TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – The Indian Health Service sent the Cherokee Nation 6,000 rapid COVID-19 test kits, enabling the tribe to obtain coronavirus test results in as little as 15 minutes.
“With positive COVID-19 cases still on the rise here in the Cherokee Nation, this rapid testing capability will make a big difference in our efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” said Cherokee Nation Chief of Staff Todd Enlow. “The tests can quickly and easily identify if someone has the virus, which will help prevent outbreaks, especially among our elderly and disabled citizens as well as in our school system.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provided the Indian Health Service 300,000 Abbott BinaxNOW diagnostic tests to support COVID-19 testing in rural and tribal communities, according to a Cherokee Nation news release.
The Cherokee Nations plans to distribute tests across the tribe’s 14 county reservations, including within tribe health centers and Sequoyah Schools.
Rapid testing was implemented in Sequoyah Schools to safely allow students to participate in limited, in-person classes, according to the news release.
“With this testing capability added to our existing practices such as mandatory masks and social distancing, we can test students, teachers and staff weekly and get results before they are even allowed into the building. This allows us to safely bring students back to school for at least one day of in-person learning each week,” Enlow said.
The new tests use nasal swabs and are easily administered.
“The Abbott BinaxNOW is a major advance for COVID-19 testing. By distributing this technology to tribal communities, we are protecting our most vulnerable and at-risk populations,” said Dr. Roger Montgomery, Cherokee Nation Health Services Executive Medical Director.
Cherokee Nation Health Services has had 3,162 positive COVID-19 tests as of Oct. 27, according to the news release.