By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
A cluster of COVID-19 cases and two individual cases have been identified at local Cherokee gatherings in recent days according to the EBCI (Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians) Public Health and Human Services (PHHS) Division. These include a cluster at the Tow String Baptist Church as well as a motorcycle event and a gathering on Stamper Road.
A total of 18 people have tested positive for COVID-19 following a service at Tow String Baptist Church on Sunday, Oct. 4. “All 18 of the community members who have tested positive for COVID-19 are isolating in their homes,” according to a PHHS press release on the morning of Monday, Oct. 26.
One Qualla Boundary resident has tested positive following a Brothers in the Wind motorcycle ride held on Oct. 23-24. PHHS relates that the individual is also currently isolating in their home.
One Qualla Boundary resident has tested positive following a gathering at Stamper Road between Friday, Oct. 23 and Sunday, Oct. 25. PHHS relates that the individual is also currently isolating in their home.
“The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians Public Health and Human Services and Cherokee Indian Hospital Authority (CIHA) are working diligently to identify and notify close contacts who may have come in contact with these individuals,” the press release states.
Dr. Richard Bunio, CIHA executive medical director, warned the community about such gatherings in a video interview on Oct. 23, “A gathering is anytime you are getting a group of people together that are not in your immediate circle or your immediate household. This is where we know the virus can spread really easily and really fast. Things like cookouts, birthday parties, weddings, funerals, any group of people that don’t live together, and it is particularly dangerous when they are inside.”
He added, “There is no good air circulation inside so the virus can spread quicker. It’s worse if you are not social distancing. If you are inside and you don’t have enough room to put six feet between you and the other person, that is particularly bad…if you don’t wear a mask, and unfortunately, we are seeing this in the community.”
PHHS encourages anyone who has attended any of these gatherings to call Tsalagi Public Health 359-6240. Drive-thru testing is also available at the former Analenisgi Recovery Center site, and community members are instructed to call the COVID-19 Hotline at 497-3743 to schedule an appointment for testing.