Hoskin declares state of emergency in Cherokee Nation
TAHLEQUAH – With many levels of government applying measures against the COVID-19 threat, a state of emergency for the Cherokee Nation was declared and signed on March 16 by Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
Hoskin said health and emergency staff were taking every possible action to protect the health of CN citizens and their communities, but that the Nation also sought to keep its operations open and functioning so that the Cherokee people can be served.
“I encourage the Cherokee people to stay informed about COVID-19 and its impact,” Hoskin said. “This is a serious matter for everyone around the globe. This is no time for widespread panic, but it is also no time to go about our daily normal lives.”
Hoskin said health measures, while protecting the general welfare of Cherokees and all citizens, also helps shield those most vulnerable from infection by the novel coronavirus.
“That includes our elders and those with serious health conditions,” he said. “We can do our part to slow the spread across our communities in the Cherokee Nation. That is the reason we’ve postponed a number of large gatherings and restricted travel.”
The CN declaration noted that the Oklahoma government had declared a state of emergency in all 77 counties, and that the spread of the virus will affect citizens, partners and other tribes – resulting in “a public health emergency with disruptions of critical infrastructure and systems throughout Cherokee Nation.”
Also included were clauses stating the need for “immediate and continued attention” to public health and offering emergency relief, and the activation of tribal emergency operations plans and operations center to respond to issues of safety and well-being.
The declaration covers the entire 14-county CN jurisdiction and requests of President Donald Trump to declare a disaster and direct federal funds to help the tribal response. The state of emergency will expire in 60 days unless extended.
Departments within the CN have been asked to restrict bringing children to the workplace. The Nation often allows parents to bring children on site if they are not in school. Accommodation for parents could include rescheduling, flexible work hours, leave and working from home.
The CN has also created several information fliers, which are posted throughout the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex or available on the CN intranet. Workers who exhibit symptoms are asked to stay home. Technical assistance programs are available by request from CN Public Health.
Throughout the United States and the world, people are being asked to avoid large gatherings, or that they be postponed or canceled.
Many public health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are reminding the public that taking no measures does not endanger all people, but does endanger those most at risk of severe illness or death. Health experts say with no vaccine available, epidemiology suggests blunting the spread by reducing social contact, or applying “social distancing.”
Health officials say staying home or limiting contact with others is not panic, but an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19. They also believe the survival rate of COVID-19 is 99%, which is less when compared to the survival rate of seasonal influenza, which is 99.9%. The Spanish flu of 1918 had a 98% survival rate and killed tens of millions worldwide.
Updated information on CN measures against COVID-19 are available at cherokee.org, on the CN Facebook page, and by calling the COVID-19 call center at 833-528-0063.
Because schools are closed statewide in Oklahoma for the rest of the school year, Sequoyah Schools will be offering “Grab and Go” breakfast and lunch meals free to anyone under 18 at four locations. The meals will be offered at the Sequoyah High School cafeteria and the pavilion at the CN Courthouse Square from 11 a.m. to noon, at Big B’s south of Stilwell from 11 a.m. to 11:25 a.m., and at Hop-In north of Stilwell from 11:30 a.m. to noon. The meals will be offered Monday through Friday through April 3.
Further measures were announced March 23 when the Nation closed its tag offices, the Child Development Center in Tahlequah, all Human Services field offices, Election Commission and Veterans Center to protect employees and the public.
Employees are being asked to conduct work remotely through online services and by phone.