Tribal Communities Are Being Overlooked in COVID-19 Response, Says O’Halleran

March 20, 2020
Press Release

VILLAGE OF OAK CREEK— Today, in response to reports that the Navajo Nation now has 14 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Congressman Tom O’Halleran (AZ-01) sent letters to Vice President Pence and Governor Doug Ducey requesting information on their plans to prioritize funding and resources for Indian Country during this public health emergency.

“The Navajo Nation is facing an extreme lack of supplies and resources to fight the spread of the coronavirus as compared with non-tribal communities. This situation is already urgent,” said Rep. O’Halleran. “I am calling on both Governor Doug Ducey and Vice President Pence to immediately make available any and all state and federal resources at their disposal to help slow the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation.”

On March 11, Navajo Nation President Nez and Vice President Lizer declared a Public Health State of Emergency. On Thursday, March 19, the Navajo Health Command Operations Center issued a Public Health Emergency Order requiring closure of the Chilchinbeto community for quarantine and isolation, also known as “shelter-in-place,” to limit the spread of COVID-19.

“The United States has treaty and trust obligations to care for the health and welfare of Tribes across the country,” continued O’Halleran. “To live up to this obligation, the United States must provide the necessary information and resources to allow Tribes and the Indian Health Service to effectively respond to the COVID-19 pandemic in their communities.”

View the letter to Vice President Pence, here, and the letter to Governor Ducey, here.

On March 10, O’Halleran sent a letter to Vice President Pence inquiring about his plans to address the needs of tribal communities during this pandemic. Since then, cases on the Navajo Nation have gone from 0 to 14.

Earlier today, O’Halleran joined Rep. Ruben Gallego (AZ-07) and a bipartisan group of 23 members on a letter demanding the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work with the Indian Health Service to immediately make available aid that was promised nearly two weeks ago.

At the beginning of March, O’Halleran recorded a public service announcement for local radio stations throughout Arizona’s first Congressional District urging precautionary measures families can take to stay safe and healthy.