Amid Water Shortages, Covid-19 Surges Within White Mountain Apache Tribe

One out of every three members of the White Mountain Apache Tribe who was tested for Covid-19 has tested positive, according to an update published today by the Tribe’s Emergency Operations Center.

With a population of around 13,420 and just over 2,000 cases overall, one out of seven members has contracted the virus.

The high percentage is due in part to a testing strategy that focuses on high-risk individuals, according to Arizona Central. The large numbers overall can be attributed to many families members sharing houses. Water shortages that the Tribe suffers during summer months are another factor.

There may be no water for showers or even an absence of drinking water in some reservation communities, according to Tribe Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood. A majority of the reservation’s population depends on a small well field, but the production has declined in recent years. In summer the areas of Cibecue and Carrizo are particularly affected. The Tribe won a settlement in 2010 to fund a drinking water project, which was then revised again in 2018.

After Arizona reopened earlier this summer, cases of coronavirus spiked, and the state has since reimposed some restrictions in order to contain the surge.

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