NAVAJO NATION, AZ — Navajo Nation leaders are asking for streamlined federal funding, field hospitals, and more infrastructure as coronavirus case counts climb.
The Native American community, which covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah, has been hit harder with COVID-19 than the rest of the region.
Confirmed cases jumped by 30 Monday and by 42 on Tuesday. The Navajo Nation has 426 cases total. Seventeen people have died.
Tribal leaders are considering sites in Tuba City and Kayenta to create additional field hospitals. They toured several facilities with the Army Corps of Engineers Tuesday.
President Jonathan Nez told ABC15 that the federal government has approved financial assistance for Native American communities, but with red tape and paperwork, they don’t expect to see the money until summer.
“To know that those dollars allocated and signed into law are supposed to go to all U.S. citizens, but yet the first citizens of this country are being ignored by Washington, D.C.,” Nez said.
National Strategic Stockpile medical equipment did arrive, but it will be quickly depleted.
“How long will this last for one healthcare facility?” Nez said he asked and received a surprising answer. “Not even a week.”
The Arizona National Guard airlifted additional personal protective equipment to restock health care facilities in Chinle and Kayenta over the weekend. A field hospital has already been set up in Chinle, and Monday the Army Corps of Engineers surveyed a high school gym in Gallup for a potential second field hospital.
Government leaders are also trying to find additional medical staff.
"U of A [University of Arizona] is wanting to talk about wanting to get some nurses and healthcare physicians coming out to Navajo to relieve those that have been working around the clock in Kayenta, Tuba City, and Chinle," President Jonathan Nez said in a Facebook Live video Sunday.
The Navajo Nation, which already created a nighttime curfew and checkpoints, is extending restrictions. Next weekend, all residents will be required to stay home from 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, unless there is an emergency. The curfew does not apply to essential employees including healthcare workers.
President Nez said infrastructure challenges, including the lack of running water and internet in many homes, poses additional hardships during the pandemic.