Cherokee Nation sends non-essential workforce home
A citizen at the Cherokee Nation’s Food Distribution store in Tahlequah is greeted at the door on March 20 by an employee. On March 23, non-essential CN employees were ordered to stay home. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – All Cherokee Nation employees deemed non-essential are “at home on paid status” in an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19.
In mid-March, the CN asked employees 65 and older to work from home, if possible, then later asked the same of those with underlying medical conditions. On March 23, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. announced that CN governmental operations had been reduced “to only those functions deemed essential.”
“We’re handling just about everything by phone, email and website,” he said. “Staff not immediately critical to our mission to fight COVID-19, to protect our citizens and provide for their basic needs are at home on paid status. I couldn’t be more proud of our workforce. They continue to provide emergency management, health care and basic services to the Cherokee people.”
Tribal Council-related meetings have been cancelled, but Council Speaker Joe Byrd on March 25 assured citizens that “the Cherokee government is functioning, even in the midst of this crisis.”
“The council stays informed on the Nation’s coronavirus response, the Nation’s finances and the impact of the pandemic on our businesses,“ Byrd said. “I know members of the council and the public have concerns about our businesses during this difficult time. First and foremost, I want our workers to be safe. Closing our casinos last week was the right thing to do, and most of our workforce is at home on paid leave.”
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt initially resisted a statewide shelter-in-place order, stating that “our fact pattern is different in our state than it is in New York City or it is in Los Angeles or in Chicago.” However, on March 24, Stitt issued a “safer-at-home” order, requiring “all vulnerable populations” to remain at home until April 30, other than for essential travel to grocery stores or pharmacies. He also restricted gatherings of 10 or more people in Oklahoma.
“You know, the businesses have really done a good job up to this point,” Stitt said during a press conference. “But I cannot emphasize enough the need for us to continue the social distancing and making sure that we don’t get in groups of 10 or more. That’s working form home. That’s all the things our businesses are already starting to innovate and do.”
Hoskin said that CN citizens are keeping safe by “staying home when possible and letting us know when someone needs help.”
“Together, we will get through this,” he added.