Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva is urging the Trump administration to expand and speed up its response to COVID-19 in Indian Country. It comes as 14 cases of the disease have been confirmed on the Navajo Nation. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports.
Grijalva says he’s concerned about the availability of intensive care unit beds, ventilators and other medical equipment at Indian Health Service and other facilities nationwide. He wrote a letter this week to agency leadership following a conference call between IHS and congressional staff in which they reportedly discussed inadequate equipment supplies.
Grijalva is also concerned that $40 million earmarked by Congress earlier this month for tribal COVID-19 response hasn’t yet been fully distributed.
The IHS did not comment on Grijalva’s letter.
According to the National Congress of American Indians, tribal members experience higher rates of heart and lung disease and compromised immune systems compared to the general U.S. population. Such underlying conditions make people more vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, tribes say overcrowded housing in Indian Country makes social distancing difficult and could contribute to spreading the disease.