By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Cherokee has seen nine (9) new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the last two days (four reported on Sunday, May 31 and five on Monday, June 1) as reported by the EBCI Joint Information Center. Now, officials of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) are confirming community spread of the virus.
Increases are being seen statewide as the State of North Carolina has experienced a 22 percent increase in positive cases in a week. That number rose from 23,964 positives reported statewide as of May 25 to 29,263 on the morning of June 1 – an increase of 5,299.
“As you may already know, there has been a recent increase of COVID activity in our community,” Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a livestream message to the community on the afternoon of June 1. “While we are still working to identify a connection between these cases, we want to bring awareness to the fact that we are at an increased risk of seeing widespread community transmission at this time. This is the result of individuals, who are unaware that they are infected with the virus, spreading it within our community.”
He said all community members need to take the proper precautions to aid in the fight against the spread of the virus. “We all share in the responsibility to keep our community safe by keeping our positive cases low. I believe in the strength and resiliency of our Tribe, and I know we can get through this together by being respectful of others, wearing our masks, washing our hands, and waiting six feet apart. These measures not only keep you safe; they help to keep everyone about you safe.”
In the same video message, Casey Cooper, Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority chief executive officer, discussed community spread. “When we talk about community spread, essentially and simply put, it means that we no longer know the original source of the virus in our local community.”
Cooper said that as each new positive case is reported within the Cherokee community, they get many questions regarding the safety of tribal members and residents. “Community members want to know if they’re safe. And, unfortunately, now that we have community spread, we can no longer trace the virus back to specific, original cases.”
He added. “We want to recommend that everyone assume that everyone around you, including yourself, has the virus and also assume that the virus is on hard surfaces and high-touch areas all around you.”
Cooper also stressed the need for testing. “Get tested. If you’ve already been tested and its been 14 days, get tested again. We are very blessed in this community in that we have an abundance of testing availability. So, call the COVID HOTLINE (497-3743) and schedule a time to be tested and be safe.”
Chief Sneed concluded their message by stressing again the need to abide by CDC guidelines. “By continuing to practice good hygiene, mask-wearing, and social distancing you can help protect not only you and your family but our entire community.”
According to the EBCI Joint Information Center, “The EBCI Daily Case Count reports individuals who are tested through Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority. Individuals being tested are community residents, enrolled members (EBCI), and any individuals who have access to and from the (Qualla) Boundary for work.”