'Left out and left behind': Trump administration faces questions about COVID-19 in Indian Country
July 2, 2020
The Trump administration's COVID-19 response efforts in Indian Country are back in the spotlight again. Key lawmakers are hearing from two agencies that have been forced to toe the line by a president who continues to send mixed and conflicting messages about a disease that has affected the first Americans at disproportionate rates.
The Indian Health Service has repeatedly touted its coronavirus initiatives in more than a dozen conference calls with tribal leaders. But the agency has faced repeated complaints about a proprietary machine that provides inconsistent COVID-19 results, a lack of contract tracing for those infected and little to no discussion about bringing antibodies testing to reservations and urban Indian communities.
Yet for all those critiques, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has largely been sidelined during the pandemic, despite being trained to handle crises. Concerned about high cost shares that have yet to be fully addressed by the White House, most tribal nations have decided to avoid working with FEMA due to the uncertainty in Washington.