Health & Education

Rowe discusses Delta variant during Facebook Live event

08.03.2021 Danielle Harrison


By Danielle Harrison

Smoke Signals staff writer

Health Services Executive Director Kelly Rowe updated the membership about the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant during a Facebook Live event held on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

A recent uptick in active cases has led to the Tribal campus once again being closed to the public, with all non-essential employees encouraged to work from home.

“In as little as a few weeks, we have gone from zero to 16 active cases,” Rowe said. “This is a significant increase and the most we have had at any given time. Delta is not the virus of last year. It has mutated to the point where it is incredibly contagious and spreading quickly.”

She added that although there are some breakthrough infections among the vaccinated, the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have continued to provide good prevention against getting the virus at approximately 95 percent.   

“It has also kept people from getting severe illness from COVID,” she said. “Delta will continue to mutate and change. We believe it will mutate until we reach community immunity.”

The Facebook Live event was the 20th held by the Tribal government since March 2020. Approximately 190 people logged on to watch the broadcast, which included Rowe, Tribal Council Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy and General Manager David Fullerton.

Kennedy said that the Tribe has come through great struggles in 2020 and 2021, and that leaders continue to remain vigilant and also look forward to the future.

“We are all still here and continue to bravely confront issues that come before us,” she said. “Many have already heard that the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde has made the decision to limit the Tribal campus access due to a resurgence of COVID variants. Right now, the most susceptible are our younger people. (Many of) those who have lost the fight are males between 18 and 45. … The preventive measures we take now are not about protecting yourself, they are to protect the vulnerable among you, Elders with health conditions who can’t be vaccinated and children.”

Rowe also addressed vaccine hesitancy.

“People are hesitant to get vaccinated for a variety of reasons,” she said. “Some are worried about side effects. The percentage of any adverse event from the vaccine is very low, but the protection it provides is much higher. Side effects of the vaccine are short-lived, but COVID can go on for months. People who are vaccinated and get the virus become much less sick. They might have symptoms, but these are very minimal.”

Rowe also noted the messenger RNA technology that is used in the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines has been around for almost two decades.

“There were no steps that were skipped in the development of these vaccines,” she said. “Because of the urgent need, phase three clinical trials were run concurrently instead of consecutively. This was not rushed. It was designed to help your body fight the virus. It doesn’t change your DNA, implant a tracking device or cause infertility. … I implore everyone to look at the information and talk with your provider so you can move forward with getting the vaccine.”

Fullerton emphasized that the two-week pause at the Tribal campus was not a shutdown.

“We have reduced operations to essential staff and others will work from home,” he said. “We will make a decision mid-next week about plans moving forward.”

He also said that ballots for the upcoming Tribal Council election on Sept. 11 will be sent out on Sunday, Aug. 8, and Tribal members are encouraged to mail those in. Those who drop their ballots off in person must call Security at 503-879-2183 to be admitted into the Governance Center.

In closing, Kennedy again encouraged people to get vaccinated. Tribal members and those who live in their households, other Native Americans and their household members, and Tribal employees and their household members 12 and older who want to do so at the campus clinic are asked to call the Health & Wellness Center vaccination line at 503-879-1900.

“Let’s be the banner of protection for our children,” Kennedy said.