Cancellations, safety precautions rise in Cherokee Nation
A sign posted on an office window at the Cherokee Nation Tribal Complex in Tahlequah urges visitors to “think of others” before entering if they have symptoms like coughing or fever. LINDSEY BARK/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH — From Tribal Council meetings to youth gatherings, many Cherokee Nation events have been cancelled or delayed as leaders focus on preventing the spread of COVID-19, commonly referred to as coronavirus.
“We’re postponing large gatherings for the time being,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. noted in an update posted to Youtube on March 12. “This includes not only local meetings, but at-large gatherings.”
Hoskin assured concerned tribal citizens that the CN is doing its part “to ease that worry and keep everyone safe.”
“We assembled a team of Cherokee Nation health and emergency management experts to guide our decision-making based on science and facts,” he said. “We’re also working to protect our workforce by stepping up our cleaning and sanitation efforts. We’re sending information to our elders and schools on how to prepare and respond to coronavirus. Our heath and safety experts are constantly meeting and are in contact with experts at (the Centers for Disease Control) and the Indian Health Service.”
By the end of the work week, an increasing number of offices at the Tribal Complex in Tahlequah displayed signs that urged visitors to “think of others” before entering if they have symptoms like coughing or fever.
“If you think you have symptoms, call the health center you normally visit before entering,” the signs say.
Other safety measures noted at CN locations included the installation of additional hand-sanitizer dispensers and periodic door-handle cleaning.
Hoskin said that if tribal citizens have recently traveled and have symptoms of fever, cough or shortness of breath, “they should call their Cherokee Nation health center first.”
A full list of health center phone numbers is available at health.chereokee.org/contact-us
. The Cherokee Nation also has established a coronavirus call center at 833-528-0063, available from noon-8 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“By using this service, you can speak directly with health care employees when you have questions about the coronavirus,” Hoskin said, adding that health care centers or the call center are resources to “get directed on where to go for testing should they need it, as we have the ability to test for coronavirus within the Cherokee Nation health system.”
The Tribal Council, in an effort to “do our part to help prevent the spread of COVID-19,” postponed council-led community gatherings and cancelled all March council and committee meetings.
“I briefed Chief Hoskin on this matter and we agree, the safety of our tribal citizens and communities requires that we all do our part and act responsibly,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd stated in a news release.
Cherokee Nation museums and the Cherokee Heritage Center are scheduled to remain open, but out of “an abundance of caution for the health and safety of employees and guests,” several upcoming events related to Cherokee Nation Cultural Tourism have been cut.
Cancelled CN-related events and meetings include:
• March 14 artist showcase at the Cherokee National History Museum featuring Cherokee National Treasure Lisa Rutherford.
• March 14 Cherokee Heritage Center’s “American Indians in Major League Baseball: The First Fifty Years” discussion at the Chota Conference Center.
• March 16 Tribal Council and committee meetings.
• March 19 spring break activities at Cherokee Nation museums.
• March 19 Cherokee Heritage Center genealogy workshop.
• March 19 Cherokee Nation Tribal Youth Summit at the Chota Conference Center. This event may be rescheduled.
• March 26 Tribal Council committee meetings.
Updates to postponements or rescheduling are available on the Cherokee Nation’s Facebook page. A request was submitted to Cherokee Nation Businesses asking if and potentially how the tribe’s casinos are affected by COVID-19.
Earlier in the week, the CN received an award of $750,000 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help respond to the coronavirus.
“Today’s funding from the CDC will continue to help us provide testing, supplies and other resources to keep the Cherokee Nation safe,” the CN noted on Facebook.