By JONAH LOSSIAH
ONE FEATHER STAFF
The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) will be entering its fifth week of a ‘modified operational plan’, maintaining working from home for most tribal employees.
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Principal Chief Richard G. Sneed sent an email to all employees confirming the plan to keep with this plan for at least one more week. The initial decision to reduce operations came from Chief Sneed on Oct. 5. A surge in COVID-19 cases quickly changed the steady progress of reopening on the Qualla Boundary.
“While we are all very thankful that the total number of COVID-19 active cases is down compared to the past few weeks, we must still be diligent in following social distancing protocols to further slow the spread of COVID-19,” Chief Sneed said in his email that was delivered Wednesday evening.
It has been a tumultuous year across the country while adjusting to the pandemic, and that has been very much true in Cherokee as well. Despite avoiding significant spikes near the beginning of the spread in the United States, the EBCI was still placed on this modified operational plan for nearly three months. Employees returned to their offices on Monday, June 22, but that has only lasted for 15 weeks.
Cherokee Central Schools also announced on Wednesday that the schools will also be working under their modified operational plan until at least Nov. 30. The Board of Education had previously moved to reopen their schools on September 21. The plan was to transition to the hybrid ‘Plan B’ for the rest of the fall semester, but less than three weeks later that decision was reversed due to increased community spread of COVID-19.
CCS stated the following in its release on Wednesday:
“Due to the current community COVID numbers, our system will continue to maintain Critical Personnel only status until Monday, Nov. 30, 2020. Our hope is that the metrics will improve enough to safely transition our staff back to campus that day and work until Christmas Break. At this time, we will continue with Remote plan C until further notice. The goal to transition our students to Hybrid Plan B will continue to be monitored if conditions improve.”
The daily rates of new positives have decreased rapidly over the past two weeks. The Wednesday report showed that Cherokee Indian Hospital is still in the ‘red’ alert stage with an average 32 daily positives per 100,000 people. However, that number had spiked to over 105 during October. The surge has been diminishing, but the EBCI is still issuing the same safety protocols.
The rates will continue to be monitored and a decision on future operations will be expected towards the end of next week. The EBCI will remain in modified operations until at least Nov. 14.