Navajo nation in crisis

ABC News’ Matt Gutman reports on the plight of Native Americans at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic.
8:21 | 05/01/20

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Transcript for Navajo nation in crisis
Going inside one community with some of the strict disclosures in curfews in the entire country and here's why. The Navajo Nation has one of the highest rates of infection in the US and sampling with few resources and little infrastructure. It's one of the least equipped to handle a house prices like the one we're in right now. Our Matt Gutman reports on the unique challenges the Navajo and many indigenous people now face. Doctor Sri show on the sun there has been practicing emergency medicine from the back of a car from. But there are limits to what this team can. EMS sister showed up because the gentleman is telling the folks here in coping doctor treated he's got shortness of breath asthma. And they're trying to decide whether or not he needs to be hospitalized at this point we're not everybody here is under investigation for coal bed. Take over nineteen is surging through the Navajo community suffering one of the highest infection rates per capita in the country the peak. Weeks away doctor Sri Rahm is the co-founder of that he'll initiative at the University of San Francisco. I think we've that I need not be lazy news. Similar to. Police. The Bay Area and be harmless sensible thing he New Mexico. We need hundreds inauguration. Point 8%. Yeah he's teaming up with locals like to cope programs be too much gobble champagne. They're doing rounds at this motel in Gallup, New Mexico where he and sheltered in the sick can go to get off the street. In a wave from extended family us. You. No pain blurred vision. Eric GO who's who grandfather talking with us through that. Broken mask. Well. The virus is claimed dozens of Navajo elders and even some of its young. Former miss western Navajo Valentine black course was a mother of a one year old daughter she died this week after testing positive for covad nineteen. She was twenty years old. Navajo president Jonathan is says his tribe has to rely primarily on its self. It's one reason he's instituted one of the strictest shelter at home orders in the country. And he during the weekend curfew. I'm glad that her let's in the fires here and really. Stop fires. Can. They're creative way where we're doing this is by putting this shelter in place order. And we're also. Putting the curfews Monday through Friday 8 PM Friday. Weekends it's seven hour. Historically the US government hasn't helped much breaking dozens of promises with a native American tribes. In congress has approved eight billion dollars for travel assistance from but that money has to be split amongst. 574. Tribes. Sometimes it goes through the federal agencies before it gets to be tried for it goes through the state before guess who tried. We're using that same process and we have to wait and let the cement for these findings both the need is. Now. It's estimated about 30% of the people who live on the Navajo reservation do not have access to running water. Which is why we use pumps like this. And that makes the constant hand washing necessary during a Covert outbreak. That much more difficult. Look at that hump we met with Kilmer who was there to get water. During the time the co video everybody's worried got to wash your hands lead all the time but you don't have running water does it make it that much harder. Yes. When little children to watch the billion. Debuted problem. Throughout the word since early march grassroots groups have more to provide food and water. The Navajo and hopi Stanley -- nineteen relief effort fleecing over a million dollars setting up this makeshift hand washing station. And distributing it around the reservation. This just one fix to address the hygiene issues don't we need help save. Because the conditions that are making people more sickened more risks are right street. Navajo Nation is larger than West Virginia but its population of about 300000. As access to only about twenty icu beds on the restoration. Are being Indian Health Service says it had to build additional temporary hospital beds to prepare for a modeling predictions of over 200 additional patients a day. Over a hundred icu level patients across the area. In the vastness of the reservation under the shadow of chimney Butte is where Michelle Tom grew up. C a worm from. Scott says it'll aha. Also without running water or power she's now the only Navajo emergency physician at these urgent care clinic in Winslow Arizona. You're getting people pulling up to this parking lot had to be in debated here even though this is not technically icu or or a hospital it's an urgent care. And then the only way to save the lives is to get a helicopter here yes and then what. We don't know we don't we don't have access to them anymore and that's where the disconnect and that's for the hard part is for us. Especially for mainframe no thank. You thank everyone knows everything. I think I hear more so because I have relatives Elian you know he's not doing solo. Minnesota's anywhere tougher gun no longer in our hands. She says the closest icu facility char she can send her patience is at least one hour away by chopper rose to three hours in an ambulance. It out gonna come home. I've from a medical training and front court play. I think there and how did this he wanted to come back down here and wins those homes and that's why you feel it's important behavior yes. Of course it's no longer hospital and growing up John says she never saw a medical professional. With a face like. For loans past that make people feel that they don't. Get medical consultation they don't see people like them and has the. It's like really talk from personal experience brings sometimes there's a disconnect lately legs and cultures. And are not meeting. We know that's just my studies and even by experience. You're not gonna have the best and that's not from a lack of effort. I was saying per tree hours yesterday and I was and we had about fifteen cars. You know and and that's our triage and discard garlic myself just isn't me on my shift in the currency us. And that's not carry a little car medical center who has an ER that's not fanning winds that Wright has made good urging him. So these are presumptive case. So and the other issue is that you know this is a major article does society and people live its community and sometimes at 6710 people living in a house or household. And people are catching quickly get a case so that's pretty much. Along with like the health care access and we'll let them degeneration we do you know and that's evercore disparities are currently are the people that are committing them. Our people continued our neighbors here are relatives of the Brothers and sisters. So we'll see what we're Zion and circles over isolate the isolating that if you. And that's even for myself. She left her family moved to an apartment in how we're awake to try to minimize the risk of infecting the group of people she's trying to say. My daughters. Immensely hard is that such a connection. To make people us back our callers our teachers are protectors. They hold all of the key moments that we need. To have a strong sense of identity. Sprayed insight there from Mac tuchman thanks for that.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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