Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

May 12, 2020

Pine Ridge locks down for 72-hours after two Lakotas test positive for coronavirus in Wounded Knee District

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Pine Ridge locks down for 72-hours after two Lakotas test positive for coronavirus in Wounded Knee District

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News
May 12, 2020

PINE RIDGE, South Dakota — The Oglala Sioux Nation locked down on Monday night for 72-hours after two Lakotas in Wounded Knee District tested positive for the coronavirus. There will be no movement during this time and stores will be shut down. Dialysis and emergency medical are exempt.

"We do not want a community spread here, we do not want a mass outbreak here," said Dakota High Hawk, public information officer with the Oglala Sioux's COVID-19 Response Task Force. High Hawk urged Lakotas to stay calm and stay home.

"There will be absolutely no movement," High Hawk said on a social media broadcast on Monday night. "The reservation is shut down. You will not be allowed to leave your residences."

High Hawk said border monitors will not allow residents to leave during this time.

"This is the exact thing we have been trying to prevent from coming. The only way we can sop the community spread is to lock it down, go into total shut down," he said.

"Our reservation does have two confirmed cases. They are located in the Wounded Knee District," said Oglala Sioux media specialist Karen Eagle. She asked people to limit rumors and speculations.

"These are our relatives," Eagle said, urging eveyone to support one another and remember that they are part of the Lakota family. She said the two people with coronavirus are in the same household. The main communities in the district are Wounded Knee and Manderson.

"The purpose of this lockdown is to prevent community spread," she said, adding that the tribe will work with the family to see where they have been and who they have been in contact with.

"If we are safe in our homes, then there is no way we can catch it."

"Do not make a run on the stores, they will be shutting down."

"You will not be able to leave the reservation even for medical appointments," she said, adding that farmers and ranchers are not allowed access to tribal land at this time.

The Oglala Sioux executive met in emergency session and passed the resolution, which carried unanimously. During the lockdown, movement is shut down and no one is allowed to leave their residences or engage in essential business. Violators can be fined up to $1,000.

Pass through vehicles on major highways will be allowed to pass, but unable to stop, and will be monitored, the Task Force said during a broadcast on social media on Monday night.

Meanwhile in the bordertown of Rapid City, a WalMart employee at the Lacrosse store tested positive for coronavirus. In Rapid City, 12 Native People tested positive for coronavirus at Oyate Health Center. See following press statement.

Twelve Native People test positive in Rapid City at Oyate Health Center

Jerilyn Church, CEO
Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board

RAPID CITY — The Oyate Health Center in Rapid City has recently begun seeing an uptick of positive COVID-19 cases at its facility. Jerilyn Church, CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and the Oyate Health Center, issued a video message today to provide the community with further detail about the developments.

Jerilyn’s full statement is available below.In the past week, there has been a total of twelve positive COVID-19 cases at the Oyate Health Center in Rapid City. CEO Jerilyn Church provides an update to the community here.

“Anpetu wašté Oyate Health Center relatives. Jerilyn LeBeau Church emaciyape ksto, I greet you this Monday with well wishes for you and your family.

As the President and CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and Oyate Health Center, it is incumbent upon me to communicate any information that may impact the safety and well-being of our relatives who choose the Oyate Health Center for their care.

We have known for several weeks now that the COVID-19 virus is a serious and looming threat to our community and families. The Oyate Health Center has taken every precaution to ensure that our most vulnerable continue to receive services with minimal contact to the public. We have also taken steps to ensure that our homeless relatives are protected, and those who do contract the virus will have sustainable lodging necessary to self-quarantine.

We are encouraging all our relatives to take advantage of our telehealth program and our pharmacy by-mail program. Telehealth allows our relatives to consult with a provider, including behavioral health services without ever leaving their home.

Unfortunately, in an environment where the State has not implemented shelter in place requirements and local business is conducted as usual, the prevention of risk and exposure is all but impossible. So, I join you today to inform our community that the Oyate Health Center is now beginning to see active cases of COVID-19.

Last week, the Oyate Health Center conducted 46 COVID-19 tests for relatives who presented with symptoms. Twelve of our relatives tested positive for the virus, 7 of which were on Saturday alone. Of the 46 tests conducted last week, 34 tested negative.

The Indian Health Service was immediately notified of the results, and the South Dakota Department of Health was notified that at least one of the positive cases is an employee of the Lacrosse Street Walmart in Rapid City. It is uncertain if other employees tested positive and to what degree the public may have been exposed. I also spoke with Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender yesterday, regarding these recent developments as well. These developments should serve as a warning to all of us that precautions must be taken to protect our families..

It is widely known that American Indians and Alaska Natives are at higher risk for serious illness or death if infected with the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, we are encouraging our OHC relatives to continue to shelter in place, practice social distancing, practice frequent hand-washing, and to wear masks if you must be in public.

If you or a family member are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to come to the Southwest Clinic at the Oyate Health Center for immediate testing. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chills, decreased sense of smell or taste. Priority for testing are for those with COVID-19 symptoms and those who suffer from chronic health conditions, the elderly, our frontline workers, and individuals who reside in communal areas. We have also been testing individuals who have displayed minor symptoms and have been in contact with another individual who has tested positive.

If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you are not showing symptoms, it is important that you isolate yourself for two weeks as you can be asymptomatic and can still spread the virus to those you love.

We will continue to operate our Southwest screening clinic for those who are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19. The Southwest Clinic is open from 7:00 AM-7:30 PM.  Urgent Care hours are currently from 7:00 AM-11:00PM. 

 I ask you to join me in Prayer for the comfort and healing for those families that are inflicted and sick and I ask you to hold our tribal leaders, our tribal health professionals, providers, nurses and all others on the front lines in prayer for their safety and strength, as they strive to keep our people safe.

Mitakuye Oyasin”

Jerilyn Church


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