And just like that, the number of positive COVID-19 cases spiked over the course of one week from 12 to 40. The increase in the numbers was expected, said Danette Serr, CRST Tribal Health Department Director, who explained last month that the Tribe was anticipating an increase of cases after the Fourth of July holiday.
In fact, the Tribe and Indian Health Service amplified their testing operations and mass tested in rural communities before the holiday weekend.
Serr explained the mass testing that took place weeks leading into the July 4th weekend was important because it established a health baseline for the reservation.
Numerous events took place throughout the state during the holiday, including the Sitting Bull Stampede in Mobridge, the PRCA rodeo in Belle Fourche, President Trump’s visit to Mount Rushmore, and typical gatherings and barbeques that occur on Independence Day.
On July 8, the South Dakota Department of Health announced that a covid-positive individual attended the Sitting Bull Stampede on June 30 and July 1, which were the days that the Indian relay races took place.
The Health Department urged everyone who was in attendance to monitor for symptoms for 14 days.
Mandatory face coverings in all reservation businesses
With the alarming rise of positive cases, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe passed Executive Order (#02.7-2020-CR) on July 10 mandating that customers entering any business open to the public to wear a cloth face covering, and that all businesses operating on the reservation must require employees to wear face masks and gloves. (See full executive order on page A14).
A person and business operator who knowingly violates the order is subject to criminal and/or civil penalties which includes fines.
For businesses, all violations may result in temporary closure until the business is deep cleaned and sanitized. The business will also be fined $250 for the first violation; $500 for the second violation; and $1000 and/or loss of the tribal business license on the third violation.
Customers will also be fined for violating the order: $100 for the first incident; $250 for the second incident; $500 for the third incident. The second and third fees are enforced regardless of the location of the first/prior incident.
On July 11, Chairman Harold Frazier announced “an order temporarily limiting access to the Swiftbird community.”
“I have instructed the CRST Police Department to only allow residents of the community to enter and not allow anyone to leave until further notice,” said Frazier.
The lockdown occurred because the small community was experiencing multiple positive cases. The Tribe provided food and services necessary to keep everyone in the community safe at home, and on Monday, mass voluntary testing was conducted in the community.
“I am asking all non-residents of Swiftbird community to not travel to the community at this time. Non-residents traveling to the community may impede our plan to provide food, services, testing and medical care,” said Frazier in his initial statement about the lockdown.
Testing results released by the Tribe do not specify how many, if any, covid-19 cases there are within each of the 22 communities on the reservation.
As Tuesday, there 40 positive cases, with 3,954 negative test results. Additional mass testing is scheduled and is being conducted by the Indian Health Service and the CRST Tribal Health Department. Testing is free and open to all residents, tribal and non-tribal members, living on Cheyenne River.
888 people were tested on Thursday, July 6 in Eagle Butte. Additional testing events were held in Cherry Creek, Laplant, Dupree and Timber Lake this past week.
Demographics released by the Tribe
Chairman Frazier released case numbers by age group, breaking the categories down to 0-5; 6-10; 11-17; 18-25; 26-50; 51-57; 58-79; and 80+ years old. On July 8, the number of positive cases for individuals under the age of 18 was reported at 51 percent.
With the increase of positive cases to 40, the percentage positive individuals under the age of 18 decreased to 40 percent.
Chairman Frazier asked parents to take extra care of their children and to educate them about the importance of handwashing and maintaining social distance from others. He also urged young teenagers to practice preventative measures and to make good decisions in their social life that will keep them safe and healthy.
Transmission within homes
One of the reasons the positive numbers spiked is because transmission of the virus occurred within homes that had a known positive individual who was quarantining in the residence, said Frazier.
The Center for Disease Control recommends that when a person is tested positive, they self-isolate in a room where they are separated from people who are not infected.
If this not possible, the Tribe has quarantine locations set up throughout the reservation, including the CRST Veterans Center in Eagle Butte, and the Isabel Manor in Isabel, and the Cheyenne River Motel in Eagle Butte.
Eagle Butte business reopens after exposure
On July 5, Dairy Queen in Eagle Butte temporarily closed after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. The business worked with the Tribe to develop a plan to safely reopen, and after five days of being closed, the popular eatery opened up with limited hours and a limited menu.
Keep updated with latest COVID-19 Information
Visit www.westrivereagle.com for all the latest information from Cheyenne River and surrounding areas.
Chairman Frazier conducts a daily briefing at noon which is livestreamed on the CRST COVID-19 Updates Facebook page and the KIPI Radio Station page.
Tune into 93.5 at noon and 6 p.m. to hear the chairman’s address.
Phone numbers to know:
CRST Medical Hotline Number 24/7: 605-964-0563
Behavioral Health Hotline 24/7: 605-964-1545
CRST Command Center: 605-964-3637