Seattle Indian Health Board sent body bags instead of COVID-19 supplies

SEATTLE — In March, the Seattle Indian Health Board asked for COVID-19 supplies, PPEs, and test kits. When a box arrived in April, they were hopeful. When they opened it they said it was full of body bags.

“Our facility staff were first to open the box and they were absolutely shocked. They turned completely white,” described Abigail Echo-Hawk, chief researcher at the Seattle Indian Health Board. They expected a box of PPEs or COVID-19 testing supplies.

“So it was quite a shock to everyone to instead receive body bags instead of the needed supplies we were actually wanting, needing and asking for to serve our patients,” said Echo-Hawk.

“For me it seems like a metaphor for what had been happening. We hadn’t been getting he resources we needed at the federal level, state level, instead we were doing the best we could to serve our relatives and patients well. And it was like a metaphor of here’s your body bags, wait for supplies maybe you’ll get them, maybe you won’t.”

The Seattle Indian Health Board serves about 6,000 patients a year at the Seattle health clinic. Today we saw them screening patients outside before entering the clinic.

So, who sent the body bags, complete with toe tags?

“Originally we thought the box came from King County but now we really have no idea where it came from. We don’t know if it came from the county, if it came from FEMA; we don’t know if it came from the CDC,” said Echo-Hawk.

Public Health Seattle and King County told KIRO-7 they were very concerned by the incident. They investigated the matter and have no record of an order or delivery matching this description.

For Echo-Hawk the delivery is a brutal reminder of the growing COVID-19 cases in Native American communities. The Navajo Nation in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona has been especially hit hard by the pandemic.

Just Tuesday President Donald Trump had a roundtable with Native American tribes in Arizona.

“The administration is deploying full resources to protect our Native American communities in this great time of need,” said Trump.

Echo-Hawk says that the aid took too long.

“We got it way after everyone else did and that is appalling and shouldn’t be happening in this country,” said Echo-Hawk.

At this point, she said the Seattle Indian Health Board has all of the PPEs and testing supplies they need. They are looking for funding to help the non -profit to continue delivering care and supplies.