New cases at Lummi; long-term care facility outbreak traced back to sick workers

Laurie Kuypers, a registered nurse, reaches into a car to take a nasopharyngeal swab from a patient at a drive-through COVID-19 coronavirus testing station for University of Washington Medicine patients Tuesday, March 17, 2020, in Seattle. The appointment-only drive-through clinic began a day earlier. Health authorities in Washington reported more COVID19 deaths in the state that has been hardest hit by the outbreak. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Indian Country Today

Roundup of Wednesday COVID-19 developments

The Lummi Nation in Washington state has confirmed three positive COVID-19 cases, according to Tony Hillaire, chief of staff of the Lummi Indian Business Council. This adds to the total of seven within the Indian health system; one in the Portland Area of the Indian Health Service, one in the Great Plains area and two in the Navajo region.

Of the three Lummi cases, one is a Lummi citizen who resides on the reservation. The other two cases are residents of King and Whatcom counties.

Washington state has been hit hard by the impact of the virus.

Staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable elderly in the Seattle area, federal health officials said Wednesday.

Thirty-five coronavirus deaths have been linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland. A report Wednesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the most detailed account to date of what drove the outbreak still raging in the Seattle area where authorities closed down restaurants, bars, health clubs, movie theaters and other gathering spots this week.

Sick workers likely contributed, although investigators haven't tied spread to “any particular staff member,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, during a phone briefing for reporters Wednesday.

(Related: Indian Country's COVID-19 syllabus)

The CDC is also reporting that an infected health worker in the Northwest could have been a reason why the virus spread so quickly through the nursing homes. The weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an epidemiological investigation found 129 cases of COVID-19 associated with the facility, 81 from residents, 34 staff members, 14 from visitors, resulting in 23 persons deaths.

“COVID-19 can spread rapidly in long-term residential care facilities, and persons with chronic underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for COVID-19–associated severe disease and death,” the report said. “Long-term care facilities should take proactive steps to protect the health of residents and preserve the health care workforce by identifying and excluding potentially infected staff members and visitors, ensuring early recognition of potentially infected patients, and implementing appropriate infection control measures.”

The report called for quicker responses. “Substantial morbidity and mortality might be averted if all long-term care facilities take steps now to prevent exposure of their residents to COVID-19,” the CDC said. “The underlying health conditions and advanced age of many long-term care facility residents and the shared location of patients in one facility places these persons at risk for severe morbidity and death.”

Gaming tribes seek $18 billion

In a letter to House Democrats, the National Indian Gaming Association asked for $18 billion for tribal government emergency relief. “Like state and local governments, tribal government budgets will be stressed, and many will be unable to provide basic health, education, public safety, food assistance, and other critical needs to our communities, said the letter signed by Chairman Ernie Stevens Jr.

“Through Indian gaming, Tribal governments generate 700,000 indirect and direct jobs, with an aggregate of over 2,100,000 ancillary jobs. Tribal governments nationwide have declared public health and safety emergencies, closing government-owned enterprises,” Stevens wrote. “Many tribes are also cooperating with state governors nationwide to help stop community spread of the coronavirus. Indeed, with the unprecedented challenges the COVID-19 virus is presenting, our Tribal Governments and Enterprises are cooperating on an unprecedented basis.”

In a statement on the web site, the gaming association cited the number of tribal casinos that announced closures. Then added: “Other tribes are committed to taking extreme precautionary efforts, putting in place protocols to preventing the spread of coronavirus, recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) including wiping down machines and touched surfaces as frequently as every 30 minutes with the highest quality cleaning agents and increasing the number of hand sanitizers throughout their properties and canceling, limiting casino operational hours or postponing large-crowd events, among other precautions.

The Commercial Gaming industry is doing their part as well to help stem the spread of the virus.”

Nevada closes casinos

Casinos throughout Nevada were closed Wednesday, along with other nonessential businesses, following under an order from Gov. Steve Sisolak. He urged residents to stay home to help curtail the spread of the new coronavirus.

The last time casinos closed in Las Vegas was for John F. Kennedy’s funeral on Nov. 25, 1963. Michael Green, a history professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, said he believes this is the first time all Nevada casinos have been closed statewide.

On the Las Vegas Strip, vehicle traffic was busy as usual despite gambling having halted at midnight, but pedestrians were scarce. Large orange barricades were placed in front of driveways to the Wynn and Encore casinos, while gates blocked walkways and padlocks and entrances to a nearby shopping mall had been chained and padlocked. Across the street, a chain link fence had been placed in front of the Circus Circus resort.

In states besides Nevada, 50 other tribally owned casinos around the country closed their doors over the weekend.

Schools around Indian Country are closing too. Yesterday, the Bureau of Indian Education announced 183 of their 185 schools are closed.

“BIE closure of Bureau Operated schools and Off-Reservation Boarding Schools are approved on a case by case basis to match local and state needs and closure letters to administrators, parents and tribal leaders,” its website says.

Staff members who worked while sick at multiple long-term care facilities contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among vulnerable elderly in the Seattle area, federal health officials said Wednesday.

Thirty-five coronavirus deaths have been linked to Life Care Center in Kirkland. A report Wednesday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the most detailed account to date of what drove the outbreak still raging in the Seattle area where authorities closed down restaurants, bars, health clubs, movie theaters and other gathering spots this week.

Sick workers likely contributed, although investigators haven't tied spread to “any particular staff member,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, during a phone briefing for reporters Wednesday.

The CDC is also reporting that an infected health worker in the Northwest could have been a reason why the virus spread so quickly through the nursing homes. The weekly Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said an epidemiological investigation found 129 cases of COVID-19 associated with the facility, 81 from residents, 34 staff members, 14 from visitors, resulting in 23 persons deaths.

“COVID-19 can spread rapidly in long-term residential care facilities, and persons with chronic underlying medical conditions are at greater risk for COVID-19–associated severe disease and death,” the report said. “Long-term care facilities should take proactive steps to protect the health of residents and preserve the health care workforce by identifying and excluding potentially infected staff members and visitors, ensuring early recognition of potentially infected patients, and implementing appropriate infection control measures.”

The report called for quicker responses. “Substantial morbidity and mortality might be averted if all long-term care facilities take steps now to prevent exposure of their residents to COVID-19,” the CDC said. “The underlying health conditions and advanced age of many long-term care facility residents and the shared location of patients in one facility places these persons at risk for severe morbidity and death.”

Census on pause

Remember that once-in-a-decade count that’s going on this year? The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that they will be suspending field operations until April 1. They are following the president’s 15-day plan to slow the spread of the coronavirus. April 1 is the day that the bureau is supposed to “count everyone once, only once and in the right place.” Or so one of the bureau’s sayings goes.

“The Census Bureau is taking this step to help protect the health and safety of the American public, Census Bureau employees, and everyone going through the hiring process for temporary census taker positions,” wrote Steven Dillingham, U.S. Census Bureau Director, in a press release. “During this pause in field operations, the Census Bureau will continue to evaluate all 2020 Census operations.”

Before the official announcement, grassroots organizations had already put the census on hold so they could care for community members. Some tribal nations put restrictions on outside visitors and this caused census organizers like Ahtza D. Chavez, Diné and Kewa Pueblo, to restrategize their census education and outreach efforts. Chavez said they understand and support tribal leaders’ decisions.

“Given with the recent precautions with social distancing and the scare of this pandemic, the very delicate health and nature of our elders within our communities and that fact that these elders are the language holders, the historians, the cultural holders for our communities, being able to protect those communities is paramount to what we’re doing,” said Chavez who is the executive director of the Native American Voters Alliance Education Project which is the parent organization of the New Mexico Native Census.

Part of restrategizing is figuring out how to get tribal members to answer online. Many libraries in these tribal communities have closed, she said. So there are people on their phones in their vehicles filling out the census online.

They are also thinking about doing more phone banking and literature drops to each tribal community, such as the pueblos in New Mexico.

For now, the organization is doing its best at coordinating and “being mindful of tribal sovereignty and those boundaries,” Chavez said.

Last week the Census “fully kicked off” when they invited households to respond to the census. More than 11 million households responded to the census as of this morning, Dillingham said.

The bureau encourages Americans to fill out the census online, by phone or mail.

Delay on the tax bill

The Trump administration has announced that most individuals and businesses will be allowed to delay paying their federal tax bills for 90 days as part of an emergency relief plan amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some questions and answers about the delay and its potential impact on the U.S. economy.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said individuals who owe less than $1 million will be able to delay paying. Corporations will be able to defer payment on taxes due up to $10 million.

Mnuchin said only the “super rich” would be excluded.

The details of this order have not yet been completed.

The CDC reports 4,200 cases

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. mirror what’s been reported in other countries, with about 4 out of 5 deaths occurring in people 65 and older and no deaths in kids, according to a new federal report.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the findings on Wednesday, in a look at more than 4,200 U.S. cases reported from Feb. 12 to March 16. Officials had limited information, with data on the ages of about 2,500 of them.

Drawing from available information, researchers found about a third of the reported cases were in people 65 and older, but retirement-age Americans made up the bulk of people who suffered severe illness.

More than half of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital intensive care units were 65 and older, the CDC reported. No one 19 or under was admitted to an ICU, the CDC said.

Global caseload tops 200,000

The number of people infected worldwide surpassed the 200,000 mark. Deaths topped 8,000, but the number of people considered recovered reached over 82,000, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. The countries with the most confirmed cases were China, Italy, Iran, Spain and Germany. The countries with the most confirmed deaths were China, Italy, Iran, Spain and France.

Italy about to pass China’s death toll

Italy reported a record new high in the numbers of infections and deaths, adding more than 4,200 new cases for a total of 35,713 infections. Another 475 people died, bringing Italy’s death toll to 2,978.

China, where the COVID-19 pandemic first emerged late last year, has seen 3,241 deaths, most in the hard-hit central province of Hubei.

Italy has an older population than China's, but only has 60 million people to China's 1.4 billion people. Medical experts say the new virus is killing people over 65 at a much higher rate than other age groups.

Trump using language that could be considered hate crime

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he doesn’t think calling COVID-19 the "Chinese virus" — or the "kung-flu," as one administration official reportedly called it — puts Asian Americans at risk of retaliation despite growing reports they are facing virus-related discrimination.

Since coronavirus infections started appearing in the United States in January, Asian Americans have shared stories of minor aggression to blatant attacks from people blaming them for the pandemic, which has killed more than 130 people in the United States.

Among the hate crimes reported in major cities with Chinese communities: An Asian man in a Brooklyn subway car who was yelled at and sprayed with Febreze air freshener. In Los Angeles, a 16-year-old boy of Asian descent said other students had bullied him and accused him of carrying the virus. Even before cities began shutting down all restaurants to stop the spread of the virus, Chinese restaurant owners were already experiencing steep declines in business because of racial stigma.

Asked why he keeps calling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” when scientists say the disease doesn't respect borders and is not caused by ethnicity, Trump told reporters at the White House that he doesn't consider it a racist remark.

“It’s not racist at all," Trump said, adding that he calls it the “Chinese virus” because he wants to be accurate. He indicated his terminology was a warranted pushback to Chinese officials who have been suggesting the U.S. military might have introduced the virus to Wuhan, the Chinese city where it was first reported in late 2019.

“China had tried to say at one point — maybe they stopped now — that it was caused by American soldiers," Trump said. “That can’t happen. It’s not going to happen, not as long as I’m president. It comes from China.”

Beijing has complained, but Trump administration officials continue to link the virus to China.

ICT Phone Logo

The Associated Press and Indian Country Today staff contributed to this report.

Indian Country Today, LLC., is a non-profit, public media enterprise. Reader support is critical. We do not charge for subscriptions and tribal media (or any media, for that matter) can use our content for free. Our goal is public service. Please join our cause and support independent journalism today. We have an audacious plan for 2020 and your donation will help us make it so. #MyICT #MyVoiceMyICT #SocksAlot

Comments

News

FEATURED
COMMUNITY