Drive-thru testing site, tag office under construction
A Cherokee Nation COVID-19 testing site, seen Oct. 23, is under construction in Stilwell. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
A drive-thru COVID-19 testing location at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell is seen Oct. 22. CHAD HUNTER/CHEROKEE PHOENIX
STILWELL – A Cherokee Nation drive-thru testing site in Stilwell is rapidly taking shape near a dormant Cherokee Nation Businesses building.
Crews have carved out space in the parking lot for the building, which is just one facet of a larger, pandemic-related plan for construction and remodeling projects totaling $25 million. Paid for with federal CARES Act dollars, the projects’ deadline is Dec. 31, according to the CN.
Drive-thru testing for COVID-19 is currently conducted at the Wilma P. Mankiller Health Center in Stilwell.
“Yesterday, there were cars lined up to the highway for testing,” Tribal Councilor Canaan Duncan said Oct. 23. “I’m sure they’re going to continue to test at Mankiller, too, so (the new location) would just be an additional site people can go to.”
Post-pandemic plans call for using the building as a CN tag office. The closest CN tag offices to Stilwell are in Tahlequah and Sallisaw.
“Folks won’t have to take off work to go get tags done,” Duncan said.
Adair County’s other tribal councilor, Shawn Crittenden, added, “Tag office was needed and I appreciate admin hearing us on this and many other issues concerning Adair County.”
Under the pandemic project plan, called Respond, Recover and Rebuild, the CN is building eight facilities and remodeling four others. The projects are located throughout the CN including Tahlequah, Belfonte, Stilwell, Kansas, Jay, Vinita, Catoosa, Pryor, Muskogee and Hulbert.
“We went where the needs are and the need is all over, and different for different communities,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. stated in a news release. “There is an ongoing need for PPE manufacturing, so we are having Cherokees produce them in the Cherokee Nation. Other facilities are going to be used for food security efforts. As we continue the largest emergency food distribution program in the history of the Cherokee Nation we need strategic locations to store and distribute food. Other locations are a way to spread staff and the citizens they serve out through social distancing.”
The vacant CNB building in Stilwell will be used for a face mask manufacturing plant. The CN is also working on a Hulbert PPE manufacturing site. The 4,000-square-foot facilities in Vinita, Kansas, Belfonte and Jay will be used for food outreach space.
The projects also include additional office space for social distancing in Catoosa and Muskogee and a 6,000-square-foot new employee health center next to the W.W. Keeler Tribal Complex.
“The Cherokee Nation is putting our CARES Act funding from the U.S. Treasury to great use in our Cherokee communities by investing in this $25 million project that will provide jobs and ongoing needed safety equipment,” Hoskin said, “ensure our elders do not struggle with food insecurity through this pandemic, add space for employee safety and provide a new health center for our Cherokee Nation employees that is close to our tribal complex and can treat for a range of illness as well as test for COVID-19.”