In the early months of 2020 the spread of COVID-19 created prominent hot spots in the U.S., initially in Seattle and then in New York. By May, the Navajo Nation had surpassed New York for the highest per-capita infection rate, reflecting the disproportionate toll borne by people of color. 

The Navajo Nation spans more than 17 million acres in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and is home to roughly 360,000 people with an average household income of $27,000. To curb the spread, the Navajo Nation’s leadership implemented one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country. They also reached out for help procuring supplies.


Photo caption: Epidemiologists wear personal protective equipment while screening airline passengers in Italy. Courtesy of MediPIET fellow Dr Arayik Papoyan.

“The COVID-19 virus is sweeping across the Navajo Nation and we are faced with a spike in death and more positive cases daily,” a health care worker from Chinle, Arizona, wrote to Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach, a member of The Task Force’s MedSurplus Alliance (MSA). “Our front line clinical staff, nurses, hospital support staff, and patients are running out of supplies such as non-surgical masks, hand sanitizer, newborn diapers, baby wipes, tissues and gloves, just to mention a few.”

The MSA program is a cross-sector alliance that coordinates the distribution of donated medicines, medical supplies, equipment, and devices. In response to the request, MSA-accredited member Medical Bridges worked with Hospital Sisters Mission Outreach to deliver an initial shipment of 210 N95 masks and 900 surgical masks to the Navajo Nation.

This was just one of more than 520 U.S. and international facilities receiving supplies.


As of August 2020, MSA members had delivered more than 9 million masks, shields, gloves, gowns, respiratory products, beds and ventilators to hospitals, nursing homes, state public health agencies, home health aid programs, and police departments. This infographic shows a breakdown of some of the supplies delivered in the first few months of the pandemic.

Photo caption: Health workers responding to COVID-19 in the country of Georgia. Photo courtesy of TEPHINET.

"You are literally an answer to one of my most desperate needs,” said Kathy Goodwin, chief nursing officer at Cogdell Memorial Hospital in Snyder, Texas, writing to the CEO of Medical Bridges, an MSA member. “Our PPE (personal protective equipment) shortage is REAL and it’s very hard to stand before my nursing staff and tell them we don’t know if we will have the PPE that will be needed.  I have assured our staff that we will do everything within our power to protect us as we care for COVID-19 patients.  Your donation to our facility will make a profound difference at this time.  We cannot thank you enough!”

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