COVID-19 cases climb toward 4,000 in Cherokee Nation
A Cherokee Nation graph shows totals of COVID-19 cases and deaths within the tribe’s Health Services as of Nov. 6. COURTESY
A graph posted to Facebook by the Cherokee Nation in late October shows that COVID-19 cases surpassed 3,000 within Health Services. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The number of COVID-19 cases within Cherokee Nation Health Services broke 3,000 in late October then spiked in early November, pushing the total to 3,750 by Nov. 6.
The rise coincides with national and statewide records. On Nov. 5 and Nov. 6, Oklahoma saw the highest daily increases of new cases yet at 2,101 and 1,878. The cumulative state total now exceeds 130,000 with more than 17,000 cases listed as active. On Nov. 6, the COVID-19 death tolls in Oklahoma and the CN stood at 1,429 and 31 respectively.
Daily cases within the CN spiked in early November, peaking on Nov. 4 at 112.
“Please continue to mask up, social distance and get tested if you feel ill or show symptoms,” the tribe urged on Facebook.
Nationwide, the number of cases on Nov. 6 was nearly 9.6 million. The previous day saw an increase of 120,000-plus infections, a new daily record, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control data.
Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath, the Oklahoma State Department of Health says.
“While roughly 80% of cases report mild symptoms, some progress into severe pneumonia and multi-organ failure and can lead to death,” the agency notes on its website. “On Jan. 21, 2020, the first set of individuals in the United States tested positive for COVID-19. The virus has since spread across all 50 states and the number of individuals testing positive for COVID-19 continues to rapidly grow each day.”
In late October, the CN received 6,000 rapid test kits from the Indian Health Service “to enhance how the tribe tests for COVID-19 within its school system and among its most vulnerable citizens,” according to the tribe. Test results can be obtained in as little as 15 minutes.
“With positive COVID-19 cases still on the rise here in the Cherokee Nation, this rapid testing capability will make a big difference in our efforts to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” Chief of Staff Todd Enlow stated in a news release. “The tests can quickly and easily identify if someone has the virus, which will help prevent outbreaks, especially among our elderly and disabled citizens as well as in our school system.”
The IHS received approximately 300,000 Abbott BinaxNOW diagnostic tests from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for COVID-19 testing in rural and tribal communities.
“The Abbott BinaxNOW is a major advance for COVID-19 testing,” Health Services Executive Medical Director Dr. Roger Montgomery stated in the release. “By distributing this technology to tribal communities, we are protecting our most vulnerable and at-risk populations.”
COVID-19 safety precautions at the CN include the expansion of testing capabilities within the workplace, screening upon entry at any of the CN’s 150 government office locations, partitions at client interaction areas, requiring the use of masks and enhancing the existing cleaning and disinfecting protocols. The tribe has also made efforts to provide accessible COVID-19 testing to its citizens and communities by offering drive-through testing at all Health Services clinics.