COVID cases in Cherokee Nation break 10,000 as 2020 ends
A Jan. 9 graph from the Cherokee Nation shows the number of COVID-19 cases within its health system. COURTESY
TAHLEQUAH – The number of COVID-19 cases within the Cherokee Nation doubled in December, pushing the total to more than 10,000 as 2021 began.
In late December, the CN logged hundreds of new cases within its health care system, which drove the 2020 tally to more than 10,100.
“COVID-19 cases are surging in our Cherokee communities,” a news release stated, “and it is up to each of us to do our part to protect each other. We can do this by avoiding gatherings, wearing a mask, washing our hands often and practicing social distancing. Our actions affect everyone, including our communities.”
The CN attributes more than 60 deaths to COVID-19. By Jan. 9, the CN’s total number of COVID-19 cases had risen to 12,000, an estimated 2,580 of which were deemed active.
In a New Year’s Eve message, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. talked about the pandemic’s toll on the CN.
“We lost friends, loved ones and fellow citizens to COVID-19,” he said. “We all grieve those losses. But in their memory, we must continue to meet the test before us. We must continue to seize opportunities. We must look out for one another.”
Hoskin also touched on how the tribe responded to the pandemic in 2020.
“In the face of the greatest public health crisis in generations,” he said, “Cherokees around the world immediately jumped into action from making masks to checking on elders to helping deliver food to those in need. Cherokees did what we have always done when times get tough – we put our communities ahead of ourselves.”
He added that employees of the tribe have “been amazing” through the pandemic.
“Under great stress and uncertainty, the Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Businesses employees went to work to keep our government programs and services operating for our citizens and to keep our businesses – so vital to our ability to serve the Cherokee people – operating,” he said. “They did all of this with the health and safety of our citizens, friends and neighbors as their top priority.”
Passed in June using hundreds of millions of dollars worth of federal CARES Act coronavirus relief funds, the CN’s Respond, Recover and Rebuild plan provided direct help to more than 200,000 CN citizens, Hoskin said.
“This plan helped us avoid the massive layoffs we saw elsewhere in the economy,” he added.
As part of the CN’s COVID-19 vaccination plan, the tribe is scheduling appointments for elders ages 65 and older who are eligible to receive care within CN Health Services. The CN began calling patients in this priority phase the week of Jan. 4.
Those who do not receive an automated call are urged to call 1-539-234-4099. Elders should note that the vaccines are given according to the supply on hand. For information about the COVID-19 vaccine, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit health.cherokee.org
Vaccinations within the tribe began in mid-December. The first group of recipients included frontline health care workers, first responders, those involved with CN Elder Care and first-language Cherokee speakers.