Office of Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ-9)
Arizona Senators Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly and Arizona Representatives Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03), Andy Biggs (AZ-05), David Schweikert (AZ-06), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), and Greg Stanton (AZ-09) supported Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration from the federal government, which will allow the Nation to access additional resources to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
“Approving a Major Disaster Declaration for the Navajo Nation will help save lives and livelihoods—and ensure the Nation can access critical resources to combat and reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Sinema.
“The Navajo Nation has worked so hard to tackle this pandemic in the face of serious challenges, and a Major Disaster Declaration would provide more funding and flexibility for the Navajo Nation to put towards slowing the spread of the virus and protecting public health as cases and hospitalizations rise,” said Kelly.
Read the Delegation’s request HERE.
President Nez declared a public health emergency in response to the pandemic on March 11 before a single case was confirmed in the Nation. Despite proactive precautions, the Navajo Nation has confirmed over 18,000 COVID-19 infections and more than 680 deaths. Navajo Nation hospitals are operating at capacity levels greater than their previous peak in May. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that American Indians and Alaska Natives are at a disproportionate risk for complications from COVID-19, due to health and socioeconomic disparities for these communities.
In July, Sinema raised concerns during a Senate Aging Committee hearing how the virus has disproportionally impacted Native Nations and communities of color. Earlier this year, the Navajo Nation had the highest rate of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country, and nearly 1 in 10 reservation residents of the White Mountain Apache Tribe tested positive for the virus. Sinema questioned officials on how lack of basic resources in tribal communities impact public health during a pandemic. Sinema also questioned panelists about the importance of providing culturally relevant coronavirus information and access to language services to help protect high risk communities from the coronavirus.