Health & Education

Grand Ronde still has not recorded a local positive COVID-19 test result

07.30.2020 Danielle Frost Health & Wellness, Tribal government


By Danielle Frost

Smoke Signals staff writer

Since the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic hit Oregon in March, the Grand Ronde Health & Wellness Center has conducted 338 tests. Of those, 335 have been negative.

The three that resulted in positive re-tests were for individuals who live outside the community.

On Wednesday, July 8, voluntary employee testing began. All 32 tests were negative. Next, the clinic began conducting antibody tests. Of 72 tests, 51 were negative and 21 are awaiting results. 

“We are doing this to help identify people without symptoms who have had the virus,” Executive Director of Health Services Kelly Rowe said. “It helps track pockets of infection in the community and see if people are having underlying health conditions related to COVID-19.”

Antibody tests help patients understand if they have been previously exposed to the virus and help public health officials with virus tracking.

Rowe discussed these topics during the Grand Ronde Tribe’s 10th Facebook Live event held on Wednesday, July 22. Also attending were Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy, Vice Chair Chris Mercier and Tribal Council members Michael Langley and Lisa Leno. Other staff in attendance included General Manager David Fullerton, Finance Officer Chris Leno and Tribal Council Chief of Staff Stacia Hernandez.

Rowe also announced relatives could begin visiting the Tribe’s Adult Foster Care residents after the Oregon Health Authority authorized the Tribe’s outdoor visitation plan. Masks and hand sanitizer are being provided for friends and family who want to visit.  

“Isolation can really impact your entire health,” Rowe said. “If you’re in a vulnerable population, it compounds that.”  

Fullerton announced that there is assistance for those who need help with rent, mortgage or paying utilities. Additionally, the Tribe plans to start a child care stipend program in the fall, the details of which are pending.

Mercier spoke about a pending Tribal member loan program, which would potentially include loans of up to $5,000, but likely begin at $1,000.

“We’re probably going to start slow,” he said. “If people demonstrate the ability to pay it back, we may increase the eligible amount.”

The loan program is to help deter cash-strapped Tribal members from using payday loan companies, which often charge exorbitant fees and high interest rates.

“We will need to determine the terms, interest rates, late fees, and age and income requirements,” Mercier said. “We’re on the way to producing something.”

Lisa Leno discussed the five advisory vote questions to be placed on the upcoming ballot. For the fourth year in a row, Tribal voters will be asked their opinions on various topics when they cast their ballots for Tribal Council during the Sept. 12 election.

The questions include whether to move forward with a constitutional amendment removing parent on the roll at the time of birth as a requirement for enrollment, whether to build a walking path from the Grand Meadows mobile home subdivision to Spirit Mountain Casino, whether to increase the Tribe’s investment in environmental stewardship, whether to allow electronic voting and whether to evaluate establishing a child care center in Grand Ronde. 

  “We’re really excited about these and want to thank the members for showing up to our community meetings to have these discussions, as well as people who e-mailed and sent in ideas,” Leno said. “It’s an opportunity for the membership to use their voice.”

About 160 people logged in to watch the Facebook Live event.