By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Five people have tested positive in the past two days for COVID-19 at Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) facilities operated by the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI). Three of those are residents of Cherokee County and were tested at the Cherokee County Clinic – a satellite clinic of the CIHA. The other two are residents of Jackson County and were tested on the Qualla Boundary.
EBCI Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) officials note that is all of the information they can release on the patients due to confidentiality laws. The first positive case confirmed by the CIHA came on March 27. That person was a part-time resident and has returned to their home state.
A statement from the EBCI Joint Information Center on Monday, April 13 states, “These individuals remain isolated in their homes. The individuals reported today and those reported yesterday all volunteered to be tested without showing any symptoms of the virus. It is crucial that our community members utilize the testing sites provided by the Cherokee Indian Hospital as there may be other individuals infected with the virus who are not exhibiting symptoms.”
Their statement continues, “We must all do our part to protect our community. You can help by staying home, by practicing social distancing while you must be in public, and by having a member of your household tested through one of the CIHA testing sites.”
Tribal health officials are now encouraging asymptomatic (showing no symptoms of COVID-19) testing to keep ahead of more cases.
“Aggressive asymptomatic testing during a pandemic is critically important for response,” said Vickie Bradley, EBCI Secretary of Public Health and Human Services. “Widespread testing can help identify mild or asymptomatic cases early, and prevent individuals from unknowingly spreading the virus further. It also helps to give us accurate estimates of the number of people infected in our community which allows for our health system and other front line services to better prepare and respond.”
According to a report released by the EBCI Joint Information Center (JIC) on April 13, a total of 238 tests have been completed by the Cherokee Indian Hospital at several sites. Of those, six have come back positive, 157 were negative, and 75 are awaiting results. The N.C. Dept. of Health and Human Services reported that, as of April 13, there were 4,816 total cases in the state with 86 deaths.
“Thanks to the progressive action of tribal leadership, most containment measures are already in place,” said Casey Cooper, Cherokee Indian Hospital chief executive officer. “Now, the best chance we have to flatten the curve and mitigate widespread transmission, is to be proactive with case identification and contact tracing. The biggest threat to the community is the positive patient who has no symptoms and is not adhering to social distancing. Asymptomatic testing provides us the opportunity to identify these patients, isolate them, and monitor their contacts.”
When asked who should seek asymptomatic testing, Secretary Bradley simply stated, “Everyone.”
Information from the EBCI JIC continues, “Please call 497-3743 to be pre-screened to expedite the testing process and for all your COVID-19 questions including the schedule and procedure for being tested.”