Published On: Tue, Mar 3rd, 2020

Cherokee prepares for the coronavirus

 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

ONE FEATHER STAFF

 

As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has begun to spread across the United States, the EBCI Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) called a meeting to discuss the Tribe’s preparation.

Vickie Bradley, Secretary of PHHS, speaks in front of community stakeholders at their called meeting on Monday, March 2 to discuss the coronavirus. (JONAH LOSSIAH/One Feather photos)

This meeting was held on the afternoon of Monday, March 2 and brought together the local stakeholders in order to initiate a plan moving forward.  The primary takeaway from the meeting was understanding what is needed to be prepared across the Tribe and to ensure communication between all the departments involved. 

The main things that the community can do is to take all necessary precautions in terms of basic hygiene. Thoroughly washing your hands, covering your mouth to cough or sneeze, avoid touching your face, clean frequently touched items at your home and work, and avoid contact with those that are sick. 

“This virus, it’s not very hearty. Many things can kill it. Typically, it doesn’t last on surfaces very long, although it has been seen to last up to nine days on some surfaces. That’s kind of worst case, mostly it’s around 24 hours max,” said Mark Tuttle, a PHHS Epidemiologist.

An important aspect of COVID-19 is that it is a novel virus. This means it has not been seen before, therefore no one is immune to the disease and any information regarding the virus is adapting at this point.

Tuttle led a presentation on COVID-19. He even had to edit the statistics the day of the meeting because of multiple new cases hitting the United States over the weekend. He discussed what is known at this moment, with all the offered information coming from the World Health Organization and the CDC. 

Current trends show a few groups that are more at risk. Elderly people, especially 70 years and older, have a higher rate of fatality. Other increased rates include men, those with preexisting medical conditions, and smokers.

Disinfectant wipes were placed by a sign-in sheet at the meeting. All those that attended will be added to a distribution list for COVID-19 information and updates.

As of March 2, the COVID-19 had reached 67 countries with nearly 90,000 cases. 89 of those cases have been in the United States. There have been no reported cases in North Carolina or its neighboring states. However, it has reached several East-coast states, including New York and Florida. There have been multiple deaths in Washington state.

There are more statistics available, but with new information coming everyday it is best to keep a watch on the situation through https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/ and https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019. 

Each entity had a chance to speak at the meeting, offering contact information and their plan moving forward in terms of preparation. PHHS, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, Cherokee Indian Hospital, Cherokee Central Schools, EBCI Emergency Management, and more were there. It was also stated the Tribe has been in contact with Swain and Jackson counties to ensure that there is continuity moving forward, and that they have shared their plans for preparation and what to do if there were to be a reported case in the region. 

Different departments, including the Cherokee One Feather, will be sharing materials to help prevention efforts. This includes posts on social media, as well as posting flyers and reminders across all the buildings and bathrooms on the Boundary and surrounding areas. 

Currently, the region is preparing. However, protocol could quickly change if there is a reported case in the area. Vickie Bradley, Secretary of PHHS, was providing a report to Budget Council on Tuesday, March 3 when Vice Chief Alan B. Ensley asked about public gatherings moving forward.  

“If the virus hits our community – if we were to have a positive case – I would recommend that we discontinue any congregating in public spaces,” said Bradley.

Adele Madden of Harrah’s Cherokee Casino said that they have already taken precautions on three employees that had travelled internationally during the outbreak. She said that they would be spending three paid weeks at home to ensure they did not bring the virus to the casino. 

A unified front and focus on education and caution is necessary moving forward. More resources will soon be available, but if there are any questions regarding COVID-19, contact the following services:

For general questions and the general public – email: ncresponse@dhhs.nc.gov, call 866-462-3821, or visit www.ncoisoncontrol.org and select chat. 

For clinical or urgent information – NC Epidemiologist on Call: 919-733-3419.

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