When you're being told to wash your hands frequently to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it's now almost second nature for most of us to lather up and rinse throughout the day. But for those living on the arid lands of the Navajo Nation—spread out over Utah, New Mexico and Arizona—that simple preventative measure is complicated by the fact that about a third of Navajo families need to haul their water as they don't have access to running water.
And with nearly 4,200 confirmed cases of the illness in a population estimated at 173,000, that puts the per-capita infection rate of the Navajo Nation beyond that of states like New York and New Jersey. The Navajo Nation also reports 144 deaths.
Supplies of bottled water and hand sanitizer are becoming scarce in many of the reservation's small communities, such as Shiprock, New Mexico, for example. The town only has one market, so when sanitizing supplies run out, many are left with limited means to protect themselves from the pandemic.
One northern Utah company recently stepped up to support the Navajo Nation. Ogden's Own Distillery, which, since mid-March, has been producing Five Wives Sanitize (a product that is also sold through City Weekly's online store), not only donated 485 gallons of hand sanitizer but Steve Conlin, president and CEO of Ogden's Own, took the seven-hour drive himself to Shiprock to make delivery.
"I was moved by the story of Valentina Blackhorse, the young Navajo pageant winner who died from coronavirus," Conlin said. "Then we heard how badly they needed sanitizer, so we did what we could to help."
Eugenia Charles-Newton, council delegate for Shiprock's 24th Navajo Nation Council, coordinated the effort with Ogden's Own. "This sanitizer will save lives," Charles-Newton said. "We're so grateful for Steve and Ogden's Own Distillery."
The sanitizer was delivered to the Navajo Engineering Construction Authority (NECA) in Shiprock. Prioritized recipients are those who have no running water, who are in quarantine or who have no transportation to pick up sanitizer. It will also be sent to citizens of nearby Farmington and Gallup, New Mexico, which are Navajo Nation cities at high risk for spread of the virus.
For ways to donate to help the Navajo Nation, visit the Navajo Nation Department of Health at www.nndoh.org/donate.html