Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez tours the glove factory in Church Rock, New Mexico, in November 2019. (Photo/Office of the President and Vice President)
A manufacturer of medical-grade nitrile gloves situated on Navajo land is meeting a critical need for personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The facility in Church Rock, New Mexico, averages production of 8,000 gloves per hour, and hours have been extended to meet a surge in demand — nationally and on its home turf.
Today the small glove manufacturer, Rhino Health, LLC, started loading up to 1.5 million pairs of nitrile gloves to be shipped to more than 600 Indian Health Service facilities and hospitals across the Navajo reservation, reported the Navajo TImes.
The shipment comes on the tails of the Nation reporting 26 new cases and two more deaths related to COVID-19, reaching a total of 174 coronavirus cases for the Navajo Nation as of Tuesday.
Meanwhile on March 31, Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) officials visited the Navajo reservation to evaluate local facilities in Chinle, Arizona, to discuss the establishment of a federal medical station to help fight the spread of the virus.
Rhino Health, LLC is currently operating from its phase one facility. The phase two expansion of the nitrile glove manufacturing plant was slated for completion in 2021. More space would empower the company to make 1.3 billion gloves annually, as opposed to its current rate of 60 million gloves a year, reported the Navajo TImes.
In November 2019, the Navajo Nation contributed $19 million for phase 2 construction of the manufacturing facility and warehouse. Once completed, the phase two facility will be owned by the Navajo Nation.
“The funds that our Nation invested in Rhino Health, LLC, are now helping to keep our health care workers, nurses, and other first responders safe as they fight the COVID-19 coronavirus. We have many Navajo men and women working in the glove factory who are making a big difference in the lives of many whether they realize it or not. Our investment is paying off,” said Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez.
More than $49 million from Rhino, LLC, supplements the Navajo Nation’s $19 million investment in the forecasted 124,000-square-foot operation. The New Mexico Economic Development Department also put $3.5 million toward the project.
President Nez and Vice President Myron Lizer praised the glove manufacturer for its fast response to aid healthcare workers and first responders on the frontlines against COVID-19.
“This is sovereignty at the highest level. We are practicing the teaching of our elders known as T’áá hwó’ajít’éego, or self-reliance and self-determination. We’re empowering ourselves to help our Navajo people and now we’re taking it a step further by helping people across the country as well,” President Nez told the Navajo-Hopi Observer.
Vice President Lizer added: “We are very proud to see Navajo-made products making a huge difference for the better during this pandemic. In every challenging time, you always have people and entities step up and shine. Rhino Health, LLC, as well as Navajo enterprises, small businesses, and others are stepping up and helping to fight and beat the pandemic. These are the stories of hope and inspiration that need to be told in times like this.”