U.S. Navy medical personnel deploy to Navajo Nation to help fight COVID-19
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – Twenty-five U.S. Navy medical personnel who are part of four Rapid Rural Response Teams (RRRT), are being deployed to the Navajo Nation to provide much-needed relief and resources for health care workers fighting the spread of COVID-19.
The military team was deployed in response to an official request from FEMA with support from Navajo Nation leaders, the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
They will provide support at the Northern Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, New Mexico and the Chinle Comprehensive Healthcare Facility in Chinle, Arizona.
The operation is being overseen by the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army North (ARNORTH), the Joint Force Land Component Command of U.S. Northern Command.
According to Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, HHS also deployed 30 public health and medical personnel, which includes 25 nurses and safety officers from the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) to support the Crownpoint Health Care Facility and Gallup Indian Medical Center.
Additionally, five public health nurses from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corp are presently providing additional support for Gallup Indian Medical Center.
NDMS medical personnel are normally deployed for up to 14 days, USPHS officers are deployed for up to 30 days. Additionally, HHS also deployed 10 USPHS officers to support clinical laboratory operations at the Crownpoint Health Care Facility and Northern Navajo Medical Center. If medical surge support is needed beyond these time frames, a request for additional support can be made.
“This is certainly great news for our health care workers,” Nez said. “Recently, we had a very large surge in new COVID-19 cases that led to a crisis situation in many of our health care facilities.”
According to Nez, health care workers are exhausted and concerned about their mental health at this time because of the overwhelming circumstances they are working under.
“The deployment of the medical personnel from the U.S. Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services is greatly appreciated. Relief is on its way,” Nez said.
On Dec. 14, Vice President Myron Lizer met with Major General John F. King, commander of Contingency Command Post 1 and Task Force 51 for U.S. Army North, to discuss the deployment of the medical personnel. Nez also had the opportunity to meet and thank King and Navajo Area IHS Director Roselyn Tso Dec. 15.
“It was an honor to meet with Major General King and his team,” Lizer said. “We are very grateful for the relief that is on its way and we look forward to welcoming the medical personnel. Our health care workers have done an amazing job to help our Navajo people and to save lives during this devastating pandemic. This is a great partnership and collaboration.”
Several team members arrived earlier this week to prepare for the arrival of the Navy RRRT medical and public health personnel. King also stated that mental health officers will also provide mental health services for health care workers as needed.
“Our commitment to support the whole-of-America response to the COVID-19 pandemic remains strong,” said Lt. Gen. Laura J. Richardson, ARNORTH and JFLCC commander. “We consider this obligation sacred, and will work tirelessly to alleviate the burden of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation as we have elsewhere.”
The National Disaster Medical System is a part of HHS’ Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.
More information about NDMS is available at www.phe.gov.
Information provided by Navajo Nation Office of the President and Vice President
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