Cherokee Nation says ‘show respect, wear your mask’
A message form the Cherokee Nation urges the public to “show respect” and “wear your mask” to protect elders, the Cherokee language and each other. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – To protect elders, the Cherokee language and each other from COVID-19, Cherokee Nation officials are reminding citizens to “show respect” and “wear your mask,” a practice implemented months ago for tribal leaders and employees.
“I wish the rest of the state would follow our lead – the counties and the state, even the federal government,” Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd said. “It’s difficult to educate these people on how important it is to do the basic things like wearing a mask. You know, they try to justify it by not wearing a mask, and I just don’t get it.”
To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings, “especially” when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
“Cloth face coverings may help prevent people who have COVID-19 from spreading the virus to others,” the CDC states. “Wearing a cloth face covering will help protect people around you, including those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 and workers who frequently come into close contact with other people.”
Face coverings are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 “when they are widely used by people in public settings,” states the CDC.
“The cloth face coverings recommended … are not surgical masks or respirators,” the CDC notes. “Currently, those are critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.”
In the United States, more than 3 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, along with 130,000-plus deaths. As of July 7 in Oklahoma, there were 17,220 confirmed positive cases, an increase of 10,070 over four weeks. The latest death toll was 404, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
CN Health Services was reporting 252 confirmed cases as of July 7. On June 25 when the number of CN cases was 169, Tribal Councilor Mary Baker Shaw lauded the tribe’s “health care heroes,” comparing that number to the 1.2 million patient visits last year.
“We are doing something right,” she said.
CN leaders and employees continue wearing masks, using sanitizer and practicing social distancing. For health care workers, “Our staff has done a fantastic job at securing gowns, masks, gloves,” Health Services Executive Director Dr. Stephen Jones said. “We’ve done such a good job of it, we’ve actually stockpiled some of those supplies in anticipation of a second surge.”
Of the tribe’s effort to promote wearing masks, one Facebook user said, “It took me some time to ‘get it,’ so I do believe these messages will help.” Still, there are naysayers. While the majority of comments on the CN’s Facebook page applaud the tribe’s pro-mask position, a couple offer sentiments like “no thanks.”
“If you don’t like wearing a mask you’re really gonna hate a ventilator,” Lorrie Starr wrote in response to an anti-mask post. “Mask up brother, it protects others as you can spread the virus w/o symptoms. It also protects you.”