Health & Education
Coronavirus concerns prompt postponement of Agency Creek Round Dance
By Dean Rhodes
Smoke Signals editor
Growing concerns nationwide about the spread of the coronavirus have reached the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.
On Wednesday, March 11, the Tribe announced postponement of the April 3-4 Agency Creek Round Dance and the upcoming Native Wellness Day. The announcement coincided with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement that she will be prohibiting events larger than 250 people for four weeks to help combat the spread of the virus.
“The Tribe’s Round Dance planning committee has made the decision to postpone our April gathering,” Communications Director Sara Thompson said. “This decision stems from our desire to protect the health and safety of our people, our visitors that travel and our guests in attendance. We plan to reschedule this event for a later date and will update everyone on the details when they are available. We will keep you all in our good thoughts.”
Although the Yamhill County Health Department does not think there is an imminent threat of a novel coronavirus outbreak in the area despite neighboring counties reporting cases, the Grand Ronde Health & Wellness Clinic has been developing a response to a possible outbreak.
Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe said in an all-employee e-mail that Tribal staff from Spirit Mountain Casino, Health & Wellness, the Executive Team and Emergency Preparedness are collaborating with Yamhill County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority.
“Education and precautionary tactics are being established in our facilities to support detection and prevent virus spread,” Rowe said.
Some of those tactics include posting numerous signs at the entrances to the clinic asking people who think they might have come in contact with the novel coronavirus to call the receptionist instead of entering and possibly infecting other people.
In addition, General Manager David Fullerton announced on Tuesday, March 3, that the Tribe was suspending air travel for all employees through the end of March.
The novel coronavirus originated in China about two months ago and has now spread worldwide. Cases have been reported nationwide as well with more than 1,000 reports scattered across about half of the states.
In late February, the first two cases in Oregon were reported in Washington County and a third was reported in Umatilla County, shutting down the Umatilla Tribe’s Wildhorse Resort & Casino for two days of intensive cleaning. The total has since risen to 21 cases in Oregon and Brown declared a state of emergency on Sunday, March 8, to combat the virus’ spread.
The declaration means that the state’s reserves of emergency volunteer health care professionals are being activated and that Brown is giving broad authority to state health officials to take immediate action.
According to the World Health Organization, a coronavirus is a large family of viruses that can cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. A “novel coronavirus” is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. The principal way it is spread is the “droplet route,” meaning a person would have to be within a few feet of someone who had it and be coughed on.
Symptoms are similar to influenza with fever, cough and difficulty breathing, which may appear in as few as two days or as long as 14 days after exposure. According to a flier from the Oregon Health Authority, the virus has the “potential to cause severe illness and pneumonia in some people and there is not a treatment.” Deaths so far have been reported mostly in older adults who had other health complications.
The medical journal JAMA released a paper analyzing data from the Chinese Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on 72,314 coronavirus cases in mainland China, the figure as of Feb. 11, the largest such sample in a study of this kind.
The sample’s overall fatality rate was 2.3 percent, higher than the World Health Organization’s official rate. No deaths occurred in those aged 9 years and younger, but cases in those aged 70 to 79 years had an 8 percent fatality rate and those aged 80 years and older had a fatality rate of 14.8 percent.
In response to the growing number of cases in the United States, Congress passed an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental appropriation and President Donald Trump signed it on Friday, March 6. The bill includes $40 million for Tribes, Tribal organizations and urban Indian health organizations affected by COVID-19.
Suggested prevention tactics include frequent handwashing, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands, avoiding contact with people who are sick, staying home while sick and avoiding contact with others, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or shirt sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Those who are elderly or have underlying health conditions are urged to limit their time in public, especially in large gatherings.
Rowe said Health & Wellness Clinic staff are monitoring updated clinic care guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention located in Atlanta.
Rowe said that Tribal clinic patients who think they might have been exposed to the novel coronavirus should call 503-879-2032 for escort inside in an effort to limit exposure to other patients.