DOH director named to Biden’s COVID-19 team
Days before the novel coronavirus hit the Navajo Nation, Jill Jim, director of Navajo Nation’s Department of Health, stood before health-care facility leaders and explained the Navajo name of the deadly virus, “Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19,” that inevitably invaded the Nation.
“When we announce this to individuals we want them to know it’s not associated with SARS but it’s in the same family of diseases, and that’s why we are calling it by Dikos Ntsaaígíí (the one with the big cough),” said Jim. during a March preparedness meeting.
“This word can help individuals understand it’s not anything other than what this virus is capable of,” she said.
Nine months later, the Navajo Nation continues to fight against Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19. As President Donald Trump, whose laissez-faire attitude about the virus has been blamed for 250,000 American deaths, prepares to leave office, President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have been busy selecting their Coronavirus Transition Task Force — and it includes Jim.
“We did recommend Dr. Jim to be on the COVID-19 (transition team),” said President Jonathan Nez. “I said a few times that we are going to have a seat at the table of the COVID advisory board.
“We are overjoyed of her appointment,” he said. “We think she’s going to bring a different perspective to the National COVID-19 Advisory Board, because of what we went through as a Nation.”
Now that the Nation is experiencing a second wave of coronavirus, considerably worse than the first wave, Nez said the same COVID fatigue happening across the country is happening on Navajo as well.
“People are just wanting to get back to some normal,” said Nez.
On Tuesday, 104 more Navajos tested positive for COVID-19, and three more had died, bringing virus-related deaths to 656. Reports indicate that 9,425 individuals have recovered from the virus and 160,369 tests have been administered. The total number of positive tests is 16,711 as of Tuesday.
Jim earned a doctorate in public health, a master’s degree in health care administration, and a second master’s in public health from the University of Utah. She has a bachelor’s degree in health promotion and community health education from Northern Arizona University.
Some of her previous work experience includes serving as a health care analyst for Health Insight in Albuquerque, a consultant for the Navajo Area of the Indian Health Service, and an epidemiologist for the Utah Department of Health.
“I am proud to serve as a member of the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board,” Jim said. “I look forward to working with fellow members of the advisory board to help prepare an urgent, robust, and professional response to the global public health crisis for President-elect Biden to lead with on day one.”
The Biden-Harris camp has put out a seven-point plan to address the coronavirus:
• Fix Trump’s testing-and-tracing fiasco.
• Fix personal protective equipment problems.
• Provide clear, consistent, evidence-based national guidance.
• Plan for effective, equitable distribution of treatments and vaccines.
• Protect older Americans and others at high risk.
• Rebuild and expand the defenses that Trump has dismantled to predict, prevent, and mitigate pandemic threats, including those coming from China.
• And implement mask mandates nationwide by working with governors and mayors and by asking the American people to do what they do best: Step up in a time of crisis.
More details can be found on Biden-Harris transition website, buildbackbetter.gov.
For the duration of the pandemic, Jim has been featured on Nez’s town hall livestreams, informing people of what is taking place to combat COVID-19. She is seen in an empty office with just herself, always wearing her mask, giving information on the coronavirus on Navajo.
Also recently added to Biden’s and Harris’s COVID-19 advisory board are Jane Hopkins, a registered nurse trained in England and specializing in mental health; and David Michaels, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and professor of environmental and occupational health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, George Washington University.
“As COVID-19 surges across the country, I need a team advising me and a transition that offers diverse perspectives and viewpoints,” Biden said. “Ms. Hopkins, Dr. Jim, and Dr. Michaels will strengthen the board’s work and help ensure that our COVID-19 planning will address inequities in health outcomes and the workforce.”