By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
Several employees at the Qualla Boundary Head Start & Early Head Start in Cherokee have tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19) prompting the continued closure of all tribal child care facilities. It also has brought about the extended closure of the tribal government of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) for two more weeks with employees now slated to return on Monday, June 22.
“As with all situations dealing with COVID-19, we must remain flexible and ready for change,” Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed said in a statement on the afternoon of Thursday, June 4.
He said the extended tribal government closure is due to a hardship surrounding child care, “While the EBCI was previously slated to re-open on June 8, the EBCI has been notified that three employees at Qualla Boundary Head Start & Early Head Start (QBHS & EHS) have tested positive for COVID-19. Many of our employees rely on QBHS & EHS, the Cherokee Youth Center, and the Recreation Dept. day camps for child care, and the continued closure of these programs and offices creates a hardship for our employees.”
A total of seven new COVID-19 cases were reported by the EBCI Joint Information Center (JIC) on June 4 bringing the total to 36. This increase comes on the heels of almost daily increases for the past week including four new cases reported on May 31 and five new cases on June 1. Cases reported by EBCI JIC have doubled in a week going from 18 on May 28 to 36 on June 4.
In his statement, Chief Sneed encouraged everyone to wear masks, practice social distancing, and practice good hygiene. He also noted, “During this newly extended closure, tribal leadership and EBCI Division Secretaries will develop contingency plans to address future child care issues, which will be communicated to employees as soon as possible.”
The State of North Carolina has seen a 25.8 percent increase in COVID-19 cases in the last week (May 28 to June 4) going from 25,412 to 31,966.