Navajo Nation Stores Show Resilience During COVID-19 Pandemic

Brianna John, Sean O. Etsitty, Alex Greenfeld, Robert Alsburg, Malyssa Egge, Sharon Sandman, Carmen George, Caleigh Curley, Cameron Curley, Hendrik D. de Heer, Gloria Begay, Martin E. Ashley, Del Yazzie, Ramona Antone-Nez, Sonya Sunhi Shin, Carolyn Bancroft

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On April 8, 2020, the Navajo Nation issued an administrative order limiting business operations. Facing high coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) rates and limited food infrastructure, a survey was conducted among Navajo Nation store managers to assess: (1) COVID-19 adaptations; (2) challenges; (3) changes in customer volume and purchasing; and (4) suggestions for additional support. Purposive sampling identified 29 stores in Navajo communities. Representatives from 20 stores (19 store managers/owners, 1 other; 7 grocery, and 13 convenience/other stores) were interviewed by phone or in-person to reach saturation (new information threshold < 5%). Responses were coded using frequencies and inductive thematic analysis. All 20 stores implemented COVID-19 guidelines (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]/Navajo Nation) and most received orientation/support from local chapters, community organizations, or health centers. Stores implemented staff policies (50%, handwashing, vaccinations, protective personal equipment (PPE), sick leave, temperature checks), environmental changes (50%, hand sanitizer, checkout dividers), customer protocols (40%, limit customers, mask requirements, closed restrooms), and deep cleaning (40%). Most stores (65%) reported challenges including stress/anxiety, changing guidelines, supply chain and customer compliance; 30% reported infection or loss of staff. Weekday customer volume was slightly higher vs. pre-COVID, but weekend lower. Stores reported consistent or more healthy food purchases (50%), more nonfood essentials (20%), or shelf-stable foods (10%). Desired support included further orientation (30%), leadership support (20%), overtime/time to learn guidelines (20%), and signage/handouts (15%). Despite a high COVID-19 burden and limited food store infrastructure, Navajo Nation stores adapted by implementing staff, environmental and customer policies. Local support, staffing, and small store offerings were key factors in healthy food access.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)86S-95S
JournalHealth Promotion Practice
Issue number1_suppl
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Native American/American Indian
  • community assessment
  • community-based participatory research
  • crisis and emergency risk communication for pandemic influenza
  • disaster & emergency preparedness
  • minority health
  • needs / assets assessment
  • worksite safety & health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Nursing (miscellaneous)


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