The next few months will be challenging on multiple levels, in ways we can’t yet imagine. The Coronavirus has been declared a pandemic here in the United States.  Tribal Council will be making difficult decisions that are beyond our control.  We need to base these decisions on sound information and in the best interest of our Tribe.  However, the emotional consequences of our people who will suffer cannot be taken lightly. Nor can the emotional consequences of people who fall into high risk categories, such as the elderly and those with existing conditions. The fact that their lives are threatened cannot be underestimated.  With so many business and corporate closures, it is inevitable that at some point our workforce will be reduced.  Federal and State funding will be impacted and staff could face layoffs and some services discontinued.  In light of this uncertainty, please make wise financial decisions and travel to metropolitan areas only when absolutely necessary.  Read the facts about COVID-19 and learn about this disease from reputable sources like:  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), The World Health Organization (WHO), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and the Global Center for Health Security.  Learn how to take care of yourself and your family.

Most importantly, don’t contribute to societal panic - stay cautious and remain calm.  Do your best to react logically to the situation at hand, and refrain from panic-buying weeks’ worth of groceries or spreading information online that hasn’t been verified. This only leads to panic and hysteria. It’s understandable to feel anxious, fearful and to worry about what the outcome of this virus could be. We are all in this together and we will see our way through this.  Be creative, offer solutions, and take a positive leadership role.  Show our young people how to survive during adverse times.

Currently, the emergence of coronavirus, has become a global health concern causing severe respiratory tract infections in humans. Human-to-human transmissions have been described with incubation times between 2-10 days, facilitating its spread via droplets, contaminated hands or surfaces. Coronaviruses can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days, but can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62–71% alcohol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute.  (Source:  The Journal of Hospital Infection)

We can pick up the Covid-19 by touching surfaces contaminated with coronavirus, but it is just becoming clear how long the virus can survive outside the human body.  Everyone should frequently wash their hands (and wash them thoroughly, with soap for 20 seconds); maintain at least a six feet distance from anyone coughing or sneezing, and avoid physical contact when greeting; avoid touching our eyes, nose and mouth; cover the mouth and nose with a bent elbow or disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing; and stay home and seek medical attention from local health providers, if you are not feeling well.

While the virus infects people of all ages, there is evidence that older people (60 and over), and anyone with underlying health conditions (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, asthma and cancer), are at a higher risk.  People in these categories are being advised to take further measures, including ensuring that any visitors wash their hands, regularly cleaning and disinfecting home surfaces.

COVID-19 is caused by a new virus.  There is much to learn about its transmissibility, severity, and other features of the disease.  The Colville Tribe is presently working on contingency plans and developing flexible policies and procedures to accommodate public health recommendations to reduce transmission and infection.  On March 14th as Chairman of the Colville Business Council, I called a mandatory meeting for Tribal Council, CCT Executive Staff and Program Managers.  This was on a very short notice and we did our best to contact everyone.  We also invited key partners such as the Colville Tribal Federal Corporation (CTFC); the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); the Indian Health Services (I.H.S.); Lake Roosevelt Community Health Centers (LRCHC); Tribal Courts; and our Washington State and U.S. Federal Liaisons.  This meeting was called in response to Governor Inslee’s Proclamation to Close Washington’s Public Schools.

At this meeting we received both federal and state legislative updates of both pending and approved legislation that addresses the COVID-19 Pandemic.  We received presentations from our Incident Command Team, Lake Roosevelt Health Center, Indian Health Services, our Finance Officer (budgets & investments), CCT Education Division Manager regarding school closures, CCT Administration (contingency planning for Continuity of Government, Insurance, unemployment and addressing employees with school aged children) and we discussed a COVID-19 Communication Strategy 

PRESIDENTIAL PROCLAMATION

• NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, do hereby find and proclaim that the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States constitutes a national emergency, beginning March 1, 2020.  Pursuant to this declaration, I direct as follows:

Section 1.  Emergency Authority.  The Secretary of HHS may exercise authority to temporarily waive or modify certain requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children’s Health Insurance programs and of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act Privacy Rule throughout the duration of the public health emergency declared in response to the COVID‑19 outbreak.

• On March 13, 2020, the President declared the ongoing Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant an emergency declaration for all states, tribes, territories, and the District of Columbia pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act.  State, Territorial, Tribal, local government entities and certain private non-profit (PNP) organizations are eligible to apply for Public Assistance.  Section 501(b) of the Stafford Act grants the president authority to declare a national emergency. (Once an emergency is declared, the act allows state governments and tribal authorities to request disaster assistance from the federal government.)

WASHINGTON STATE GOVERNOR PROCLAMATIONS 

(Summarized)

• Proclamation 20-05, proclaiming a State of Emergency for all counties throughout Washington State as a result of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak in the United States and confirmed person-to-person spread of COVID-19 in Washington State.

• That motor carriers and drivers of commercial motor vehicles collecting or delivering essential food and emergency supplies in Washington State for the following purposes are providing emergency relief, are exempt from application of the driver hours of service rules until midnight on April 17, 2020: 1. Grocery purposes, including but not limited to pet food and supplies; 2. Medical supplies and equipment; 3. Pharmaceuticals; or 4. Petroleum fuels, other liquid fuels, natural or synthetic fuel gas, solid carbonaceous fuels, and electricity and natural gas system equipment components, including but not limited to, fissionable nuclear material.

• Provision of unemployment compensation for impacted employees, for claims filed on or after March 8, 2020, the following language of each statutory provision waives the waiting period of one week

• To prohibit certain activities impacting taxpayers to help preserve and maintain life, health, property or the public peace.

• To temporarily prohibit residential evictions statewide until April 17, 2020, as provide herein.

• (nursing homes) To prevent a long-term care worker shortage and other disruptions to the long-term care system.

• (nursing homes) The language of each statutory and regulatory provision specified below is hereby waived and suspended until midnight on April 16, 2020, as it applies to the facilities listed above:  1. RCW 71.05.217(4), in its entirety:   “(4) To have visitors at reasonable times;”  2. RCW 71.05.360(10)(d), in its entirety:   “(d) To have visitors at reasonable times;”  3. RCW 71.34.355(4), in its entirety:  “(4) To have visitors at reasonable times;”

• (nursing homes) To prohibit any person, including friends or family, to enter the facility to visit a resident. This prohibition does not apply to end of life situations or to visits by attorneys, administrative law judges, advocates or similar persons who represent a resident. Further, it does not apply to vendors or volunteers who supply or work in a facility. However, all persons who enter a facility must meet all other prohibitions and requirements set out in Proclamation 20-06.  These prohibitions shall remain in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020. 

• Proclamation 20-05 is amended to waive specific statutes pertaining to DOL eye examinations and renewals of driver licenses and identification cards, as provided herein.

• Pertaining to gatherings of 250 people or more, is amended to reduce the size of gatherings to 50 people or less. Furthermore, activities of less than 50 people are also prohibited, unless organizers of those activities comply with social distancing and sanitation measures established by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Washington State Department of Health guidelines. The provisions of this order shall remain in effect until midnight on March 31, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.

• Proclamation 20-05 is amended to prohibit any number of people from gathering in any public venue in which people congregate for purposes of public entertainment, recreation, food and beverage service, theater, bowling, fitness and other similar activities, to include all public venues in which the serving, provision, or consumption of prepared food or beverages occurs at a table, bar, or for consumption within.

• Proclamation 20-05 is amended to prohibit all public and private universities, colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs, and similar schools and programs from conducting in-person classes in all counties of Washington State.

• Pertaining to gatherings of 250 people or more, is amended to expand its application to all counties of the state of Washington and shall continue to remain in effect midnight on March 31, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.

• Proclamation 20-05 is amended to waive and suspend specified statutes that prevent, hinder or delay necessary action in coping with the long-term care worker shortage

• Proclamation 20-06 is amended to expand the application of its prohibitions to include adult family homes licensed under RCW 70.128.

• (School closure) Proclamation 20-08, pertaining to activities by public school districts, charter schools, and private schools, is amended to expand its application to all counties of the state of Washington, and shall continue to remain in effect from 12:01 a.m. on March 17, 2020, until 12:00 p.m. on April 24, 2020, unless extended beyond that date.

• I hereby prohibit the following activities in all counties of Washington State related to the operation of nursing homes and assisted living facilities, which restrictions shall remain in effect until midnight on April 9, 2020: 

1.  Nursing homes are prohibited from allowing a person to enter the facility and visit a resident unless that person is an adult, the resident has not already had a visitor that day, and the visit takes place in the resident’s room. This prohibition does not apply in end of life situations.  2. No person is allowed to visit a resident of a nursing home unless they have been screened prior to entry for signs or symptoms of COVID-19. Precautionary measures may include, but are not limited to, wearing personal protective equipment, social distancing, or visiting in designated locations. 3. No person is allowed to visit a resident of a nursing home unless they show identification, sign into a visitor’s log that includes date, time in and time out, and provide their name and contact information, including phone number and email address if available.  4. Operators and staff of nursing homes are prohibited from destroying each day’s visitor log for 30 days.  5. Nursing homes are prohibited from allowing a person to work or volunteer in the facility unless the person has been screened at the start of every shift and does not show any symptoms associated with COVID-19, including fever of 100.4 or higher, cough, or difficulty breathing.  6. Residents of nursing homes that have one or more residents, staff, contractors or volunteers subject to a Washington State Department of Health or local health department recommendation or order of isolation or quarantine for COVID-19 need to be isolated in their rooms away from other people. A resident can choose to discharge from a facility at any time.  7. Nursing homes are prohibited from disclosing protected and confidential health information except as otherwise provided by law or with consent from the resident.

• State agencies and departments are directed to utilize state resources and to do everything reasonably possible to assist affected political subdivisions in an effort to respond to and recover from the outbreak.

Elders and individuals with immune compromising conditions should have minimal contact from the public and members of their families.  Every precaution needs to be made to not infect our Elders and high risk population.  However, a close friend and family member should be identified who is healthy and can check on Elders and high risk individuals to ensure their immediate needs are being met.  The Center for Disease Control provides this additional guidance:

SCHOOL CLOSURES

Governor Inslee made the difficult decision to close all public and private schools until at least Monday, April 27 in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. Providing educational instruction to our local schools will be challenging.  However, it is very reassuring to see families, educators, staff and the Colville Tribe working together in this time of uncertainty to support students and each other. Each of our local schools will be providing distance learning opportunities through providing home packets with learning materials and through the internet where available.

As this continues to be an evolving situation, our Public Schools and the Colville Tribe is committed to keeping you informed and sharing information as it becomes available. For more information call your respective school districts.

Nutrition - Schools are foundational to the infrastructure of our communities and each school district and our Head Start Program is committed to continue providing meals and support basic needs. Each local school district, Paschal Sherman Indian School and Head Start is preparing to provide lunch and most schools breakfast during school closures.

CHILD CARE RESOURCES

Child care is a critical service especially for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. The Colville Tribe is working with our existing child care providers to develop potential approaches for families who need this service. We continue to receive updated guidance from the Department of Children, Youth, and Families on how to provide child care as safely as possible in our buildings while ensuring recommended social distancing.

COLLEGE CLOSURES

Most colleges will be moving to online instruction.

COLVILLE CONFEDERATED GOVERNMENTAL DEPARTMENTS/PROGRAMS 

The Colville Business Council implemented a partial shutdown of Tribal government effective immediately until April 1, 2020 to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  More information will be shared as this develops.  The Colville Business Council is working closely with the Executive Director and Division Managers to determine the essential functions of their operations that may not stop during this critical period of time needed to suspend operations due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Division Managers have identified the essential positions that are responsible for performing critical functions and provided this information to Council for review and for further guidance.  Essential positions will remain at their normal duty station.  Approved leave, flexible work schedules and teleworking will be offered to non-essential employees and employees who need to be away from work because of their minor children.  Division Managers were also tasked to work with employees who fall into a vulnerable category and provide and offer them teleworking and possibly leave from work. 

Through identifying essential positions and functions, Tribal Council and Executive Directors will determine what can be suspended for an extended period that is not detrimental to tribal operations.  If a positive test of a person who works for the Colville Tribe has been reported, essential functions will continue and we may have to consider distributing essential roles and functions to off-site location temporarily until it is determined that their workspaces are safe to occupy.

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