Mark Ruffalo, Ellen DeGeneres, More Stars Team Up to Help Navajo Nation Ask for COVID-19 Relief
Navajo Nation has nearly 3,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and just 13 ICU beds
Navajo Nation has a population of 175,000 — and as of Sunday, there have been at least 2,292 cases and 73 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to the grassroots initiative Protect the Sacred.
With just 12 health facilities, 13 ICU beds and 28 ventilators, Navajo Nation has become a hotspot, and its people are in need of additional personal protective equipment to keep them safe, as well as the help of additional doctors.
“One hundred and fifty years ago, we made a promise that the beautiful citizens of the Navajo Nation would be cared for the same way all Americans are,” the stars say in a collaborative video. “To give the first people of this land the respect and dignity we have owed them for a long time. Now is the time to make good on our promise.”
The video includes pleas from Ruffalo, DeGeneres, Tomei, Debra Messing, Mark Hamill, Andy Garcia, Matthew Modine, Lea Thompson, Marianne Williamson, Brad Garrett, Ricki Lake, Lisa Ann Walter, Joely Fisher, Jerry O’Connell and Rebecca Romijn, Danny Pino and Tara Strong.
It also includes an appearance from Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, as well as Protect the Sacred Director Allie Young, who explains that the nation’s elders — “the keepers of our stories, language and culture” — are at the greatest risk.
“We are resilient. We are survivors,” she says. “We ask all allies of the Navajo people to help us. Do you hear us?”
Thirty percent of Navajo Nation citizens are without running water, and the tribe — which straddles the borders of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico — is in need of test kits, medicines and PPE, including masks, gowns and face shields.
Donations and medical volunteers are being accepted at protectthesacred.care, while Alaska Airlines is offering free round-trip flights to any volunteers who want to travel to Navajo Nation to provide COVID-19 relief.
Considering many residents have underlying health conditions and lack basic necessities such as running water, Dr. Loretta Christensen, chief medical officer of Navajo Area Indian Health Service, said previously that they’re a particularly “vulnerable nation” unable to heed basic warnings.
“You’re telling people, ‘Wash your hands for 20 seconds multiple times a day,’ and they don’t have running water,” she told NBC News. “Or you’re saying, ‘Go buy groceries for two or three weeks and shelter in place and don’t come out,’ but people can’t afford groceries for two or three weeks. So it’s just a setup for frustration and concern by the population here.”
As of Wednesday afternoon, there have been at least 1.2 million cases and 71,133 deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the United States, according to The New York Times.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a GoFundMe.org fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.