I hope this letter finds you and your family safe and healthy during these exceedingly difficult times. The numbers of confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the Colville Reservation continues to climb. There are now 12 people who have been diagnosed positive, and unfortunately, one person has died. The number of confirmed cases in Okanogan, Grant and Ferry Counties also continue to rise and are reported daily. There are more than 1 million cases of coronavirus in the US and more than 58,000 people have died.
I share these numbers to emphasize the critical need for us to remain steadfast in our commitment to adhering to the restrictions proclaimed by the Colville Confederated Tribes and the State of Washington. These measures the Tribe has instituted are for the safety and protection of our communities. Despite our sincere hope that we would be able to systematically lift these restrictions by the end of April, it is apparent we will extend into May. A work session is planned for April 30th to determine a date for government and business operations to resume. This means we must continue to “Stay Home and Stay Safe” and continue to forbid anyone from visiting our homes. The Colville Business Council will take all necessary actions to protect the members of our tribe and communities.
We understand the frustration; we are all feeling it, but it is important that we stay focused and continue to follow these restrictions to protect the health and safety of our communities, especially our most vulnerable elders and those with health issues. Although no one knows when this pandemic will end, we know it will end; and we are already making plans about what safety practices we will continue to follow when we lift Tribal operations and reservation restrictions.
The Colville Tribes has passed an amendment to the Tribal Code which authorizes criminal prosecution for a violation of Quarantine or Isolation orders. Those violating quarantine or isolation orders, penalties of up to 360 days in jail and a $5,000 fine will be enforced. Isolation and quarantine help protect our tribe and communities by preventing exposure to people from those who have tested positive or those who are presumptive positive of COVID-19.
The Center for Disease Control defines Quarantine and Isolation as follows:
- Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of people who were exposed to a contagious disease to see if they become sick, or await test results.
- Isolation separates sick people with a quarantinable communicable disease from people who are not sick.
In addition to serving as medical functions, isolation and quarantine also are police functions, derived from the right of a tribal government to act for the benefit of tribal members and our communities. Each patient who receives a positive test result is instructed that they will isolate themselves away from other people until the disease has run its course, as determined by medical professionals. Patients tested are “presumptive positive” and will also quarantine themselves while they await a final test result.