Coronavirus: How Tribal Communities Can Prepare

As medical facilities and providers across the U.S. determine the best way to deal  with the spreading coronavirus, one of the groups particularly at risk are Native American communities. Indian Country Today reported that tribal communities are unprepared for a possible coronavirus epidemic due to a lack of resources including physicians and nurses familiar with the virus. This is where Tribal EM can help. We want to ensure our facility partners and providers are properly armed and educated with how best to address questions and concerns about the disease.

What is the Coronavirus

With so much attention and media coverage about the virus, misinformation, and falsehoods have spread. Here is some important background to know about the disease:

  • Origins: The current strain of the virus is a new “novel” coronavirus called COVID-19, which likely came from an animal at a “wet market” in Wuhan, China, which the government put under quarantine.
  • Symptoms: People with the illness show symptoms similar to that of the common cold or flu including fever, coughing, and shortness of breath.
  • How it spreads: The virus is airborne and spreads from human to human mainly via respiratory droplets.
  • Most cases are mild: Chinese officials have reported that more than 80% of those infected with the virus had only a mild illness. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates a case fatality rate of between 0.3% and 1%, which is only slightly higher than influenza.
  • Treatment: At present, there is no vaccine for COVID-19 and treatment mainly encompasses supportive measures.

What Tribal Members Need to Know

Like with any infection prevention, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly using soap and warm water and avoid touching your face. If you are coughing, cover your mouth using a tissue or coughing into your elbow or sleeve. Also, consider avoiding unnecessary events or places where large groups of people are gathered to limit potential exposure. Plus, it may sound simplistic, but if you feel sick, stay home to avoid possibly spreading your illness to others in the community or at your workplace.

What Healthcare Workers Need to Know

When treating patients who present symptoms of COVID-19, medical facilities and providers should use airborne precautions as well as standard precautions such as gowns, gloves, goggles, and face shields or masks to protect themselves. Many facilities also will soon begin limiting elective procedures that require personal protective equipment in an effort to conserve resources and lower the risk of possible transmission to others.

What Tribal EM is Doing in Response to Coronavirus

To ensure the safety and health of our staff, providers and patients, Tribal EM has taken a number of precautions as it relates to handling potential coronavirus cases. We are abiding by all recommendations and guidelines issued by Indian Health Services, including requiring our providers to watch a CDC-produced video on the virus as well as asking them to complete a COVID-19-specific learning module produced by the American College of Physicians. Tribal EM is also adhering to an IHS requirement that all providers who leave facilities for several days and return to sign off that they do not have coronavirus symptoms. Tribal EM also has prepared a coronavirus screening procedure for providers and partner facilities to administer to patients who seek care and may show symptoms similar to the virus. 

Tribal EM is Here to Help

With our innovative approach to helping short-staffed medical facilities serving Native populations, we can provide physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals with the expertise, education, and knowledge to bolster coronavirus prevention and treatment efforts in tribal communities. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your facility and community.

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