CN tests own coronavirus cleaning efforts

BY CHAD HUNTER
Reporter
06/17/2020 11:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Jerry Bigfeather, a Cherokee Nation environmental health specialist, swabs a pallet jack handle on June 12 at the Food Distribution site in Tahlequah. He and other CN employees tested various surfaces to help monitor the tribe’s COVID-19 cleaning efforts. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation environmental health specialist Lauren Fishinghawk on June 12 tests for traces of COVID-19 on a remote control at the Food Distribution site in Tahlequah. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
Main Cherokee Phoenix
The Cherokee Nation is using testing swabs in high-traffic areas to determine if, and where, COVID-19 is present. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – In an effort to gauge how its COVID-19 sanitation strategy is faring, the Cherokee Nation has begun testing workspace surfaces as office doors reopen to the public.

“This is another measure to ensure that our employees and our citizens are out of harm’s way, and that all of our cleaning efforts are paying off,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said.

CN environmental teams began their effort June 12 by taking swab samples from door handles, vending machines and other surfaces at the CN Food Distribution Center in Tahlequah.

“The public hasn’t been inside here in a couple of months,” Wayne Isaacs, senior director of CN Environmental Programs, said. “So we’re focusing on areas heavily used by staff. Areas that have a lot of hand-touching around the office.”

Testing is expected to continue at all 150 CN governmental offices within the tribal jurisdiction.

“Given where we’ve seen some positive cases, we just wanted to make sure our sanitation efforts are working correctly,” Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said. “We didn’t want to miss anything. To use a cliché, we didn’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

Samples will be tested at Elite Element Laboratories in Sallisaw. Isaacs, who sees the sampling effort also as training experience for environmental staff, expects “a lot of new data” that could help steer future housekeeping practices.

“We may have some additional insights into the virus that can assist (the Centers for Disease Control) and others potentially,” Enlow added. “But, that’s a lot of ifs and what ifs. I know there are a few places out there doing this, but not many. The laboratory said that in conjunction with the testing we’re doing and the contact tracing, this might be a model for others to look at in the future.”

Within the CN’s Health Services, there were 111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of June 12, an increase of three from the previous day.

“We’re seeing some additional positive cases,” Enlow said. “I wouldn’t say that we’re seeing like a wave yet. But, it’s a number that we’re watching very closely.”

Three deaths in CN health care system have been attributed to COVID-19.

“As we integrate back into society, it remains vital that we wear our masks, use hand sanitizer and practice social distancing,” Hoskin said. “We’re practicing those safety measures here at the Cherokee Nation and inside our casinos. We’ll continue to take these measures so that our number of COVID-19 cases does not spike.”
About the Author
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late  ...
chad-hunter@cherokee.org • 918-453-5269
Chad Hunter has spent more than two decades in the newspaper industry as a reporter and editor in Arkansas, Oklahoma and his home state of Missouri. He began working for the Cherokee Phoenix in late ...

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