Check local orders before going into public
TAHLEQUAH – With Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announcing plans to gradually relax restrictions intended to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, there are likely to be many people eager to get out of their houses to see movies, get haircuts, have nails manicured and groom pets.
However, Stitt’s “reopening” plan allows room for local authorities to set their own guidelines and deadlines. The mayors of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Norman and Stillwater quickly announced their intentions to move at their own paces based on conditions within their respective cities. Conversely, Tahlequah officials planned to follow Stitt’s recommendations and allow some businesses to open under social distancing guidelines on April 24.
Residents of the Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties should consult city and county authorities to determine what businesses are allowed to reopen and what activities may still be restricted. Stitt’s plan, while intended to relax the state’s earlier recommendations, still urges the wearing of masks and the practicing of social distancing, even inside establishments such as restaurants and hair salons.
Addressing another public health issue involving COVID-19, the CN announced it had received 300 rapid novel coronavirus tests from Abbott Laboratories, with further shipments expected. The tests can give results in about 20 minutes. CN Health Services also has more than 2,000 lab tests provided by the Indian Health Service. It usually requires more than 24 hours for the reference tests to yield results.
“We understand that waiting for test results can be a tense time for anyone, especially in our current climate; that’s why we are utilizing our existing supply of rapid tests for our most critically ill patients,” said Health Services Executive Director Dr. R. Stephen Jones. “Obtaining test kits and testing capabilities is a global challenge during this pandemic, but with our strong partnerships, we can meet the needs of our patients and provide them with answers as quick as possible.”
Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said the rapid tests allow health professionals to more quickly protect those suspected of COVID-19 infection.
“That allows us to provide an extra layer of protection to our Cherokee citizens and our communities as a whole,” Hoskin said. “We will continue to look for new and innovative ways to address this virus and the impact it is having on our Cherokee communities. I am proud of our health care team for their commitment to caring for our patients and stopping the spread of COVID-19.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend all people wear medical masks, or some sort of face covering if no mask is available, when going into public where social distancing is difficult to maintain – grocery stores, pharmacies, drive-thru windows, and anywhere customers must interact with employees.
Though there is little evidence that masks keep people from contracting the virus, they do appear to impede its passage by infected people. The coronavirus can be transmitted for up to two weeks before a person shows symptoms, and some people never show symptoms while carrying it.
The CDC said all masks should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, secured with ties or ear loops, use multiple layers of fabric, allow unrestricted breathing, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or changing the shape.
There are also instructions for making and maintaining homemade masks at: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html
In the CN, those with questions can call W.W. Hastings Hospital, the various Health Services clinics and respective county health departments. For information and incidence data, the CN website maintains a COVID-19 page with links at health.cherokee.org/corona-virus-covid-19
Health Services is tracking the incidence of COVID-19 at CN health care facilities, and the Nation recently announced the death of a second employee due to the disease.
Hoskin said the CN would follow the recommendations of the CDC, the Indian Health Service and Health Services officials to inhibit the spread of the virus.
At coronavirus.health.ok.gov, the Oklahoma State Department of Health maintains a COVID-19 page with links.
The OSDH recommends calling a doctor or the OSDH Call Center (1-877-215-8336 or 2-1-1) if symptoms worsen. Emergency symptoms are difficulty breathing, persistent pain or pressure in the chest, new confusion or inability to arouse, and bluish lips or face.
Otherwise, the department asks those suspecting coronavirus infections to treat themselves at home to conserve the availability of resources to those at highest risk, including the elderly, pregnant women and the immunocompromised. Underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes create a higher risk of serious complications.
The OSDH COVID-19 Call Center is open 24 hours. The site explains that positive tests will initiate an investigation by health officials, which includes notifying the patient and provider to conduct the investigation along with contact tracing.
Coronavirus links are on the front page of cdc.gov. One link leads to recommendations for home treatment of COVID-19.
Part of home care is trying not to infect other family members. The CDC page recommends keeping an ill person in one room as much as possible; using a separate bathroom if available; and not sharing dishes, towels or bedding. Those who are sick should wear masks if able and caretakers should wear masks.