Indian Country’s daily coronavirus update: 103,321 cases now in the U.S.

Dalton Walker

The Indian health system has reported 117 COVID-19 Cases, including seven deaths

The number of coronavirus cases is growing globally.

On Saturday, 103,321 cases were reported in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, making the U.S. the country with the highest number of confirmed cases and 1,668 people have died from coronavirus-related complications.

Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is the highest in the world, with over 10,000 fatalities.

New York City, Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing hotspots of infection. The Illinois Department of Public Health reported the death of a Chicago infant. The infant is believed to be the first coronavirus-related death of a child under one year of age in the country according to ABC7.

Reports of coronavirus cases in Indian Country

Nearly 120 positive cases have been reported in the Indian health system and seven people have died, according to data collected by Indian Country Today.

The Navajo Nation continues to have the most coronavirus cases. As of Saturday evening, the number is 92 and the Navajo Nation confirmed two deaths related to the coronavirus on Friday. Navajo County in Arizona has the highest count with 49 cases. Other counties include Apache County and Concino County in Arizona, McKinley County and San Juan County in New Mexico and San Juan Country, Utah.

The Navajo Times is reporting the death of a 58-year-old man, Douglas DeJolie, who attended the Chilchinbeto Church rally and the rally is suspected of spreading COVID-19. DeJolie’s mother is reportedly “fighting for her life” at the Tuba City health facility. Both DeJolie and his mother were quarantined after reporting flu-like symptoms two weeks ago. DeJolie passed away on Thursday.

On Friday, the Mandan Hidatsa Arikara Nation announced its first positive coronavirus test on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota. Chairman Mark Fox talked about the case on KMHA radio in a seven-minute video posted on Facebook. Fox said the case occurred on the north segment of the reservation and encouraged citizens to take the virus seriously.

“The message that we have is not intended to cause fear or panic,” Fox said. “This is the day that most of us have been preparing for and knew it was coming. We also knew that we’d have to get ready to help our people to understand.”

The Bishop Paiute Tribe in California announced two positive coronavirus cases in the Northern Inyo Hospital District. One was reported Wednesday and the other was reported Thursday. Both patients are isolated at home, according to a news release. As of Wednesday, the hospital had 32 tests pending and the Toiyabe Indian Healthcare Project has 2 tests pending. Turnaround time could take several days, according to the news release. No other details were shared.

(COVID-19 story: Boost your mood … on quarantine)

Restrictions of events and gatherings

The Arizona Daily Sun reported on Saturday that northern Arizona hospitals, including Tuba City Regional Health, have reached capacity for coronavirus patients.

The White Mountain Apache Tribe passed a resolution on Friday to postpone religious gatherings and ceremonies until further notice. A $1,000 fine will be imposed to those that violate and tribal member benefits could be lost if violations continue, council member Jerold Altaha said on his Facebook page. 

On the same day, Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood announced the tribe’s first coronavirus-related death. The citizen did not live or work on the reservation, she said.

The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community has restricted memorials or funerals to graveside only with a maximum of 20 people and two-hours in length. “After this pandemic has passed, our dedicated memorial services team will assist all families in planning and conducting memorial services for our members who have passed during this difficult time,” reads a notice posted on the tribe’s Facebook page.

(Related story: ‘Be good to each other’ (and share a virtual coffee))

Distribution of government funds to tribes

Also on Friday, Indian Health Service announced the agency will begin distributing $134 million in new funds to American Indian and Alaska Native communities. The announcement came on the same day that Congress passed a relief package that includes more than $1 billion for IHS.

IHS Principal Deputy Director Michael D. Weahkee said IHS recently held a “rapid” tribal consultation and urban confer sessions to guide distribution. Weahkee said $64 million is from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law on March 18 and $70 million is from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund. To see how the funds will be distributed, click here.

“I am grateful for all the tribal and urban Indian organization leaders who shared critical feedback over the past several days,” Weahkee said in a statement. “That feedback was critical to allowing IHS to begin distributing these funds immediately.”

Rep. Deb Haaland delivers a message on Twitter

Loss of tribal status in the midst of COVID-19

As tribes across the nation work on stopping the spread of COVID-19 and as the number of positive coronavirus infections continue to rise in Indian Country, one tribe learned it has another serious battle ahead.

On Friday, the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe in Massachusetts learned that it was losing its reservation by order of the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Rep. Bill Keating, D-Mass., says the decision was ‘one of the most cruel and nonsensical acts I have seen since coming to Congress. The Secretary should be ashamed.’

(Story here: Interior takes reservation away from Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe)

Preventative measures against COVID-19

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The majority of infected persons do recover.

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Dalton Walker, Red Lake Anishinaabe, is a national correspondent at Indian Country Today. Follow him on Twitter - @daltonwalker

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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