Monday, November 30, 2020

Lessons for the U. S. From Another Nation, One Within our Borders.

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Health, Medicine, Society, Culture

Ed Hessler

Tribal areas in the United States and Alaskan Native populations have been given a pounding by the SARS-CoV-2 virus with one exception--the Cherokee Nation, a nation within the U.S., that is doing much, much better than the United States. This CDC report provides some details of the effects

An article in STAT by Usha Lee McFarling is a fascinating and illuminating story about how the Cherokee nation responded. I highlight only a few of the details she covers. There has been "a mask mandate in place since spring, free drive-through testing, the hospitals are well-stocked with PPE, and a small army of public health officers supported by their chief (Chuck Hoskin, Jr.), the Cherokee Nation has been able to curtail its Covid-19 case and death rates even as those number surge in surrounding Oklahoma which the White House coronavirus task force has described its spread as unyielding.

Hoskin enforced the mask mandate when Attorney General Barr visited recently to discuss a recent Supreme Court decision. This was four days after Attorney General Barr attended a White House Rose Garden ceremony--unmasked, of course.  Hoskin, is described as someone who is assiduous about listening to the science. I am reminded of Greta Thunberg who has long told policy makers and others to listen to not follow the science and to make decisions based on the information.

Hoskin, "says he is sure masks have saved lives and misery, implemented a mandate requiring Cherokee citizens to wear masks indoors and outdoors when around others, at the behest of his public health experts; the state of Oklahoma has yet to enact one. Firthermore he says, 'I admire Dr. Fauci. I feel I have several Dr. Faucis,' Hoskin told STAT, referring to Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 'We acknowledged early on we should defer to the expertise of our public health staff to let them do what they do best.'” (emphasis added)

The Cherokee Nation, with about 140,000 citizens on its reservation in northeastern Oklahoma, has reported just over 4,000 cases and 33 deaths. There have been no cases of workplace transmission, Sequoyah High School has reopened, and elective medical and dental procedures have seen nearly full restoration.

There is a first-person account by Caddo Nation member Dion Francis on his bout with COVID-19 and the treatment he received at the Cherokee Nation hospital. Bill John Baker, a former Cherokee Nation principal chief has been given credit for transforming the Cherokee Nation health care system and the steps he took are described.

Lisa Pivec, senior director of public health for Cherokee Nation Health Services said "'I hope our response as a nation demonstrates what being in a tribe means. It's collectively caring for one another.'" Masking, distancing, avoiding crowds, washing/sanitizing hands are simple and very effective ways of slowing the spread of Covid-19.

Read the full article and re-learn lessons we entered the pandemic knowing and should have put into practice. We did have a plan, a plan that was highly regarded both here and abroad with the exception of an administration who wished it would go away. 

Plans are necessary and must be followed for in way too many instances personal selfishness is no match for personal responsibility. There are two Rs here: rights and responsibilities.

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