N.M. Delegation Pushes Trump Administration To Act On Navajo Nation Request For Major Disaster Declaration Amid Devastating Impacts Of COVID-19 Pandemic

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, and U.S. Representatives Ben Ray Luján, Deb Haaland, and Xochitl Torres Small are urging the Trump administration to take immediate action on Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s recent request for a major disaster declaration. Tribal communities have been especially hard-hit as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and a major disaster declaration is necessary for the Navajo Nation to address the ongoing public health and economic effects.

Since March, the Navajo Nation has invested over $4 million in Tribal funds to mitigate the COVID-19 public health emergency. According to recent data released by the Navajo Department of Health, the Navajo Nation has suffered 693 COVID-19-related deaths and 18,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

“Long-standing health disparities in the Navajo Nation, such as disproportionate rates of pre-existing health conditions and chronically underfunded federal and Tribal health care facilities have exacerbated the effects of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation,” the New Mexico delegation wrote. “According to surge projections from the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, steep spikes in COVID-19 cases will soon severely overwhelm Navajo Nation health care facilities resulting in dire shortages of Personal Protective Equipment, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, and ventilators. Already, the Navajo Nation’s ICU beds are at 100% capacity.”

The delegation continued, “Due to the life and death nature of this crisis, we urge you to act without delay and approve the Navajo Nation’s request for a major disaster declaration. Native communities have disproportionally suffered throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency and it is imperative that the federal government upholds its trust and treaty obligations and provide full support to protect Tribal public health, economies and livelihoods.”

Read the full text of the letter below or by clicking here.

Dear President Trump,

We respectfully request that you take prompt action on the recent request for a major disaster declaration from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez. A major disaster declaration is necessary for the Navajo Nation to address the ongoing public health and economic effects of the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

On March 11, 2020, the Navajo Nation declared a Public Health Emergency following early spread of COVID-19. Subsequently, President Nez issued several Navajo Nation Executive Orders and Emergency Public Health Orders to implement travel restrictions, limit business hours, and close schools and Tribal government offices, with the objective of minimizing the spread of the virus. Since March, the Navajo Nation has invested over $4 million in Tribal funds to mitigate the COVID-19 public health emergency. Despite these efforts, the Navajo Nation has suffered 693 COVID-19-related deaths and over 18,575 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of December 9, 2020.

Long-standing health disparities in the Navajo Nation, such as disproportionate rates of pre-existing health conditions and chronically underfunded federal and Tribal health care facilities have exacerbated the effects of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation. According to surge projections from the Navajo Area Indian Health Service, steep spikes in COVID-19 cases will soon severely overwhelm Navajo Nation health care facilities resulting in dire shortages of Personal Protective Equipment, Intensive Care Unit (ICU) beds, and ventilators. Already, the Navajo Nation’s ICU beds are at 100% capacity.

Due to the life and death nature of this crisis, we urge you to act without delay and approve the Navajo Nation’s request for a major disaster declaration. Native communities have disproportionally suffered throughout the COVID-19 public health emergency and it is imperative that the federal government upholds its trust and treaty obligations and provide full support to protect Tribal public health, economies and livelihoods.

Thank you for your consideration to this important request.

Sincerely,