Tribal nations across the state have led the way in keeping Oklahomans healthy during the COVID-19 crisis. Tribal operations were some of the first to shut down and last to reopen. Stringent protocols remain in place at all businesses. And tribes have kept communities informed with the latest information. Tribes are dedicated to positively impacting Oklahoma, and their handling of the pandemic is no exception.
One lesson we have all learned through this pandemic is Americans can accomplish anything when we work together.
As early as April 2020, just a month after the pandemic swept across the U.S., tribal nations were proactively offering COVID-19 testing for the public. Chickasaw Nation had temporary test centers set up in Ada, Ardmore and Purcell, while other tribes, like Cherokee Nation and Choctaw Nation, began drive-through testing. More tribes joined in and many continue to offer testing today. As the vaccine began to roll out, tribal nations began distributing on a prioritized and phased timeline developed in accordance with CDC guidance.
National news organizations took note of their efficiency. By mid-March, CNN was reporting that anyone in Oklahoma could get the COVID-19 vaccine thanks to several Native tribes. The assist from tribal nations helped make Oklahoma one of the top 10 states for vaccine rollout.
We acknowledged early on we should defer to the expertise of our public health staff to let them do what they do best.
Most employees who worked at a tribal business did not miss a paycheck or experience a layoff during the pandemic — regardless of whether the business was open or closed. And that was just the beginning. Some of the other ways that tribes stepped up:
Broadband and internet access is today and tomorrow’s highway, replacing the asphalt and concrete highways of today. Building a broadband system is necessary.
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