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CORE Expands Covid-19 Testing and Support Services for The Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe with Support from The Rockefeller Foundation

Six new test sites, contact tracing, and support to quarantining families will be expanded in partnership with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health.

Wraparound services include distributing hygiene kits to more than 5,000 households and building 30 transitional shelters for elders.

LOS ANGELES – June 18, 2020 – Today, CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort), the emergency relief nonprofit organization co-founded by Sean Penn and Ann Lee, and The Rockefeller Foundation announced a new initiative to expand free Covid-19 testing, contact tracing and wraparound services with the Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache Tribe. In addition, CORE is partnering with Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health (JHCAIH), in consultation with Navajo and Apache Tribal governments, to also provide case management and health and nutrition services, alongside support for families to safely quarantine across the tribal lands. CORE will also provide critical wraparound services for the Navajo Nation and White Mountain Apache, including distributing hygiene kits to 5,000 households and building 30 transitional disaster risk reduction shelters for elders. To-date, CORE has provided hygiene kits to more than 1,000 households in the Navajo Nation.

Located in parts of Arizona, Utah and New Mexico, the Navajo Nation, and White Mountain Apache Tribe have been significantly impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As members of The Rockefeller Foundation’s Testing Solutions Group, both tribes are deeply committed to scaling up pandemic testing needs – to protect their people and get them back to work more safely.

“On behalf of the Office of the President and Vice President, we commend the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health and CORE for their ongoing collaboration and partnership to provide resources to increase Covid-19 testing on the Navajo Nation, and to ensure the Navajo people’s safety and well-being. We can overcome this pandemic together, but the war with this monster called Covid-19 is not over, and we can not let down! This virus will not consume our homes, families, and communities,” said Jonathan Nez, President of the Navajo Nation.

“We are so grateful that our long-term partner, Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, which has been able to bring resources from CORE and The Rockefeller Foundation to our Covid-19 response. We can now ensure our expanded testing is coupled with wrap-around services—food, water, and hygiene supplies—to help our community members isolate safely at home,” said Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, Chairwoman of the White Mountain Apache Tribe.

In addition to the $375,000 grant provided by The Rockefeller Foundation, CORE is also leveraging $3 million from private funding, including funds from Jack Dorsey’s #StartSmall donation,  to provide full-scale services, including testing, health tracking, contact tracing, and support to families and individuals who need to quarantine safely. This end-to-end support will reach an estimated 5,000 people with diagnostic testing to identify those currently infected. Additionally, the expansion will provide serological testing for approximately 6,500 people, which will identify if antibodies have been developed after exposure to the virus.

“President Nez is a model of leadership who has recognized and prioritized testing to protect his people. It’s been a privilege to be welcomed into the Navajo Nation and the White Mountain Apache Tribe, and we will continue to serve their communities during this pandemic,” said CORE Co-Founder Sean Penn.

“Our work in the Navajo Nation and White Mountain has been the result of many partners, such as World Central Kitchen and John Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, coming together to support these incredibly resilient Nations to combat COVID-19. We are grateful to The Rockefeller Foundation and Jack Dorsey’s #StartSmall for their leadership in supporting communities who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic,” said CORE Co-Founder and CEO Ann Lee.

JHCAIH has worked for more than 40 years within tribal communities to address infectious diseases, and in addition to operating test sites with CORE, the organization will use contact tracers to identify and isolate contacts of positive cases across both tribal lands. Since contact tracing is significantly hampered due to the Navajo Nation’s large rural environment and lack of reliable telecommunications, JHCAIH is using CommCare, an innovative open-source digital platform created by Dimagi. The Rockefeller Foundation recently provided funding to Dimagi to equip community health workers with new digital tools that can bolster a data-driven response to Covid-19.

“Native American communities have too often remained invisible to our nation in terms of their health and economic inequities. COVID-19 has brought new attention to their urgent needs,” said Dr. Allison Barlow, Director of the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health. “We are so grateful to CORE and The Rockefeller Foundation seeing the needs and supporting a rapid scaleup of expanded testing, contact tracing, and relief services, with a focus on hiring from the local communities. These efforts are saving lives and helping to buffer the current physical, mental, and economic suffering.”

Due to the support from Navajo organizations such as People’s Farm and McKinley Mutual Aid, CORE and JHCAIH are also offering wraparound services such as providing hygiene kits and offering fresh, healthy, and culturally relevant food and water supply for families in quarantine, including those who live off the reservation in nearby border towns. CORE is also building additional shelters to assist with self-isolation on homesteads.

World Central Kitchen, which also received a grant from The Rockefeller Foundation in May as part of its U.S. food security portfolio, has built a food and water distribution program that has already delivered more than 5,600 boxes of nutritionally balanced fresh ingredients and pantry items to communities across the Navajo Nation. These boxes provide enough food for a family of four to remain safely at home for a week as they await test results; overall, that’s enough food for more than 470,000 meals to be prepared.  Founded by José Andres, World Central Kitchen has been a critical partner of CORE’s since the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, working side by side through disasters around the world. The organization is also providing meals to CORE staff and volunteers, keeping the team on the frontlines nourished while providing free Covid-19 testing to vulnerable populations across the country.

“As we’ve worked alongside CORE these many years, together we always strive to make an uplifting, lasting impact in the communities we serve,” said Nate Mook, CEO of World Central Kitchen. “That continues here on the Navajo Nation as WCK works to fulfill our mission to use the power of food to heal and strengthen communities in times of crisis and beyond.”

“I am honored to support Chairwoman Lee-Gatewood and President Nez’s leadership to expand access to testing and contact tracing to bend the curve in their communities,” said Dr. Rajiv J. Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The alignment of World Central Kitchen’s wraparound meal services, CORE’s frontline experience, and Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health’s expertise and longstanding ties with the Navajo and Apache people provides a comprehensive and innovative solution that can be applied and scaled in communities across the country.”

This is the third collaboration between The Rockefeller Foundation and CORE. On April 22, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced that CORE, with support from the Foundation, would expand free COVID-19 testing for communities in Oakland, Napa County, and Bakersfield, focusing on communities of color and farmworkers. To date, over 20,000 people have been tested with these funds. Then on May 19, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced that the New Orleans Department of Health and CORE would provide “hyper-mobile” testing to the residents of Central City. The Foundation provided a $200,000 grant to help CORE expand access to testing plus a range of health and social services for the City’s highest risk residents, namely those living in low-income elderly apartment buildings and homeless shelters. Already more than 2,000 of the most vulnerable high risk individuals have been tested.

To schedule a test, donate or learn more about CORE’s Covid-19 response, please visit

About CORE
CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives and strengthening communities affected by or vulnerable to crisis. Within hours of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, founder Sean Penn mobilized a powerful network to take immediate action. More than 10 years later, CORE continues to lead sustainable programs focused on four pillars: emergency relief, disaster preparedness, environmental resiliency and community building. The organization has expanded beyond Haiti to support communities in The Bahamas, Puerto Rico and the United States. CORE has taken a leadership position in the COVID-19 response to provide free testing for high-risk individuals and vulnerable communities. For more information, please visit and follow CORE on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

Media Contact
Bobby Hammelman
+1 (646) 723-3830

About The Rockefeller Foundation
The Rockefeller Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity throughout the world by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas, and conversations. For more information, sign up for our newsletter at and follow us on Twitter @RockefellerFdn.

Media Contact
The Rockefeller Foundation
Ashley E. Chang
+1 (212) 852-8451

About Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
Founded in 1991 and based in the Department of International Health of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health supports public health interventions designed for and by Native peoples. The Center has offices in tribal communities across Arizona and New Mexico as well as a Great Lakes Hub serving tribes in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and along the shared border with Canada. The Center also supports public health interventions in more than 140 tribal communities in over 20 states. These partnerships have achieved landmark public health breakthroughs credited with saving millions of children’s lives in the U.S. and worldwide.

Media Contact
Rose Weeks
Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
+ 1 (443) 287-5152