Native Radio on Front Lines of COVID-19 Public Outreach
Flagstaff, AZ - Native Public Media’s (NPM) network of Native Radio broadcasters across 15 states launched the COVID-19 Public Outreach Campaign to raise awareness against the spread of COVID-19 among Native Americans, considered one of the most vulnerable populations in the U.S.
“KTDB has been broadcasting non-stop on the COVID -19 pandemic in our area. I have been on the air along with Board Members, Tribal officials, and chapter officials. The radio station has been very instrumental in our ability to educate the community on hand-washing, social distancing and implementing the recent weekend curfew,” stated David Nez Executive Director/Acting Superintendent for KTDB of Ramah New Mexico. “We appreciate NPM for any assistance we can get.”
As April 21, 2020. the Navajo Nation reported 1,321 positive cases of COVID-19 and 43 deaths and is among the top five hot spots in the nation. Smaller Tribes like the Zuni and Zia Pueblos in New Mexico, are reporting a rapid rise in the number of positive COVID-19 cases, raising concern that the entire Tribe could suffer long-term consequences difficult to overcome.
According to Indian Health Services and the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Native Americans have a disproportionally higher risk to contracting COVID-19 due to a lack of running water and electricity in homes across many Tribal reservations.
“Tribal communities lag behind in broadband deployment and therefore access to the Internet is severely limited across Tribal communities. In a crisis that is information centric, Tribes that have radio and television broadcast facilities are the lucky ones,” adds Taylor who has advocated for additional broadband support for Tribes to the Federal Communications Commission.
The COVID-19 Public Outreach is a life-saving campaign with the health and safety of Native Americans in mind. Stations broadcast on-air COVID-19 public service announcements, news reports, interviews and public affairs programming containing information about COVID-19. Off-air activities include covering local meetings regarding the pandemic, and disseminating information from local Health facilities, (Tribal, State, Federal) governments, law enforcement, and hazard management.