Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.
The international humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders, which rarely operates in the United States, has dispatched medical workers to the Navajo Nation to help with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Navajo Nation Reservation, located in the Southwest and covering the corners of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has experienced some of the highest infection rates in the country.
Social distancing and sanitary measures required during the pandemic have been a challenge because of the communal living traditionally exercised on the country’s largest reservation.
Doctors Without Borders operates in more 70 countries around the world, though they rarely operate in the United States — until now.
“Situationally, the Native American communities are at a much higher risk for complications from COVID-19 and also from community spread because they don’t have access to the variety of things that make it possible to self-isolate,” Jean Stowell, head of the organization’s U.S. COVID-19 Response Team, told CBS News in an interview Monday.
“You can’t expect people to isolate if they have to drive 100 miles to get food and water,” Stowell said.
The Navajo Nation Reservation has a population of nearly 175,000, many of whom do not have access to running water. And the reservation has seen more than 3,120 coronavirus cases since March, with over 100 deaths.
The rate of infection is nearly 18 percent, and the lack of accessible resources is why Doctors Without Borders is stepping in to assist the community, it said.
The Navajo Nation has extended an order declaring a state of emergency and closure of all government offices until June 7.
“As the rest of our nation begins to open up, we need to remember that this virus came to our nation much later than the rest of our country, so that means we’ll exit this COVID-19 crisis later than the rest, this is just common sense,” Navajo Nation Vice President Myron Lizer said from a town hall Tuesday.
Doctors Without Borders did not respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.