Cherokee Nation citizen named as Oklahoma’s 1st coronavirus death

03/19/2020 12:05 PM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Merle Dry
TULSA – According to several sources, a Cherokee Nation citizen has been named the first coronavirus-related death in Oklahoma.

An Associated Press story states that Tulsa Health Department officials announced on March 19 that an Oklahoma man in his 50s died a day earlier after testing positive for the coronavirus, marking the state’s first death linked to the virus.

The Tulsa County man tested positive for COVID-19 on March 17, the health department said.
According to several sources, that man was Merle Dry, 55, of Berryhill. Dry was an Oral Roberts University groundskeeper and a member of the Metro Pentecostal Church in Tulsa.

According to a Facebook post by the church, Dry “was in good health as far as we all knew. He was fighting a cold and then he contracted the coronavirus. He was diagnosed on Tuesday and passed away on Wednesday… He was age 55 and Cherokee.”

Dry was also named as the state’s first COVID-19-related death by two reporters on their respective Facebook pages. The Cherokee Phoenix confirmed that Dry was a CN citizen.

Dry leaves behind a wife along with a 22-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter, all who are now in quarantine, according to the sources.

According to the church’s post, an investigation is underway to determine how Dry was exposed to the virus.

“For months, we watched this virus from afar, and now with the passing of a Cherokee Nation citizen in Tulsa County, we hope people understand this has now hit home and is a very real pandemic that can affect anyone of us,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “We ask that everyone take real safety precautions and on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, our thoughts and prayers are with the Dry family at this time and we are so very sorry for this tragic loss.”

As of publication, Oklahoma had confirmed 44 cases of the coronavirus so far, but officials warned on March 18 that the state was experiencing a shortage of testing kits. State epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said the state had about 300 testing kits and had already used 200 of them.

If any CN citizen has questions about the virus, call the CN COVID-19 hotline at 1-833-528-0063. The vast majority of people who contract the virus recover within weeks. It causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but it can lead to more severe illness, including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with pre-existing health problems.


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