Cherokee Nation receives grant to help fight COVID-19, contact tracing efforts

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) — After reporting an increase of COVID-19 cases, the Cherokee Nation has received a $4 million grant to help with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing efforts.

Cherokee Nation Health Services was awarded a $4.1 million Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics for Underserved Populations grant.

“From the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cherokee Nation has implemented our response by relying on medical science, facts and compassion. Because of this, our approach to slowing and stopping the spread of COVID-19 in our communities has been at the forefront of governmental and health care response not just in Oklahoma, but in all of Indian Country,” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “Providing ample testing in our communities has been a focus of this approach and we’ve made great strides in our fight against the virus by not only ensuring we have plenty of COVID-19 tests on hand, but by also providing an abundance of safe and easy to access testing locations throughout Northeast Oklahoma. This new funding will provide us with even more opportunities to protect our Cherokee families and help change the course of this pandemic.”

The grant project, known as Cherokee PROTECT, will allow the health system to expand its infrastructure by increasing COVID-19 viral and antibody testing for clinical care. It will also enable community-based COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and education within the healthcare system.

“Throughout the Cherokee Nation reservation in northeast Oklahoma, we continue to see confirmed COVID-19 cases and community spread,” said Dr. Sohail Khan, director of Health Research with Cherokee Nation Health Services and project lead for the Cherokee PROTECT program. “Many residents have a statistically higher chance of contracting severe COVID-19 symptoms due to underlying medical conditions. This vulnerability is compounded by economic and geographical barriers. Cherokee Nation Health Services has already begun to combat these issues through extensive testing and contact tracing efforts, and the addition of more than $4.1 million in grant funding will only allow us to make greater strides in these areas.”

Cherokee Nation Health Services has reported about 4,500 positive cases of COVID-19 in its health system as of Nov. 16.


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