Testing hours for COVID-19 expanded at CN health centers
A graphic posted by the Cherokee Nation on Facebook lays out COVID-19 safety precautions. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The Cherokee Nation is providing additional daytime hours at COVID-19 testing sites as infections mount.
Previously closed at noon, drive-through testing hours are now 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at each health center, according to CN Health Services.
“This is obviously based on weather and staffing,” Health Services Executive Director Dr. Stephen Jones said recently.
As of Dec. 4, the CN was reporting an estimated 1,325 active cases of COVID-19 within its health system. The total number of cases had surpassed 6,200.
“It was a wonder I even survived it,” said CN citizen Elizabeth Reeve, of Oklahoma City, who is still struggling with complications from her battle with COVID-19 in early November. “Everybody was concerned once I got it that it was going to end up killing me.”
Reeve, 48, who suffers from medial conditions such as diabetes and asthma, believes she contracted the virus at an election watch party when attendees were asked to remove their masks as a show of defiance.
“The herd mentality, that’s how I ended up getting it,” she said. “One time of not wearing my mask and not doing what I knew I needed to do, I got it. So now I’m on oxygen. It’s probably going to be long term.”
Her advice for fellow Cherokees is to wear masks and practice social distancing.
“That’s the only way we’re going to be able to survive,” Reeve said. “It’s about taking care of your community. The Cherokee puts community first, not self first. The thing about COVID is, you don’t know who’s going to have it so you need to treat everybody like they have it.”
The Centers for Disease Control says those infected with COVID-19 can spread it for up to 14 days without showing symptoms. According to the CN, getting a COVID-19 test is important when needed, “but testing alone does not ensure your safety or the safety of your loved ones.” Tribal leaders are urging their citizens to practice caution at a time when families typically gather.
“We’ve lost far too many elders, too many friends, to this dreaded disease,” Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “What you do especially during these holidays can save the lives of so many loved ones. We need to put our community first. That’s the Cherokee way.”
Jones recently asked the Tribal Council for “your help and your influence in helping us spread the message” of COVID-19 precautions, especially during the holiday season.
“We feel like we’re fighting a losing battle with our numbers continuing to rise like they have,” he said. “I’m pleading with you to help us spread the message in your communities and help us to slow this down.”
Statewide, there were 208,875 cases, 29,451 of which were listed as active on Dec. 4.
Jones said that when a vaccine is available, the CN would receive it through the Indian Health Service.
“The priority initially is going to be in-patient health care workers and elderly residential patients,” he said, adding that a distribution plan is already in place for the general public. “We’ll be ready to go when we have enough vaccine to administer it broadly.”
The CN’s health experts suggest citizens with COVID-19 symptoms contact their health center first before entering.
Tribal citizens with questions regarding COVID-19 are urged to call 1-833-528-0063 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.