August 2020

Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

Thursday, May 28, 2020

U.S. Senators probe defective medical masks sent to Navajo Nation

U.S. Senators probe defective medical masks from the company of former White House aide, sent to Navajo Nation hospitals

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Senators wrote a poignant letter to the Indian Health Service probing reports of defective medical masks sent to Navajo Nation hospitals, that were purchased from a former White House aide.

Senators are probing the purchase of $3 million of potentially substandard respirator masks from a company founded by a former White House deputy chief of staff and then distributed without proper quality screening to Navajo Nation hospitals in New Mexico and Arizona.

“The IHS facilities serving the Tribe are in dire need of PPE to combat the virus and ensure medical personnel are protected from potential exposure,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Accordingly, we’re also concerned by reports that the federal contract to supply PPE to the Navajo IHS Service Area was awarded to a company established by a former senior official in the White House with limited competitive bidding and no prior federal contracting experience.”
“We therefore additionally request that the contracting officer who executed the contract provide a briefing to our offices as soon as possible. We are particularly interested in learning the circumstances in which the contract was awarded with the IHS only 11 days after it was created to sell PPE in response to the coronavirus, and whether IHS policies and procedures and federal acquisition regulations were followed."

The defective masks were purchased from China, and do not meet U.S. standards, in regards to preventing coronavirus particles from passing through the masks, ProPublica reported.

The exposure of defective masks comes after a warning that the Abbott rapid test for coronavirus tests, which Trump gave Navajos, have up to a 50 percent fail rate. The Indian Health Service has used these tests since April. Both Navajo President Jonathan Nez and the Oyate Health Clinic in Rapid City, South Dakota, have complained about the difficulty of using these tests and procuring supplies.

Trump promoted the Abbot rapid tests, and gave these to Navajos, at the Native Roundtable in Phoenix on May 5.

Today, the Navajo Nation reported 102 new cases of COVID-19, and one more death. The total number of deaths has reached 159 as of Wednesday. The total number of positive COVID-19 cases for the Navajo Nation has reached 4,944.

Read full statement on Senator's mask probe:

NM, AZ Lawmakers Demand Answers to Reports that Former Trump White House Official Supplied Indian Health Service with Potentially Substandard Personal Protective Equipment

Navajo Indian Health Service Area supplied with KN95 respirator masks that have come under scrutiny for providing inadequate protection against COVID-19

May 27, 2020

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