Frontline Communities Lacking Clean Water Can’t Fight Coronavirus Effectively

Legena Wagner lives on the Navajo Nation with no running water   Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount, The Washington Post

Shocking as it may be, there are 2 million Americans living in such poverty that they lack running water, and tens of millions of others may have water in their homes but it is hardly safe to bathe in, much less drink, The Washington Post reports.  These extreme conditions are exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in minority communities in the deep south and Navajo Country The Washington Post dug deeper into the reasons why the virus is spreading so rampantly in poor and frontline communities, and one common problem in these areas is the lack of clean water.

Why This Matters:  With some states reopening despite Dr. Anthony Fauci’s warning today that we are not yet ready, we are all only as safe from the virus as the most vulnerable among us.  And many poor families are at risk because currently, only 14 states plus D.C. and Puerto Rico have moratoriums on water shut-offs so that all residents can cook, drink and wash their hands. Bottled water is expensive and in short supply.  This is why the massive stimulus package being considered by the House of Representatives is so important — it provides funding for state and local governments to keep water flowing and handwashing going.  

The Next Stimulus

The House is now considering its next stimulus package that would provide “nearly $1 trillion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments, which are facing big budget gaps as their tax revenues plummet amid the shutdowns of non-essential businesses and the loss of millions of jobs,” according to CNN.  The Post reported that Kristina Surfus, managing director of government affairs at the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, which has been calling for federal investment in the next stimulus legislation, said: “Access to sanitation and hygiene is critical to public health all the time and especially now in addressing the crisis.”  She continued, ‘“Covid-19 is having a significant negative impact on water utility revenue and households’ ability to pay” due to lost jobs in factories and restaurants.

No Treated Water In Home

For those who use well water or have to buy water, the options are even worse. The Post told the story of Cristobal Chavez and his wife (who has cancer) and daughter, who live in rural California and get their water from a well that they believe is contaminated by surrounding dairy farmers and almond farms. They do not like to drink water from the well, but now they have no choice due to local shortages of bottled water. In those communities, bottled water is rationed — they are only allowed to buy two gallons of water per customer, which only goes so far.  The Post spoke with George McGraw, “founder and chief executive of the nonprofit DigDeep who noted a “strong correlation” between the spread of the virus and communities that lack water.”

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