Cherokee Nation taking proactive approaches to prepare for coronavirus

BY STAFF REPORTS
03/12/2020 10:00 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Katherine Rathjen participates in a practice drill on March 10 answering phone lines at the Cherokee Nation Outpatient Health Center, where a call center is set up to answer questions on the coronavirus. The call center number is 1-833-528-0063. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation continues efforts to help its tribal citizens, employees, health centers and schools educate and prepare for the coronavirus within its jurisdiction. 

While there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 within the CN, tribal officials said they want citizens to stay informed and take precautions to reduce risk. 

The federal government passed an $8.3 billion emergency funding bill to combat COVID-19, which includes $40 million set aside for tribes.  

“We must all act to stay healthy, monitoring our own health and that of our family, limiting travel if possible, and checking on our elders who are most vulnerable,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “The Cherokee Nation is securing federal funding to help us combat and treat any coronavirus cases, ensure we have the ability to do our own testing and that our medical staff are trained to identify, treat and respond to patients efficiently.” 

A CN call center (1-833-528-0063) has been established for tribal citizens who have questions about the coronavirus. It will be open noon to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday. The call center has up to six lines to ensure tribal citizens have access to information, officials said. 

Officials also said that if tribal citizens have symptoms such as cough, fever or other respiratory problems, they should contact their CN health center or primary care physician first and not go to the emergency room unless essential. Emergency rooms need to be able to serve those with the most critical needs, officials said. At CN health centers, health employees are also screening patients at the doors to ensure increased safety, officials said.

The CN is working closely each day with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Indian Health Service to follow recommended safety protocols, officials said.

With spring break approaching, the CN also asks tribal citizens to stay up to date with CDC’s travel health notices related to this outbreak, available at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/index.html

Tribal officials said they encourage citizens to check on their friends and neighbors. Elders and anyone with underlying health conditions, such as diabetes, heart and lung disease, are more at risk.

The CN is also taking measures to protect its workforce, such as stepping up cleaning and disinfection procedures in all facilities and restricting work-related travel as warranted, officials said. 

Due to the risk posed by COVID-19, the CN administration has postponed upcoming, large-gathering events such as the Kansas City at-large community meeting and Cherokee Days at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, D.C. Both events will be rescheduled. 

The tribe has also formed a response team and is working with its departments such as Health Services, Human Services, Veterans Center, Food Distribution, Education and more to get safety information out to help better protect citizens.  

For a FAQ and other resources, visit https://health.cherokee.org/corona-virus-covid-19/.

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