NewsLocal News


RSL and U of U med students need help getting PPE for hard-hit Navajo Nation

Posted at 7:40 PM, Apr 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-24 21:40:18-04

SANDY, Utah -- If you want to help medical professionals fighting COVID-19, you can take donations to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday and Sunday between noon and 4 p.m.

A group of volunteers will take any supplies you can offer.

Specifically, they hope to get masks, sterile or vinyl gloves, safety goggles or face shields, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes.

University of Utah medical students have spent their weekends gathering such personal protective equipment to deliver to the region suffering more than any other in the American West.

The Navajo Nation has lost more than 50 people to COVID-19. To put that in context, Utah has has seen 39 deaths with more than 10 times the population.

"For whatever reason, they have been hit by a larger influx of cases," said Claire Bensard, an MD/PhD student at the Medical School.

Mylo Fowler, a member of the Navajo tribe who grew up on the reservation, has some ideas about why COVID-19 has been particularly tough there.

"I grew up without running water. Without electricity," said Fowler, now a professional photographer.

The lack of modern amenities along with large families living close together give the virus opportunity to take root. Fowler also says a big difference between his city life now and life on the reservation is the availability of medical facilities.

"For them it might be a couple of hours away," said Fowler.

Fowler volunteered with the students on the supply drive.

Real Salt Lake is providing boxes of materials to make masks, and their medical director is helping coordinate the weekend's drive.

Theron Enns, RSL's medical director, knows how important this is. His mother-in-law died days ago from COVID-19.

"My wife and I are very aware of what the nurses and doctors are doing on the front line," said Enns.