COVID cases down, but one death reported in October

MISSION – As of Oct. 31, there were no new COVID-19 cases on the Umatilla Indian Reservation, according to Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center. Active cases at this time last month were listed at 85.

Now, they’re at just four.

That doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet, Yellowhawk Interim CEO Aaron Hines said.

“YTHC is actively asking our community members to mask up, stay home, limit contact and get vaccinated!” Hines said. “We do expect a small spike in cases leading up to the cold and flu season, especially after holidays. We encourage everyone to use caution when gathering, especially with elders.”

As of Nov. 1, Yellowhawk logged 678 total cases and five deaths, including one in October, through the pandemic.

As flu season approaches, Hines said Yellowhawk is providing shots as well as continued COVID-19 vaccinations, including a booster shot for those eligible.

“People 65 years and older, 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions, or 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings, have underlying medical conditions, or live/work in high-risk settings, should receive a 3rd dose shot,” he said. “We encourage our community if you have questions and are unsure if you are eligible to get the 3rd dose to call your provider or our COVID team.”

Hines said data indicates many cases on the UIR are linked to small gatherings, and said Yellowhawk is avidly providing information through its website, social media and print advertisements going into the holidays on how to help prevent spreading illness.

“As we have discovered through these long months of COVID, many cases are linked to small gatherings. We continue to stress these points,” he said. “Limit indoor gatherings to those in your immediate family; participate in outdoor events; avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces; protect yourself and those not yet eligible for vaccination by getting vaccinated; wear well-fitting masks in all public settings; if you are sick, stay home.”

The vaccination rate for the CTUIR is up from 47 to 48 percent this month, compared to the national rate of 58 percent.

General Council Vice Chair Michael Johnson provided his guidance to the Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board’s monthly newsletter.

“As a religious leader, I would like to encourage all tribal nations to get vaccinated, to continue your teaching of your traditional ways, and to become stronger by means of surviving another genocidal virus. Our ancestors have made it through the measles, flu, small pox, and many of the other foreign sicknesses that have been placed upon our lands. Be strong my people, stand together and fight this, GET VACCINATED, so that we may live to tell the generations ahead that YES, we did it, WE MADE IT and are still caretakers of MOTHER EARTH!!!”

Masks are still mandatory in all indoor settings on the UIR; General Council Chambers are limited to 30 people; eligible workers are encouraged to telecommute. The precautions are in effect through Nov. 30.

Yellowhawk Tribal Health Center, which has been posting daily COVID-19 updates on Facebook, announced it would move to weekly updates on Nov. 1, with the first report given on Nov. 8.