MHA Nation receives COVID-19 update

On Thursday, Mar. 12, Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (MHA) Nation Chairman Mark N. Fox, Tribal Health Director Red Fox Sanchez, representatives from Elbowoods Memorial Health Center (EMHC) and tribal law enforcement hosted a segment on KMHA regarding COVID-19. Chairman Fox discussed the importance of mitigating exposure to the Coronavirus and practicing social distancing and good hygiene. 

COVID-19, commonly known as the Coronavirus, was recently declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. While exposure to the virus has become increasingly likely, most people who contract Coronavirus are expected to recover. North Dakota’s first case of Coronavirus was confirmed late on Mar. 11. 

“The federal COVID-19 policy has changed from containment to mitigation,” said Chairman Fox. “We’re trying to lessen the impact on tribal members.”

Chairman Fox, Elbowoods Memorial Health Center, tribal law enforcement and other departments have collaborated to create action plans to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 among tribal members. These precautions are necessary to protect individuals over the age of 60 and those with underlying health conditions like diabetes and kidney, heart, and lung disease.

“The most important thing is social distancing,” said Chairman Fox. “We are a close people and interact a great deal with hugs and handshakes. Now we need to do alternative gestures of showing respect.”

Chairman Fox went on to discuss the importance of maintaining space between people when out in public and refraining from attending large events. Chairman Fox and the Tribal Business Council have also enacted a travel ban effective Mar. 12. The travel ban includes all tribal employees and consultants. Special exceptions require permission from Chairman Fox and the Executive Committee. 

A special tribal taskforce has been formed to deal with the Coronavirus situation. The taskforce has spent weeks planning for COVID-19 potentially spreading to ND, and are prepared to help keep tribal members safe. 

“We have a strong committee ready to mitigate impacts to the tribe. We have stop gap measures in place,” said Chairman Fox. “I’m very proud of the way our government, health department and law enforcement have stepped up to the challenge.”

The MHA Nation government is also transitioning to electronic forms of communication and phone calls. Chairman Fox, Dr. Anita Martin, EMHC Chief Medical Officer, and Marilyn Yellow Bird, EMHC Public Health Nurse, recommend calling or emailing tribal offices instead of asking questions in person. The committee also recommended diligent hand-washing and sanitizing all regularly-used home and office door handles, flat surfaces, and electronic devices. 

“Use hand sanitizer as soon as you walk in the door,” said Yellow Bird. 

Yellow Bird said to carry hand sanitizer to work and other public places, and to wipe down surfaces before using them. 

EMHC is prepared to help those who suspect they are sick. Symptoms of the Coronavirus include a dry cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever. Emergency symptoms include trouble breathing and blue lips and face. Please call 911 if you experience emergency symptoms. 

EMHC requests that individuals who suspect they are sick (but not experiencing emergency symptoms) call a special hotline before coming into the clinic. The phone number is 701-627-7641. 

While the situation is serious, Dr. Martin, Yellow Bird, and Chairman Fox assured the public that most who contract COVID-19 will recover. While there is no vaccine or treatment for Coronavirus, prevention and social isolation will help protect tribal members. Staying home if you are feeling sick is very important. 

“I want to keep reminding people that while this is a serious situation, there is no need to panic,” said Chairman Fox. “The issue is about mitigating exposure and the spread of the disease. Let’s be cognizant of our elders and people with underlying conditions.” 

Tribal law enforcement is also available to answer questions and concerns. Please feel free to call them at 701-627-3617. 

Finally, Chairman Fox emphasized how prepared the MHA Nation government is to deal with the COVID-19 situation. 

“I have three points I want to make. Number one: Our nation is prepared to utilize our resources to combat this problem and protect our people. We have plans in place to address the needs that we have and are interacting with federal agencies and the state government,” said Chairman Fox. 

“Number two: Experience is on our side. We’ve been accustomed to isolating and adjusting our routine thanks to North Dakota weather. We know how to survive and pull in the reins thanks to dealing with blizzards. Finally, our MHA Nation people are resilient. We have been impacted by viruses before and we have resilience and strength on our side. We’ll make it through this, too,” Chairman Fox concluded. 

Please visit legitimate health care websites such as those for the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization to educate yourself on the COVID-19 situation and stay up-to-date on Coronavirus-related news.