19 cases, availability of testing, and hospital capacity used by the NHCOC to determine the current color phase/status of the Navajo Nation.

Physical Distancing – Keeping space between oneself and other people outside of one’s home.

Public Notification – Providing on campus COVID-19 lab confirmed positive case frequency to parents and the community via public-facing website, newsletter, or other timely communication method.

Reporting – School administrators report COVID-19 lab confirmed positive cases to local health care facility, HCOC exposure portal, and weekly public notification while maintaining confidentiality per applicable laws and regulations.

Screening Testing – Testing individuals without symptoms or known contact. Frequency of testing can vary. Additional details in the Additional Information section.

Selected Students – Limited targeted populations as determined by schools (such as special needs students who need special education services according to their Individualized Education Program (IEP) where certain types of instructional needs and services may best be accomplished in person).

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