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AZ Congressman requests COVID-19 response team prioritize rapid kits to tribal nations

Navajo Nation
Posted at 12:03 PM, Jan 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-21 23:25:33-05

PHOENIX — Arizona Congressman Tom O’Halleran is requesting the COVID-19 response coordinator immediately prioritize supplies of free rapid test kits for those living in tribal nations.

Congressman O’Halleran sent a letter to Jeffrey Zients, the COVID-19 Response Team Coordinator, on Friday asking for help to get free COVID-19 test kits to rural, tribal, and underserved communities.

Just hours after the government’s launch of the website to order free kits on Tuesday, reports started coming in from people in rural communities, including on the Navajo Nation, that they could not order test kits because they were already ordered.

“Complicating matters is that many Native American families share a P.O. Box address,” the letter stated, “Additionally, many Native American households are multi-generational, with children, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents living under the same roof.”

The letter goes on to say that the four tests per mailing address solution will not work for most Native Americans residing on tribal lands.

ABC15 spoke with Deydrek Scott from Tuba City who was unable to order the free tests on Tuesday, just hours after the site was launched.

“I put in my P.O. Box and sure enough it said someone already requested it from my P.O. Box,” Scott said.

Scott is also one of those families who lives in a multi-generational home, “it’s only four tests and I live in a house of probably six people now.”

O’Halleran went on to say in his letter, “I fear that the Administration is overlooking the needs of our tribal and rural communities and request that you immediately prioritize supplies of rapid test kits to tribal governments to distribute to those living on tribal nations.”

The Navajo Nation is also seeing record case counts of COVID-19 during this Omicron surge. Last Friday, the Navajo Nation documented over 500 new cases.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez tells ABC15 that they have changed how they define "fully vaccinated" on the Navajo Nation by making it two doses plus a booster.

To increase booster shots, Nez signed an executive order last week that requires all government workers there to have received a booster shot.

Nez said he has been talking to congressional leaders to get test kits to people on Navajo Nation, “We’re working on it on our end locally, the Navajo Nation government with the Navajo Nation Department of Health and our local communities to get some masks, hand sanitizers, test kits in bulk so that we can take them out to our community members.”

Along with tribal nations, and rural communities facing issues -- across the nation people who live in apartment complexes have also reported issues when signing up for the free kits.

The government has provided a number for people to call: 1-800-232-0233.