Though Oklahoma’s first COVID-19 case wasn’t identified until March 6, Citizen Potawatomi Nation Health Services (CPNHS) was already prepared.

On Feb. 28, CPN Chief Medical Officer George A. Vascellaro, D.O., formed a coronavirus task force led by Dr. Kassi Roselius, M.D., M.P.H. Dr. Roselius is a board-certified family physician, CPNHS medical professional director, public health coordinator and CPN tribal member. The team immediately established emergency management meetings with the CPN human resources and emergency management directors, along with Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett and Vice-Chairman Linda Capps.

“Even before a case was identified in Oklahoma, our team recognized the gravity of the situation and took swift action to help reduce the spread of COVID-19,” Vascellaro said. “Once the virus hit our state, CPNHS medical leadership began counseling other CPN enterprises, departments and community leaders on implementing CDC mitigation strategies to protect our community.”

The department has adopted a variety of preparedness measures, including:

  • Limiting visitors and screening at all doors with temperature/symptom checks
  • Placing COVID-19 triage tents outside the East and West clinics to separate potential cases from critical, acute and chronic care needs
  • Collecting COVID-19 tests to send to reference labs
  • Delivering medications curbside through the CPNHS pharmacy
  • Implementing augmented patient care workflow for the safety of patients, healthcare employees and their families
  • Developing infrastructure for telephone and telemedicine

Citizen Potawatomi Nation partnered with the Pottawatomie County Health Department to host a drive-thru testing site at the Citizen Potawatomi Community Development Corporation. Additionally, Tribal health services tested 100 patients on April 10, regardless of symptoms, to gauge what extent the virus is spreading asymptomatically. CPNHS held more testing throughout the month of April.

Chairman Barrett said the Tribal health services have been ahead of the COVID-19 preparedness curve and will remain so in the months ahead.

“CPNHS leadership has done everything in its power to care for patients’ essential medical needs while guarding the safety of patients, employees, families and the community,” Barrett said. “We will continue to be vigilant and do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19. I am proud of the department’s efforts, and I applaud them for their great work.”