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Navajo, Hopi coronavirus relief fund raises nearly $4 million

(Facebook Photo/Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief)

PHOENIX — The Navajo Nation has been hit hard by the coronavirus, now holding the highest infection rate per capita in the United States with more than 4,000 positive cases and 144 deaths.

“We don’t believe that we’ve reached our peak yet,” said Cassandra Begay, who grew up on the Navajo Nation. “The numbers are still surging.”

She is part of a group of women who formed the Navajo and Hopi Family COVID-19 Relief Fund, which has now raised about $4 million since March. The volunteer-led group provides food, water and essential items to families on the Navajo and Hopi reservations.

Begay said they plan to continue their efforts through at least the end of the year.

“We are with the mindset that the virus is going to continue spreading throughout our communities through the end of the year,” she said.

She added there are numerous reasons why she thinks the disease has hit the Navajo Nation so hard, including the lack of infrastructure and not enough resources available to help protect residents from the spread of COVID-19.

“We also have the issue of many communities not having access to clean drinking water,” Begay said. “So it’s difficult for us to even be able to wash our hands.”

She said about a third of people living on the Navajo Nation don’t have electricity or running water in their homes.

There are also few grocery stores on the reservation, which means the same stores are being used by many people and it’s making these stores hotbeds for the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said in a statement citizens on the reservation are being tested “at a greater rate per capita than any state in the entire country and that’s a major reason why we have high numbers of positive cases.”

“The number of recoveries is increasing, and that gives us hope and strength to keep moving forward,” he added.

Nez has tried to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus by enacting one of the strictest stay-at-home orders, with 57-hour curfews on weekends.

Begay said her group is trying to receive exemption from the curfews so they can spend more time delivering packages to families in need. She said they have a form people can fill out to request food, water and other supplies.

“The objective is that if we can bring at least two weeks of supplies to elders and family members, it prevents them from being exposed,” she said. “Therefore, we’re able to flatten that curve.”

The Navajo & Hopi Families COVID-19 Relief Fund’s GoFundMe account has received donations from more than 70,000 donors.

For all articles, information and updates on the coronavirus from KTAR News, visit ktar.com/coronavirus.

Arizona open and hiring: If you’re looking for job openings, visit ktar.com/arizonahiring.

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