NESPELEM – The Colville Business Council has issued a Public Health Emergency Declaration related to the COVID-19 outbreak across the state of Washington in an emergency resolution passed, Monday.

The resolution follows a five-hour meeting, Saturday, in which Colville tribal leaders, administrators, health service managers and lawyers discussed how to handle the growing pandemic.

To date, the Washington State Department of Health has reported no cases of COVID-19 on the Colville Reservation, in Ferry or Okanogan counties. 

In total, there are currently 769 cases and 42 deaths across the state, according to the Department of Health.

The lengthy resolution reads, 

“WHEREAS, the Colville Business Council (CBC), as the duly elected governing body of the Tribes, has the duty to protect the safety and well-being of the Tribes; and,

Whereas, the recent outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States and worldwide threatens the safety and wellbeing of the Tribes; and,

WHEREAS, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the potential public health threat posed by COVID-19 both globally and in the United States as “high,” and has advised that person-to-person spread of COVID-19 will continue to occur globally, including within the United States; and

WHEREAS, both the United States Department of Health and Human Services and Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State have declared a public health emergency for COVID-19; and

WHEREAS the CDC currently recommends prevention measures and community preparedness be taken by all individuals and families in the United States, including voluntary home isolation when individuals are sick with respiratory symptoms, covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue and disposal of the tissue immediately thereafter, washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use of alcohol hand sanitizers with 60% to 90% alcohol if soap and water are not readily available and routinely cleaning frequently touched surfaces and objects to increase community resilience and readiness for responding to an outbreak; and

WHEREAS, the CBC currently recommends mitigation measures in communities with COVID-19 cases including staying at home when sick, keeping away from others who are sick and staying at home when a household member is sick with respiratory diseases symptoms or if instructed to do so by the Tribal Public Health Officer or a health care provider; and 

WHEREAS, the Washington State Department of Health, as of 4 p.m. on March 11, 2020, indicated there are 366 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 29 deaths resulting from COVID-19 and has now confirmed localized person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in Washington State, significantly increasing the risk of exposure and infection to the Tribes and creating an extreme public health risk that may spread quickly; and

WHEREAS, American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN) are historically disproportionately impacted by communicable disease outbreaks such as in the case of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic in which the CDC Director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, in his December 11, 2009 letter, advised that AI/AN should be considered a priority population; and

WHEREAS, the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 and the effects of its extreme risk of person-to-person transmission throughout the United States and the Tribes significantly impacts the life and health of our people, as well as the economy of the Tribes, and is a public disaster that affects life, health, property and the public peace; and

WHEREAS, CBC is aware that a COVID-19 outbreak on the Colville Indian Reservation will quickly overwhelm the resources of the Tribe; and

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Colville Business Council hereby issues this Public Health Emergency Declaration due to the COVID-19 outbreak in our state and surrounding communities. Tribal departments are directed to utilize tribal resources and to do everything possible to assist our tribal community and tribal employees to respond to and recover from the COVID-19 outbreak; and 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Tribes hereby appoints Dr. Alison J. Ball as the Tribes point of contact for the Coronavirus response, and grants Dr. Ball to (1) take necessary actions to protect the public health including directing personnel and supplies and providing outreach and education to the public; (2) seek technical assistance and advice from local, state, and/or federal partners on emergency response issues including, but not limited to, tribal facility closures, cancellation of large gatherings, and isolation and quarantine (3) coordinate with local, state, and federal partners on reporting of potential and confirmed COVID-19 cases and unusual clusters and epidemiological investigations; (4) advise CBC as to the duration of this public health emergency; and (5) draft and propose to CBC a communicable disease emergency response plan.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that we, the Colville Business Council, by authority of Resolution 1991-431, (10 affirmative signatures on this recommendation sheet, an emergency) this 16th day of March, 2020, acting for and in behalf of the Colville Confederated Tribes, Nespelem, Washington, do hereby approve the recommendation of the Health and Human Services Committee.

The foregoing was duly enacted by the Colville Business Council by a vote of 10 FOR and 0 ABSTAINED, under authority contained in Article V, Section 1(a) of the Constitution of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, ratified by the Colville Indians on February 26, 1938, and approved by the Commissioners of Indian Affairs in April 19, 1938.”

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