Coronavirus graphic. (Courtesy of the cdc.gov website)
By DANA HERNANDEZ
FORT HALL — The Fort Hall Business Council has declared a state of emergency exists within the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and the Shoshone-Bannock Emergency Operation Plan and procedures are implemented because of the imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare because of the coronavirus or COVID 19.
As of March 18, there are nine confirmed cases of coronavirus in Idaho according to the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The FHBC approved the resolution March 17 and it’s in effect for at least a 30 day period. The COVID 19 emergency requires federal and state emergency assistance to support local efforts to protect life and lesson the threat of emergency with the Shoshone-Bannock Fort Hall Reservation. The resolution requests that the appropriate federal officials and the Idaho Governor provide assistance.
The FHBC also approved a resolution implanting restrictions that if an individual has been in contact with a test positive COVID-19 individual, he or she will be required to isolate for a period of 14 calendar days after contact. They are also advising everyone to reconsider future out-of-state travel or in-state travel to a high risk area. If one chooses to travel out-of-state or to a high risk area, he or she will have to self-isolate for 14 calendar days upon return. All travel bans can be implemented at any point in time and the person runs the risk of being unable to return home the resolution reads.
The FHBC sent out a letter to Shoshone-Bannock tribal members that explains there is a Tribal COVID- 19 Task Force, that is made up of representatives from Tribal Government, Tribal Health Department, Tribal Community Health Center, Indian Health Services, Tribal Enterprises, Sho-Ban High School, and the Shoshone-Bannock Casino Hotel. “The Task Force meets weekly to advise the council and will be providing weekly community updates on the Tribes website (www.sbtribes.com), official Facebook page (Shoshone-Bannock Tribes), Sho-Ban News and other public notices, including at reservation district lodges,” the letter reads.
The letter addresses the COVID-19 virus as an emerging, rapidly evolving situation and is highly contagious. It also gives a list of safety precautions for the Fort Hall Community, including postponements/cancelation of large events, enactment of flexible personnel policies that allow employees necessary sick leave to recover, and the enactment of a travel ban until May 1.
In addition, the Tribes have postponed or cancelled large events of 50 people or more are postponed reservation wide and are effective immediately. Closures include: Timbee Hall, the Early Childhood Program and daycare, the services of the casino/ hotel’s Deka Gahni Deli, Cedar Spa, Painted Horse Buffet, and the Tribal Housing A-frame closed to vendors, along with community events.
Community members are encouraged to do their part and take precautionary measures such as avoiding close contact, stay home if sick, wash hands often, cover one’s mouth when coughing and avoid large gatherings where close proximity may take place.
Tribal Executive Director Elese Teton said in an email to employees the Tribes will remain working until the FHBC deems it necessary to shutdown tribal operations noting they will continue to monitor the COVID-19 pandemic and take action when necessary.
Fort Hall Indian Health Service
The Fort Hall Service Unit is changing its operations to reduce face to face contact as much as possible according to CEO Shirley Alvarez. They will be calling to reschedule routine appointments for some patients. If one is not called and want to be rescheduled, call them at 208-238-5427 or 5400.
If a person feels ill and want to be seen call the hotline for screening prior to entering the facility. Limited COVID-19 sample collection is available but the test results aren’t immediately available as it may take up a week or more because of high volumes at the off-site testing lab.
Medication refills may be provided without having to come to the facility for most patient. Immunizations are still recommended and provided through nurse visits. Dental and optometry visits are for urgent needs only, routine visits will be rescheduled.
If one is experiencing COVID-19 symptoms – fever, cough or difficulty breathing call the Indian Health Service hotline at 208-238-5494 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you think you have a medical emergency call 911 – if its related to COVID-19 advise the Emergency Medical Services personnel as soon as they arrive.
Shoshone-Bannock Community Health Center and Test Kits: Chris Waterhouse, director of Tribal HRSA, said the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the After Hours Clinic both have the COVID-19 test kits available but they’re limited and was said to be a “small amount.” She said they’ve shared their plan with the leadership but will take it day-to-day as information is constantly changing and being updated.” The after-hours clinic does give patients the option to be tested from the comfort and isolation of their vehicle, they can check-in by calling or texting and someone will come out and meet them.
As of March 17, they were discouraging anyone to enter the clinic and advised everyone to call or text first when seeking their services. Call the front desk at 208-478-3987 and text at 208-530-9405. Waterhouse also advised that people can visit their local hospital to be seen and tested as well. She says she knows folks are worried, but there are ways to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Tribal Enterprises: Retail Operations Manager of Tribal Enterprise Carlie Jim said Trading Post closed early on March 17 due to deep cleaning and restocking. They received a shipment that day, but unfortunately it did not contain any paper products. Trading Post is currently out of all paper products, and will be having another elders/disabled shoppers day when they receive those products. They are currently limiting quantities of everything in the store to only two per customer. Jim said, “since we’ve deep cleaned the store, we figure the ones most vulnerable should come during 7-10 a.m. on Wednesday and shop while it’s clean.”
Jim also advised of other changes to the Enterprises: The dining areas of both Sage Hill and TP Gas stations have removed all tables and chairs. They are encouraging people to call in their orders to reduce the amount of people in the store at the same time.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reduced the number of people who can gather as a group to 10 and the Tribal Enterprise is following the guidelines and is only allowing up to 10 people at any given time to be in the three gas stations, the Blue Corner Store and the Donzia gift shop. Also, The Donzia Gift Shop has reduced its hours of operation and will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. as of Tuesday, March 17.
Shoshone-Bannock Casino and Hotel: The casino hotel remains open and they’ve taken additional sanitation measures at their gaming locations. They’re not allowing staff members who are ill to come to work. They’ve installed hand sanitizing stations at all entrances. Interim manager Colista Eagle said in a press release the cancelation of the Bridal and Quinceanera Show; the closure of the Painted Horse Buffet, the Deka Gahni Deli, and the Cedar Spa. In addition, the Tracy Byrd Concert, the Champions of the Magic Show, and the bingo Spring Fling are rescheduled. They are currently offering refunds, and advised if guests paid via online they can request a refund by emailing them at email@example.com or if they purchased a ticket in person with cash they can receive a refund in person at the cashier window located inside the casino.
477 Human Services: In the interest of public safety they encourage people to stay home if they’re sick. The staff is practicing social distancing in all contacts.
The Food and Hygiene Pantry will be open Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 to 4 p.m. at the Consumer Services Building #39. Call 208-478-3709 (Dustin) or 208-478-3984 (Jacki) for more information. They’re assisting people that are low-income eligible that have a completed application. Over income Tribal members cannot be assisted at this time.
The Adult Protection Program Offices are now open in the Old Casino Building. For more information please call 208-236-1073 or 208-236-1074 or for emergencies call 208-220-1007.
A drop box is available for 477 applications at the intake office area located inside the Old Casino.
477 Case Management intake by phone is available for those who cannot make it to the office because of illness. Call the TANF/GA front desk at 478-3979 (Krissy) to schedule.
Work Force Classes are postponed until further notice.
One on One Budgeting Classes will be available please call Jacki Wynn, House Hold Budget Counselor at 208-478-3984. One on One Employment Services are still available please call Johanna Whiteplume, Employment Specialist at 208-478-3982.