O’Halleran Renews Urgent Call on Federal Government to Prioritize COVID-19 Response on Navajo Nation

March 30, 2020
Contributed Columns

WASHINGTON—Today, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, concerned with the lack of attention the Navajo Nation has received from federal agencies responsible for COVID-19 preparedness and response efforts. As of last night, there were 115 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, making up 12% of total cases in Arizona.

“The situation on Navajo is worsening by the hour, and the federal government’s long-standing Treaty and Trust obligations to provide health care to Native Americans cannot be ignored, especially during this public health crisis,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “People are dying, and the administration must take this seriously.”

In the letter, O’Halleran asks:

  1. Does the Task Force have a plan to communicate and coordinate with Tribal governments as to how and when federal funding authorized by the recently-passed CARES Act will be allocated and distributed to Tribes?
  2. Has the Task Force been working with the Indian Health Service (IHS) to prioritize the distribution of resources and supplies to Tribal governments with the highest number of cases, including the Navajo Nation?
  3. How has the Task Force been working in conjunction with IHS to provide direct service hospitals and health care clinics with necessary resources? Public Law 93-638 health care providers are essential to the health of many Native Americans, including Navajos. What is the Task Force doing to ensure they are getting the resources and supplies they need?

View the full letter, here.

“I have now written Vice President Pence twice regarding the lack of coronavirus response and attention on tribal lands and have yet to receive acknowledgement of either inquiry,” continued O’Halleran. “I will continue to publicly call on the administration to ensure due attention is paid to the Navajo Nation in a transparent process.”

Previously, O’Halleran sent a letter to Vice President Pence demanding answers on the Task Force’s plan to address the coronavirus on tribal lands, as well a letter 10 days later following up on his earlier request.

He has also sent a letter to the highest ranking official at the Indian Health Service urging a swift and serious response to the spread of COVID-19 in Indian Country.

Yesterday, O’Halleran echoed the concerns of Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez in urging Grand Canyon National Park to close to protect the health of nearby communities, including the Navajo Nation.