SAN JUAN COUNTY (ABC4 News) – As Navajo Nation begins its second 57-hour weekend curfew, a grassroots community volunteer group is scrambling to get food, supplies, and resources out to hundreds of families in need before the shutdown Friday night.
According to the latest update on Thursday night, the total number of positive tests for COVID-19 increased to 1,042 with 41 deaths across Navajo Nation, which sits on parts of Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. San Juan County, Utah made up 12 of those cases.
Tribal leaders issued a new Public Health Emergency Order Thursday that increased the 57-hour weekend curfew for two additional weekends in the month of April, closing essential businesses during that time due to “community spread of COVID-19.”
The weekend curfew will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday and end at 5 a.m. Monday. The daily curfew will remain in effect from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. Officials said Navajo Police will continue to issue citations for curfew violators.
In the meantime, dozens of volunteers with the Navajo and Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund rushed to deliver food, supplies, and resources to vulnerable residents before the curfew halts their operations for the weekend.
The campaign, which has raised more than $741,000 online in the last month, was originally formed by former Navajo Nation Attorney General Ethel Branch after she reached out to other community organizers. Together, they’ve brought relief and aid to more than 800 struggling families so far. They include at-risk populations such as single parents, immunocompromised individuals, and the elderly, such as her mother.
“I had done some shopping for myself and for my mom. My mom provides care for my nieces and in that process, I was finding that many shelves were bare, whether it was for toilet paper or non-perishable items, which I needed for my mom because she doesn’t have electricity or running water and that’s case for a third of the people on Navajo Nation,” Branch said in the campaign’s YouTube video.
On Thursday, Branch posted on the group’s GoFundMe page that actor Jason Momoa’s company, Mananalu donated a truck load of water to their campaign.
Cassandra Begay, the group’s Director of Communications, said Navajo Nation is an extreme “food desert” with only 13 grocery stores to serve 180,000 people and explained these communities have high numbers of elderly, diabetic, asthmatic, and cancer-afflicted residents, which could be devastated by COVID-19.
“We are lacking adequate protective services including the lack of infrastructure,” said Begay. “Although we are experiencing the same per-capita rates of positive cases of COVID-19 as New York City, we are not receiving the adequate resources to protect our communities.”
Advocates said the need for aid and relief are higher in these areas because the unemployment rate is roughly 50 percent, and that’s before the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. They explained most of these residents are elderly or children as those who are able to work often leave the reservation to find jobs.
Some community members also live a long distance away from the nearest grocery store, often having to travel more than a hour just to face empty shelves because of the short supply of essential items.
Others may not have the utilities needed to stockpile large quantities of food that need to be refrigerated. Organizers said some family members living off the reservation with internet access are submitting requests on behalf of their loved ones living in remote areas.
Begay told ABC4 News their group had inquired with tribal leaders about continuing their operations through the weekend, but have not heard back. For now, that means they will have to wait until Monday before they can resume their efforts again.
If you need aid or relief, you can fill out a form here, call 833-956-1554, or e-mail one of the following agencies:
- Main: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Volunteer e-mail: email@example.com
- Hopi: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Western Agency: email@example.com
- Eastern Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Chinle Agency: email@example.com
- Fort Defiance Agency: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Northern Agency: email@example.com