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New Mexico governor urges White House to assist Navajo Nation in fighting COVID-19

8 months 7 hours 41 minutes ago Tuesday, March 31 2020 Mar 31, 2020 March 31, 2020 6:26 AM March 31, 2020 in News
Source: ABC News
A hitchhiker stands near a road sign advising the community to stay home due to the coronavirus outbreak on Saturday afternoon in Many Farms, Ariz. Photo: Navajo Times/Donovan Quintero

Cases of novel coronavirus have spiked among members of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico and nearby states. 

ABC News reports that New Mexico's governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, mentioned her concerns to President Donald Trump during a Monday morning phone call he held with U.S. governors. 

Lujan Grisham warned that the virus could "wipe out" some tribal nations, before following up on a previous request to the Department of Defense for a 248-bed U.S. Army combat support hospital (CSH) in Albuquerque.

"I'm very worried, Mr. President," Governor Lujan Grisham said.

She'd requested the hospital last Wednesday and said she has yet to receive a response. 

"We're seeing incredible spikes in the Navajo Nation, and this is going to be an issue where we're going to have to figure that out and think about maybe testing and surveillance opportunities," she continued.

"The rate of infection, at least on the New Mexico side — although we've got several Arizona residents in our hospitals — we're seeing a much higher hospital rate, a much younger hospital rate, a much quicker go-right-to-the-vent rate for this population. And we're seeing doubling in every day-and-a-half," she said.

Wow, that's something," the president replied.

She added: "And it could wipe out those tribal nations."

"We're gonna get you that hospital as quickly as we can," Trump said, while directing others in the Situation Room to look into the problem and rush work on the hospital. "Boy, that’s too bad for the Navajo nation – I've been hearing that."

As of Sunday, there were at least 128 cases and 2 deaths reported on the reservation, which has a population of over 250,000 and spans three states, according to the Navajo Department of Health and Navajo Area Indian Health Service.

The outbreak of the virus in the reservation is believed to have spread at an evangelical church rally in Chilchinbeto, Arizona, on March 7, according to a Los Angeles Times report. At least two Navajos have already died, the report said.

The Navajo Nation government declared a state of emergency on March 13, just one week later, before ultimately issuing a reservation-wide Shelter In Place order for all residents on March 20.

"In a short period of time, COVID-19 has arrived on the Navajo Nation and the number of cases are increasing at a high rate across the Nation," the order said. "The purpose of the closure is to allow the Navajo Nation as a whole to isolate and quarantine."

In her original request, Grisham wrote that the hospital was "urgently needed to support the State of New Mexico’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which threatens to overwhelm our existing medical treatment facilities and resources."

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