LOGAN – While others play, Democratic candidate for Utah lieutenant governor Karin Brown of Nibley is spending the Memorial Day weekend delivering relief supplies to the Navajo Nation, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus pandemic.
Brown left the Wasatch Front on Friday, May 22 along with volunteers from Rotary Clubs in Bountiful, Moab and Park City. Their destination is Montezuma Creek on the Navajo Nation, where they will deliver food, personal protective gear and other emergency supplies.
Brown and other Democratic candidates for various offices are participating in a statewide grassroots effort to support the people of the Navajo Nation, which now has the highest infection rate for COVID-19 in the United States.
“When I heard about this project,” Brown explains, “I immediately jumped into action, recognizing that my network of friends and colleagues from Cache Valley would want to help. Even so, our community has far exceeded my expectations, providing literally tons of food and emergency supplies for our Navajo neighbors 400 miles away.
“This is a perfect reflection of the shared values Chris and I represent,” she added, referring to running mate, gubernatorial candidate Chris Peterson of Salt Lake City.
Metropolitan areas in the Northeast were previously considered the epicenters of COVID-19 infections in the United States. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, New York State now has an infection rate of 1,806 coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents. In neighboring New Jersey, the per capita inflection rate is 1,668 per 100,000 residents.
As of May 19, however, CNN reported that the Navajo Nation had 4,002 cases of COVID-19 within its total population of 173,667, giving the area an infection rate of 2,304 cases per 100,000 residents.
The weekend supply caravan to Montezuma Creek was organized by Cheryl Butler, a Rotarian from Park City and a candidate for the Utah House of Representatives. She has been coordinating the statewide response by Rotary Club chapters to the coronavirus outbreak.
Devin Thorpe, a Democratic candidate in Utah’s 3rd Congressional District, is also participating in the relief effort.
“The Navajo Nation is an important part of the 3rd Congressional District,” Thorpe said, “so this project is important to me … In Washington, I’m committed to addressing the structural issues that have left so many in the Navajo Nation in poverty.”
The timing of the Rotary supply caravan is critical because the Navajo Department of Health has been forced to implement increasingly stringent measures to limit the spread of COVID-19. A daily curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. has been imposed on the Navajo Nation and health authorities also issued 57-hour shelter-in-place orders over weekends in the past month.
The relief supplies being delivered by the Rotarians are also particularly needed, according to Paul Summers of the Bountiful Rotary, because “people in the Navajo Nation often need to drive long distances to access stores and other essentials.”
Brown is a respected Utah health access advocate. She is a member of the Nibley Planning Commission and the board of directors of the Cache Valley Chamber of Commerce. Brown is also president of the Cache County Friends of the Children’s Justice Center and co-founder of Cache Valley United for Change organization.