PHOENIX - The COVID-19 outbreak in the Navajo Nation is just behind New York and New Jersey, and officials with FEMA have sent a team in to help the Native American nation respond to the crisis.
According to information released on Tuesday, there are a total of 1,873 positive cases on the Navajo Nation, and 60 deaths.
On Wednesday, an official with the agency spoke with FOX 10's Steve Nielsen to talk about the response there.
The good news is for the Navajo Nation, federal resources are expanding inside its borders. A field hospital is ready in Shiprock, and on Friday, a Chinlee facility will be ready.
FEMA Regional Director Bob Fenton says the field hospitals are about preparation, if there’s a need.
"We hope not, but we can’t have a plan that’s based on hope, right? We need to make sure the capacity is there, and that we have the right people there to do it," said Fenton.
The Navajo Nation's president, Jonathon Nez, agreed.
"Doing everything in our power to make sure our citizens stay safe," said Nez.
There is, however, a cost. The two facilities cost $4 million, and because of a standard cost-sharing agreement FEMA has with states and tribal communities, the Navajo Nation has to pick up 25% of the cost, equaling $1 million.
AZ District 9"I would rather have the Navajo Nation spend that $1 million on food security for people of the nation," said Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton.
Rep. Stanton represents Arizona's 9th Congressional District, which covers Ahwatukee, a portion of the East Valley, and a portion of Phoenix near Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. He sent President Trump a letter, asking for the cost-sharing arrangement to be removed. Fenton said FEMA is processing that request.
"Well, I’m very frustrated. I’m angry we’re waiting. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. The tragedy on the Navajo Nation is happening right now, in real-time. This is not the time for delay," said Rep. Stanton.
However, FEMA officials saythe cost to the Navajo Nation will be lowered soon.
"We’ll probably move to 90/10 for sure," said Fenton. "Ultimately, it’s a presidential decision if it goes to 100%"
Meantime, Navajo President Nez says the new care centers are ready.
"Even though there’s limited resources from the federal government coming in, we're using our own sovereign ability, our own lows to slow down the spread of COVID-19 on the Navajo Nation," said Nez.
Navajo Nation officials have announced another 57-hour weekend curfew. FEMA officials say those measures will help Navajo Nation flatten the curve.
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