Cherokee Indian Hospital officials urge self-isolation while awaiting COVID-19 test results 

by Mar 24, 2020Front Page, Health, NEWS ka-no-he-da





Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) officials are urging members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) to self-isolate, especially while awaiting results from any coronavirus (COVID-19) testing.  

“Until your test results are back, self-isolation is critical to prevent the spread of the virus should you have it,” said Dr. Richard Bunio, CIHA executive medical director.  “COVID-19 is spread through droplets from coughing and sneezing and is also found on surfaces.  Isolation ensures no one will come in contact with these infectious materials.”  

Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed commented, “I thank everyone for their cooperation thus far with the orders that have been sent out.  I ask for your continued cooperation in limiting interactions with others, and especially request that those who have been tested follow the directives provided by their doctor.  I’d like to encourage everyone to be compassionate with those that have been tested.  We will get through this public health crisis by rallying together in the face of adversity.”

According to information from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), a total of 398 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed statewide as of the morning of Tuesday, March 24.  Mecklenburg County has the highest with 104 followed by Durham County with 63 and Wake County 54.  Several cases have been reported in western North Carolina counties including: Cherokee County 4, Jackson County 1, Transylvania County 1, Henderson County 2, and Buncombe County 5.  

NCDHHS information states, “Most people who get COVID-19 will recover without needing medical care.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you stay home if you have mild symptoms – such as fever and cough without shortness or breath or difficulty breathing.” 

The Department urges people to contact their doctor or call 911 “right away” if you have any of the following symptoms: shortness of breath, chest pain or pressure, blue lips, difficulty breathing, or confusion.  

Sonya Wachacha, CIHA director of nursing, urges self-isolation as well.  “Our elders are especially critical to this community because they are the keepers of our heritage, language, and our past.  Isolating isn’t just about protecting you, it is preserving who we are as Cherokee people.  Isolation until your results are in is the best way to protect our most vulnerable, at-risk community members.  Please stay at home.”  

NCDHHS lists the following as “at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19”: people age 65 years and older; those living in a nursing home or long-term care facility; or those who have a high-risk condition including: chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma, heart disease with complications, compromised immune system, severe obesity, or other health issues such as diabetes, renal failure, or liver disease.  

The Department states that most people will not need to seek testing.  “When you leave your home to get tested, you could expose yourself to COVID-19 if you do not already have it.  If you do have COVID-19, you can give it to someone else including people who are high-risk.  Your doctor can help you decide if you need a test.  There is no treatment for COVID-19.  For people with mild symptoms who don’t need medical care, getting a test will not change what you or your doctor do.  Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people at high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and health care workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19.”  

You can contact the Cherokee Indian Hospital at 497-9163.  CIHA also has a COVID-19 Hotline set up at 497-3743.  You can also learn more by visiting one of the following sites:,, or