The Cherokee Nation squelches COVID-19

“It’s as if Russia had invaded the U.S. and the federal government said, ‘Every county should fend for itself.”

Lisa Pivec, senior director for Cherokee Nation Health Services

Lisa gives credit to Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr., who leads the 14-county reservation larger than Connecticut. “I have never felt so much support as a public health professional,” she said. “He always comes through for us. He always listens to science.”

Even though COVID-19 rages out of control in Oklahoma the Cherokee Nation has no cases of workplace transmission, no limits on elective medical and dental procedures, and the Seuquoyah High School is open.

Just to put it into perspective, Oklahoma has more than 2,000 cases diagnosed every day. Cherokee Nations, located in northeastern Oklahoma has just over 4,000 cases since the pandemic started.

They’ve had a mask mandate in place since the spring, free drive-through testing, plenty of PPE for the hospitals, and a small army of public health officers that support their chief’s strategy.

Lisa and the entire Nation jumped into action this past February. As a result, the Nation instituted procedures for screening thousands of people, protected their elders, ensured food security, and educated residents in both English and Cherokee.

Because they lacked clear guidance from CDC, Cherokee Nation followed The Who’s guidance for Ebola response and set up tracing protocols.

Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health had this to say about Cherokee Nation’s response to COVID-19:

It’s very impressive. It’s a reminder of how much leadership matters and how even under difficult circumstances, with limited resources, you can make a huge difference. It fits with what I’ve seen in the world. You see countries like Vietnam. They’re not a wealthy country, but they’ve been following the science and doing a great job.

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The death rate from COVID-19 in the United States is about 100 times greater than in Cherokee Nation.

“we would be doing so much better,” Jha added, “with tens of thousands of fewer deaths, and probably a much more robust economy.”

Ashida Jha
From STAT News

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