The Cherokee Nation has released information that an employee of the tribe tested positive for COVID-19 Tuesday afternoon, March 24, just hours after it announced that another CN citizen had tested positive for the disease.
Both individuals live in Adair County, tribal officials said.
HIPPA privacy laws prevent citizens who have tested positive from being identified, but according to the letter sent to employees by CN Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. and Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner, the employee who tested positive is a female in her 50s. The tribe has notified the staff who may have had any direct contact with the employee, and they are being self-quarantined, monitored, and screened.
Meanwhile, the remainder of employees have been sent home to work remotely and are operating through email and phone.
“We know this is scary, but know that our administration is ensuring everything is safe in our workplace, and that our employees are protected,” the letter stated.
According to the letter, the tribal workplaces have been thoroughly cleaned, and then cleaned again under CDC guidelines. The tribe has reduced its government operations to only those functions deemed essential to fighting the virus. There is currently no information as to what department the employee worked in, or at what location.
Around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, March 24, Cherokee Nation Health Services reported its first positive case of COVID-19, which came about five days after the first death of a Cherokee Nation citizen in Tulsa was reported. Tuesday’s confirmed case was a male patient in his 40s from Adair County. A CNHS team is making contact with individuals who may have had contact with the citizen so they can be screened. In a message to Cherokee citizens, Hoskin said the privacy of the individual must be respected and warned others to remain vigilant.
“In one important respect, today is no different than yesterday and no different than tomorrow,” Hoskin said. “A single test result does not mean only one person contracted the virus. The reality is the virus is spreading all over our region. This is a serious health crisis that requires everyone’s attention, everyone’s cooperation, everyone’s dedication, so that we can get through this together. Cherokee Nation cannot and we will not wait for other jurisdictions to decide how best to protect public health.”
While it has kept its employees home on paid-leave status, the Cherokee Nation is also asking its citizens to remain home.
“Cherokees, by nature, are inclined to run toward a crisis to pitch in and to help,” said Hoskin. “In this crisis, for just about all of us, we need to do the opposite. You can best help protect your community by staying home, if at all possible.”