'We're finally seeing more testing'
The White House said the Indian Health Service will get tests.
“So what we're seeing finally is testing improving, more testing being done,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the White House. “Still a high level of negative in states without hotspots, allowing them to do more of this surveillance and containment, and then prioritizing this new rapid test kit to those areas that may not have the same amount of access to the Indian Health Services, and to the public health institutions and the public health in state labs, so that they can use that and start forward leaning into surveillance.”
She said White House and health officials are “triangulating data that we know from the case numbers, the testing numbers, the supply chain numbers to create an integrated picture so that we can really support hospitals in their needs.”
“And I think that level of granularity is really critical,” Dr. Birx said during the White House press briefing today.
A new testing site was also opened in Seattle today at the Chief Seattle Club.
"Today we opened COVID19 testing with our partners at Chief Seattle Club!" wrote Esther Lucero, executive director of the Seattle Indian Health Board. "This is our testing team! This is what #dreamteam looks like!"
The University of Arizona is donating 250 COVID-19 testing kits to meet the growing demand for testing, the Navajo Nation’s council said in a press release.
“On behalf of the Navajo Nation, I thank President Robbins for his leadership and commitment to the health and wellbeing of our students,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Seth Damon. “More than that, these testing kits made by the University of Arizona will help greatly in the Navajo Nation’s battle against the rapidly growing numbers of confirmed positive coronavirus cases among the Navajo population.”
The university’s health sciences biorespository started producing testing kids last week.
“Fortunately, our personnel at the Biorepository have several decades of experience in creating bio specimen collection kits for use in FDA-approved analyses and clinical applications,” said David Harris, director of the biorepository.
The testing kits will be given to a central facility on the Navajo Nation and will be distributed to other health facilities based on need. There are 13 federal Indian Health Service and tribally-run health facilities in the tribal nation. The council says there are 170 beds and less than 30 ventilators to serve the population on the reservation.
In addition to testing kids, the university has been making hand sanitizer and donating other supplies, such as personal protective equipment, 12,000 gloves, 100 surgical masks, 100 hand-sewn surgical masks, and more.
The Navajo Nation reported 27 more cases today, which makes a total of 214 cases and seven deaths.
The numbers are stark.
One week ago the number of positive COVID-19 cases were shy of 100 and 3 deaths in the Indian health system. It took four days to cross the 300 mark. That’s quicker than reaching 100.
March 26: 89 cases & 3 deaths (one week ago)
March 31: 210 & 12 deaths (4 days ago)
There are a total of 310 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and 14 deaths related to COVID-19 in the Indian health system.
Those numbers increased today with Tohono O’odham’s first case on its territory. Yesterday, the tribal nation’s office of emergency management said in a press release that the individual is Tohono O’odham.
In New Mexico on the San Felipe Pueblo reservation, there are three confirmed cases of coronavirus. The Pueblo did not give information about who the patients are, their ages or current conditions.
To protect their community, San Felipe Pueblo leadership announced a series of strict guidelines for tribal members to follow. The pueblo, located between Santa Fe and Albuquerque, has approximately 2,100 residents according to the 2018 American Community Survey.
At this time, all exit and entry points of the pueblo are closed.
San Felipe Pueblo Governor Anthony Ortiz mandated a “strict stay-at-home order for all Pueblo residents” through April 30. This means they will begin restricting movement of tribal members out of the Pueblo’s boundaries. The only exception is for grocery shopping, medical appointments and laundry services.
In addition, any non-member who wishes to visit the Pueblo will not be allowed (exceptions will be made for non-tribal members who are employed by the Pueblo or outside medical personnel). And pueblo residents must follow a 8pm to 8am curfew too.
In a normal year, San Felipe Pueblo would be gearing up for Easter. Many New Mexico puebloscelebrate Catholic mass and traditional dances. Not this year.
All upcoming events are cancelled including Easter Sunday mass and Easter dances. The pueblo is also discouraging family gatherings. “No Easter Egg hunts,” pueblo leadership stated.
On the Navajo Nation, the first day of the month is when many elders receive their benefits. To help aid this process, all members of the Nez-Lizer administration reported at Bashas’ Diné Market locations on Wednesday.
These groceries stores were open solely for elders to shop on Wednesday. The stores were open for those who are 60 years or older for a seven-hour window. The Navajo Nation reports their staff was wiping down shopping carts, facilitating traffic flow, carrying groceries to vehicles and distributing safety messages while reminding tribal members to practice social distancing.
“The Elderly Shopping Day helped to keep our elders safe and close to home while they shopped
for their essential needs, such as groceries, household items, and livestock supplies,” President Jonathan Nez said in a press release. “Having our elders shop locally reduced travel to border towns and decreased their risk of COVID-19 exposure. We thank Bashas’ for working together with us.”
For the second straight day, the Oneida Nation has announced a positive coronavirus case on tribal land. The first case was announced on Wednesday.
“With the second confirmed case, we are continuing to urge everyone to stay home and restrict contact with others outside your home,” reads a news release. “We want to re-emphasize, we need everyone to do their part in order to combat this pandemic. The national trend reflects there will continue to be more caes before we can flatten the curve. It is critical to take this pandemic seriously.”
No other details about either patient were shared. The tribe plans a noon Facebook live video on Friday with health officials to address the issue.
On Tuesday, Gila River Indian Community Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis announced the seventh positive coronavirus case at Gila River Health Care. So far, Gila River has conducted 258 coronavirus tests. Of those, 172 were negative, 76 are pending, two were canceled and seven tested positive, he said.
The seventh positive test is an increase of one since March 30. Of the seven, at least two are Gila River tribal citizens, including the latest patient. The patient is home and under medical supervision, Lewis said. No other details about the patient were shared.
Some tribes are finding support from the federal government, others say there remain gaps.
California Valley Miwok Tribe’s Chairwoman Silvia Burley said her tribe won’t get any of the money from the third coronavirus bill passed by Congress.
“Our Tribe, like many others throughout the United States, will not see a penny from the federal stimulus package despite our members’ dire need and right to these funds. An ongoing dispute with the Bureau of Indian Affairs over our Tribe’s right to self-govern has placed our Tribal members’ health and safety, including that of my mother- the last full blood Miwok Indian, at immediate risk,” Burley said.
“Our Tribe is losing access to healthcare including Coronavirus testing and treatments and many of us could be out on the streets thanks to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s decade long interference in our Tribal affairs; the same Senator who is also embroiled in an insider trading scandal related to COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
Shelter in place
The Oglala Sioux Tribe adopted a shelter-in-place and curfew measures on Thursday. The tribe also announced that the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is closed to non-residents for non-essential travel, except for state highway entrances for pass-through vehicles.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has set up checkpoints on main routes through the reservation as part of the tribe’s emergency response plan to the coronavirus pandemic. For access, certain checkpoint checklists have to be met. Out of state non-commercial traffic will be allowed if proof of tribal citizenship or reservation residency is shown. Checkpoints on secondary routes are also possible. The tribe also announced that it was suspending hunting and fishing for non-residents on tribal land to reduce outside traffic.
The Crow Creek Sioux Tribe has posted traffic signs asking travelers to not stop in the community and to respect the tribe’s practice of social distancing.
South Dakota is one of the few states to not issue a stay-at-home or shelter-in-place order.
The Red Lake Nation has implemented its third phase of its emergency response plan in its effort to protect tribal citizens from contacting the coronavirus. Chairman Darrell Seki declared medical martial law on April 1 that will go into effect on Friday at 5 p.m.
On March 13, the tribe declared a Public Health Emergency. Ten days later in a special council meeting, council passed three separate resolutions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The first was a 10 p.m. to 6 p.m. curfew followed by requiring tribal citizens to stay home if someone in Beltrami or Clearwater county tested positive for the coronavirus. The reservation sits in both counties. On Wednesday, a tribal citizen who doesn’t live on the reservation tested positive for the coronavirus. The citizen lives in a neighboring community.
The third resolution was declaring medical martial law if the coronavirus “became more imminent when a resident of Red Lake or a person who regularly works at Red Lake test positive for the virus,” Seki said. On Thursday, Seki said the tribal citizen who tested positive had contact with people that work at a reservation grocery store. The store includes a Subway restaurant and tribal police removed an employee on Thursday as a precautionary measure. The sandwich shop will be closed until at least Saturday and deep cleaned, according to a store Facebook post.
Seki said the decision to declare medical martial law was made because “we are just trying to save lives.”
The tribe is now checking vehicles entering the reservation to ensure only essential travel takes place. Citizens can leave their homes for groceries, medical appointments and to care for elders or others requiring assistance. Tribal government employees deemed essential are able to travel to and from work.
To read the full resolution, click here.
The medical martial law resolution will be in effect for 15 days and will be reviewed for a potential renewal for 15 additional days.
Another figure: 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, says the Department of Labor. In total, that is more than 10 million people in the last two weeks. The previous high was 700,000 unemployment claims in 1982.
Mashpee emergency filing
The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe asked the federal court in the District of Columbia to issue an emergency restraining order to prevent the Secretary of the Interior from taking the tribe's land out of trust.
"While the Tribe is grateful for this temporary reprieve, we remain deeply concerned about the fate of our Reservation," said Chairman Cromwell. "That said, the outpouring of support from both the Native and non-Native community gives us hope, and bolsters our courage. We thank everyone who Stands with Mashpee, your support is powerful
The Democratic National Committee decided to postpone the national convention from July to August. It will still be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Democrats announced Thursday that they were postponing their presidential nominating convention until August, an unprecedented move that shows how the coronavirus is reshaping the battle for the White House.
The party had hoped that a mid-July convention would give them more time to rally behind a nominee and unify against President Donald Trump. But concerns that large crowds will spread the virus prompted Democrats, including prospective nominee Joe Biden, to press for alternatives.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” said Democratic convention CEO Joe Solmonese.
Milwaukee will still host the convention, which is now scheduled for the week of Aug. 17. Republicans are sticking with their plan to meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, a week later to renominate Trump.
The social distancing required to combat the coronavirus has already prompted multiple states to delay their presidential primaries from April and May into June. But the postponement of the convention is the most significant change to the presidential section process to date.
Not everyone is focused on the coronavirus. Criminals are looking for people to victimize and steal their identity, take their tax refunds and even their stimulus money. This warning comes from the Internal Revenue Service.
The unsolicited contact may come in the form of a phone call, text or email. The would-be scammer may ask you to sign over your stimulus check to them. They may ask you to verify personal or banking information to ‘speed up the payment.’
"We urge people to take extra care during this period,” wrote IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig in a prepared statement. “The IRS isn't going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster. That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don't open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information."
Social media is also a place where criminals will try to get you to click on a link to gain your personal information.
“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort in the same prepared statement.
“While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant.”
Watch for any mail that arrives with a bogus check asking you to call a number to verify the information online in order to cash the check.
If you’ve had your tax refund directly deposited into your account last year, the IRS will use that same banking information to deposit your economic impact payment. If you didn’t use direct deposit last year, you will have to wait until mid-April to go on-line to IRS.gov to add your banking information. If you don’t have access to the internet, your check will be mailed to you. The IRS strongly recommends that you not let anyone enter your information for you.
Finally, for retirees who are not required to file a tax return, no action is needed. This includes recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099. No one from the agency will call, email, mail, or come to your door asking for any information to complete the economic impact payment.
If you think you have been approached by a criminal intent on getting your personal and banking information, you can report them to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The IRS says taxpayers should not try to engage with the potential scammer either online or on the phone.
Dalton Walker, Aliyah Chavez and Patty Talahongva contributed to this report.