SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – A group of physicians and nurses at University of California San Francisco traveled to Arizona and New Mexico to treat members of the Navajo Nation who have contracted the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The seven physicians and 14 nurses left for the Navajo reservation Wednesday night at the request of the university’s colleagues in the Navajo Nation. The workers will be stationed at seven hospitals in Chinle, Arizona, and Gallup and Shiprock, New Mexico, three areas with large hospitals focused on residents of the reservation.

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The reservation, which has a population of about 175,000, has dealt with a disproportionate number of cases in recent weeks that have overwhelmed its health care system. Navajo Nation health care workers have confirmed 1,206 positive cases of the virus, including 48 confirmed deaths, as of Tuesday.

“COVID-19 is tearing across the fault lines of existing injustice and structural marginalization, and has hit Navajo Nation at a rate higher than 48 states,” said Dr. Sriram Shamasunder, associate professor of medicine at UCSF. “COVID-19 has shown us that we are bound together, all of us.”

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UCSF offered similar help to New York City earlier this month, when 20 health care workers volunteered to travel across the country and support the New York-Presbyterian hospital system.

UCSF is coordinating the efforts in New York and the Navajo Nation through its Department of Medicine’s Health, Equity, Action and Leadership initiative. Doctors, nurses and other health care workers in the two-year fellowship assist with health care needs in rural and disadvantaged communities around the world.

“We remain grateful that the severity of COVID-19 in the Bay Area has not been severe thus far, enabling UCSF Health to partner with UCSF HEAL to provide support and highly trained and courageous nurses and physicians for assistance to patients and health care providers in Navajo Nation,” UCSF Health Chief Clinical Officer Dr. Josh Adler said.

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