Indian Country has mobilized to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic and its associated illness, COVID-19.
Tribes around North America have taken action, canceling some of the year’s biggest events, restricting travel and declaring states of emergency.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe has canceled or postponed large events and emphasized social distancing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Tribal government did not respond to requests for information about positive cases, the number of COVID-19 tests completed or its current stock of medical supplies.
Southern Ute’s COVID-19 Incident Command Team designed its directives to protect people who are at a high-risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a news release issued Friday. Such populations include older adults, people with chronic medical conditions, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We all share those responsibilities equally, and ask your cooperation, support and assistance in making these protective measures successful,” the news release said.
Nearby tribal nations have also taken action. The Navajo Nation, the largest tribal reservation in the United States spanning parts of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah, declared a state of emergency Saturday and has also announced a partial-government closure. Tribal parks are closed as well.
On Tuesday, the tribe said a 46-year-old member tested positive for COVID-19 – the first confirmed case of a Navajo Nation member.
The Ute Mountain Ute Indian Tribe, headquartered in Montezuma County, had no positive cases, The Journal reported Thursday. The tribe also declared a state of emergency. It closed its Head Start in Towaoc until March 30, issued a travel ban until April 3 and heightened prevention practices.
Tribes are working at the federal level to receive aid funding. The U.S. House of Representatives emergency relief package, which awaits Senate approval, allocates $64 million to the Indian Health Service, a federal health program that provides services to more than 2.5 million Native American and Alaska Native individuals.
The Southern Ute Indian Tribe did not say whether it will receive funding through the bill or if it has received other coronavirus-related federal or state funding.
The tribe issued a travel ban that applies to all employee business travel under all business and governmental entities.
Beginning Monday, tribal staff and members could call the Southern Ute Health Center for medical questions or clarifications of symptomatic concerns.
The Southern Ute COVID-19 Incident Command Team ordered the postponement or cancellation of large events with more than 250 people inside the reservation boundaries, according to a second Friday news release.
“A COVID-19 outbreak could last for a long time,” the news release said. “Depending on the severity of the outbreak, public health officials have recommended community action designed to limit exposure to COVID-19.”
The tribe advised its community members to practice social distancing behaviors, like closing buildings, avoiding sporting events and concerts or shopping outside of peak hours.
Tribal employees returning from personal travel who have any reason to believe they have been exposed to COVID-19 or who have symptoms of respiratory illness must self-report to their immediate supervisor by telephone at the start of their next shift or sooner if possible.