COVID cases top 500 within CN health system
A sign at the Cherokee Nation complex in Tahlequah, seen July 20, urges the use of facemasks. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
TAHLEQUAH – The number of COVID-19 cases within the Cherokee Nation’s health system has topped 500 following a spike in July.
On July 20, CN Health Services Executive Director Dr. Stephen Jones told the Tribal Council that as cases climbed statewide to 25,000-plus, the tribe’s health care system has now seen more than 500 of its own. Less than two weeks ago, that number was 250.
“So, 506 is a lot of cases, and I’d say that probably half of those have come in the month of July,” Jones said during the July 20 Health Committee meeting. “But it’s pretty low considering the number of people that we serve.”
Within the CN’s boundaries and including Tulsa County, there were approximately 9,000 cases, Jones said.
“So, we’re doing pretty well,” he added. “I feel like we’ve done a very good job getting the message out about wearing a mask and social distancing.”
The CN has administered approximately 10,500 COVID-19 tests. Of the 500 who tested positive, the majority range in age between 18-49.
“Over half of our patients are in that age group,” Jones said. “I think that’s the same trend we’re seeing across the nation and across the state.”
The CN has reported 10 cases in children 4 years old and under, and 47 cases within the 5-17 age bracket.
“That’s a big concern with school starting again,” Tribal Councilor Harley Buzzard said.
Chief of Staff Todd Enlow said several positive COVID-19 cases are linked to recent school functions in the high school age range.
“So, that is a concern we have moving forward, being able to properly social distance and have students wear masks when they’re around one another,” Enlow said.
Since tracking COVID-19, the CN has reported five deaths within its health system.
“The state, within our boundaries, has had 115 deaths,” Jones said. “Death is a terrible tragedy, but considering the numbers that were positive in our area and across our state, it looks like we’re doing a good job at catching it and giving people services that they needed.”
Jones estimated that just under half of the tribe’s current hospitalizations are related to COVID-19.
“That’s increased a little bit, but not to the point that we’re very, very concerned,” he said. “We have the capacity to double our inpatients. We haven’t had to go into any of those measures as of yet, but we are tracking that very closely.”
The CN is following nearly 400 cases related to contact tracing.
“As we find a positive case, we go back and Public Health is working to trace those back to see who else might be exposed,” Jones said.
More than 375 positive cases are also being monitored.
“Despite all those changes and all the stress that goes along with this pandemic we’re in, staff has continued to do a fantastic job,” Jones said. “They’ve been flexible. Their attitude has been great.”
As CN employees return to work as part of a phasing-in program, many are getting tested, Jones said.
“We’ve offered testing to all of our employees as we’ve brought them back to work as we phased in,” he said. “About 70% of our employees have taken advantage of that.”
In other health news, a report showed that revenues from referred care are $86.7 million, compared to $87.5 during the same period in 2019.
“Our third-party revenues have been a little bit behind, which we would anticipate that currently,” Jones said. “But we’re not as far behind as you might think with all the reduced services that we’ve had. We’re just a little less than a million behind.”
Jones also noted July 20 that elective dental care was expected to resume in two weeks.