COVID-19

Native American tribes, facing COVID-19 surges, need more medical, financial aid

Nova Safo May 8, 2020
Heard on: Marketplace Morning Report
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COVID-19 cases in the Navajo Nation are expected to peak in the next week or two. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
COVID-19

Native American tribes, facing COVID-19 surges, need more medical, financial aid

Nova Safo May 8, 2020
COVID-19 cases in the Navajo Nation are expected to peak in the next week or two. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Share Now on:
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Native American tribes are grappling with a surge of COVID-19 cases. The Navajo Nation in the Southwest has one of the worst outbreaks in the country.

The federal government sent billions of dollars in aid this week, but tribes say it’s not enough and their limited infrastructure is being overwhelmed.

In battling the coronavirus, Native American tribes face unique challenges.

“We live in food deserts,” said Allie Young of the Navajo Nation, which is located in parts of Utah, New Mexico and Arizona. “Thirty percent of our people don’t have running water. Forty percent of our people don’t have electricity.”

Young has launched a grassroots campaign to enlist medical and financial aid. Her group says there are just 13 ICU beds on the reservation for a population of 175,000 people living in an area bigger than West Virginia.

“The hospital beds are full,” said Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation. “We had to open three alternative care facilities. Those are gymnasiums retrofitted.”

COVID-19 cases on Navajo land are expected to peak in the next week or two. Eighty-five people have already died.

This week the federal government released nearly $5 billion in aid, with $3 billion more available. But one advocacy group estimated tribes will need $20 billion to deal with the pandemic.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

Which businesses are allowed to reopen right now? And which businesses are actually doing so?

As a patchwork of states start to reopen, businesses that fall into a gray area are wondering when they can reopen. In many places, salons are still shuttered. Bars are mostly closed, too, although restaurants may be allowed to ramp up, depending on the state. “It’s kind of all over the place,” said Elizabeth Milito of the National Federation of Independent Business.

Will you be able to go on vacation this summer?

There’s no chance that this summer will be a normal season for vacations either in the U.S. or internationally. But that doesn’t mean a trip will be impossible. People will just have to be smart about it. That could mean vacations closer to home, especially with gas prices so low. Air travel will be possible this summer, even if it is a very different experience than usual.

When does the expanded COVID-19 unemployment insurance run out?

The CARES Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, authorized extra unemployment payments, increasing the amount of money, and broadening who qualifies. The increased unemployment benefits have an expiration date — an extra $600 per week the act authorized ends on July 31.

You can find answers to more questions here.

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