Cherokee Nation pushes for statewide mask mandate

BY BURT MUMMOLO
KTUL Staff
10/16/2020 03:00 PM
Reprinted with permission
Main Cherokee Phoenix
A Cherokee Nation graph shows COVID-19 cases within the tribe’s Health Services and within Oklahoma. CN officials are pushing for a statewide mask mandate to help stop the rise in cases. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH (KTUL) – More than 100,000 cases of COVID-19, that’s where Oklahoma stands as the state grapples with records for hospitalizations and numbers of new cases.

All of which raises the question, will there ever be a statewide mandate for masks? It’s something the Cherokee Nation has been pushing for.

“Isn’t this a time to put your community ahead of yourself?” said Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., as his Nation and other Native Americans feel the pain of the pandemic.

At age 67, United Keetoowah Band citizen Larry Swimmer had only been retired for four months when COVID stole his golden years.

“He got sick on Sunday and he was gone by Thursday,” said his widow and UKB citizen Carolyn Swimmer. She caught COVID as well, as did their daughter. She’s encouraging the use of masks.

“Everybody should wear their mask,” she said.

“If we want to get to the end of what’s been a difficult time in this country with COVID, we all need to wear the mask, we’ll get to the end quicker,” said Hoskin, advocating for a statewide mask mandate, as opposed to Gov. Kevin Stitt who has said the decision should be left to local communities.

“What I’ve heard consistently was that the governor thinks that this is a local choice but again, there’s just not a local health problem. This is a global pandemic. If it’s a global pandemic put the politics aside for a moment, summon the will to just listen to public health experts and implement what they say,” Hoskin said.

As to the argument that being forced to wear a mask infringes on individual freedom?

“It’s a philosophical issue but it’s actually killing people and I can’t understand why as a country we can’t rally around as a matter of patriotism, protecting each other,” Hoskin said.

At the CN headquarters, the message of precaution is everywhere – from the sign at the entrance that switches to a picture of the Hoskin in a mask, to the social distancing markers, to the prevalence of masks and hand sanitizer, and topping it all off, the direct and not so subtle message “Show Respect Wear Your Mask.”

“I guarantee you we’ve saved lives and saved misery by having this as a mask mandate,” Hoskin said.

Meanwhile, Carolyn Swimmer is still in shock. Her message to those growing complacent as the pandemic rages on?

“They think it’s not going to affect me or my family but it’s out there so beware,” she said.

As of Oct. 13, the CN reported 2,647 confirmed COVID cases and 22 deaths within its health system. – (https://ktul.com/news/local/cherokee-nation-pushes-for-statewide-mask-mandate)

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