Cherokee Nation seeing dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. (KFOR) – Tribal leaders with the Cherokee Nation say they are seeing a spike in the number of coronavirus cases among its members.

In the past 30 days, the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the Cherokee Nation rose from 219 to 684.

According to contact tracing efforts by the tribe’s public health team, many of the cases are from gatherings where social-distancing measures and proper mask usage were not observed.

As a result, the Cherokee Nation is encouraging Cherokee citizens to use an abundance of caution and take safety measures seriously.

“As the number of positive cases quickly rises in the Cherokee Nation, we need to be more prepared than ever to make tough decisions and avoid specific activities whenever possible until the risk of community spread has diminished,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr. “This is especially difficult for Cherokees because fellowship and family are so ingrained in our culture. Following guidelines and recommendations from our health care and scientific experts is absolutely critical to keeping us safe and healthy, including our Cherokee elders and speakers who are often among the most vulnerable to this deadly virus. Now more than ever I ask you as fellow Cherokees to help us stop the spread of this virus throughout our communities. Please, wear a mask and keep a safe social distance if you must be around other people, and wash your hands as often as possible. These simple tasks may save your life and the lives of your fellow Cherokees.”

Cherokee Nation Public Health shows the COVID-19 seems to be spreading in faith-based activities; family gatherings like birthday parties, weddings, and funerals; restaurants, bars, and community dinners; student activities like sporting events, proms, and graduations; car-pooling; and workplace settings.

“Before participating in any gathering, ask yourself these simple questions to evaluate the risk of being exposed, or exposing someone else, to COVID-19: Do I have symptoms? Do I really need to go out or travel? Who are the people I will be around? Is my destination spacious and well-ventilated? Does my destination practice screening, hygiene, mask-wearing and social-distancing? When it comes to COVID-19, it’s best to be wise and to assess your risks rather than to be unconcerned,” said Lisa Pivec, Senior Director of Cherokee Nation Public Health.

Health experts say proper safety measures include wearing a mask, being in the presence of others for no longer than 15 minutes while maintaining at least 6 feet of distance, and frequently washing hands.

The Cherokee Nation requires all employees and guests to the tribe’s 150 government offices throughout the reservation to wear masks and follow social-distancing protocols. The tribe is also utilizing temperature screenings of employees and guests at governmental facilities.

Chief Hoskin declared a State of Emergency in the Cherokee Nation due to COVID-19 on March 16 and issued an executive order requiring masks be worn on all Cherokee Nation properties.

The Cherokee Nation has a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-833-528-0063 and an epidemiology line at 539-234-4030 for more information.

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