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The situation around the novel coronavirus pandemic is changing rapidly. Today we bring you five stories about how Indian Country is responding and one with lessons from Singapore. Be sure to check out Indian Country Today’s COVID-19 Syllabus for the latest updates on the virus. This page is updated daily with relevant news stories from ICT, COVID-19 statistics from the WHO, CDC, and IHS, other COVID-19 related research publications, and the latest on cancellations and closings throughout Indian Country.
See below for more stories on COVID-19’s impact across Indian Country and examples of best practices for pandemic response:
The Lummi Nation (Washington) is set to open a field hospital to treat coronavirus patients. Tribal leaders have been preparing for COVID-19 for months, with medical staff beefing up emergency plans, reorganizing services and gathering medical supplies, including test kits and personal protective equipment. “We quickly recognized the need to make sacrifices for the greater good, in order to protect our people and the wider community,” said Dr. Dakotah Lane, medical director of the tribal health service. Like an increasing number of tribes, the Lummi Nation has opted for “self-determination,” as opposed to depending on the Indian Health Service (IHS) which has suffered decades of severe underfunding.
While Singapore is unique -- and the resources available to its 5.6M citizens do not mirror those available to tribal communities in the United States, the response of this island nation to the coronavirus provides an interesting case study and an opportunity to learn. Lessons that may be replicable include: keep people who test positive in the hospital; strong and regular communication on what people can do to minimize risk; organized leadership for consistent messaging as a team.
KPAX (MT): CSKT establishes COVID-19 call center, email (March 20, 2020)
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) of Montana have established a call center in response to ongoing COVID-19 concerns. Tribal Health representatives are staffing a live call center and hosting an email address regarding COVID-19 questions and concerns. The call center and email can help answer questions about COVID-19 and help connect patients with other resources of the CSKT and the Mission Valley.
The $40M allocated to help support American Indian health care providers as part of the initial $8.3B coronavirus response package signed into law earlier this month still has not reached tribal communities, as the Trump administration holds up the emergency funds. The money, allocated as grants, is stuck behind an obscure appropriations hurdle even as tribal leaders increasingly demand access to the resources required to protect their communities. IHS is “inundated” with supply requests from all over the country, illustrating the need for immediate funds.
U.S. Senators Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Steve Daines (R-MT) sent a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) requesting that emergency funding for America’s tribal communities be included in the latest coronavirus relief package. Among other requests, the Senators call for parity for tribes in previous and future COVID-19 related legislation, a $950 million increase in funds to the Tribal Priority Allocations fund housed in the BIA, and the creation of a $20 billion Tribal Government Stabilization Fund. Importantly, the Senators note that the proposals outlined in their letter “are not a comprehensive list of all the needs of tribal communities related to COVID-19, but they represent the immediate actions Congress should take to address the most acute challenges in Indian Country today.” Read the full text of the letter here.
Indian Country Today is asking its readers to share how COVID-19 is impacting their lives. Share a 30-45 second video clip on how you are coping through these unique times. Some questions to consider include: What are you doing with your free time? What message do you want to share with others? How is the pandemic affecting you? ICT will select some of the videos for future publication. Help keep Indian Country connected by sharing your story.
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