Like much of the U.S., Citizen Potawatomi Nation’s reaction evolved quickly as concerns about the COVID-19 virus spread across the country.
In the weeks ahead of the outbreak in the U.S., Tribal leadership consulted with CPN Health Services to best prepare workers, Tribal members and patrons for the coming weeks. Medical Director Adam Vascellaro, D.O., Public Health Director Kassi Roselius, M.D., and Operations Director Chris Skillings, CPNHS met with executive branch leaders to plan for what lay ahead.
Discussions included issues of patron and employee safety, human resources and clinic supplies as well as the feasibility of keeping commercial and government programs running as long as possible.
As the outbreak’s growth became more apparent, Tribal leadership met in person or via teleconference with CPN public health services each morning on how best to navigate the day-to-day changes impacting the Nation.
The existing deep cleaning regimen under the Housekeeping and Emergency Management Department was expanded at enterprises and locations across the Nation. Wipe downs of common surfaces, deep cleaning of heavily trafficked areas and temperature scans were implemented at Tribal government facilities.
Employees across CPN were encouraged to practice social distancing, and restaurants like FireLake Fry Bread Taco and FireLake Pizza closed dining rooms and encouraged to-go options. The Cultural Heritage Center temporarily closed the museum floor on March 17 and closed the building completely on March 25.
CPNHS COVID triage policy launched on March 12 and requires patients to answer a pre-screening questionnaire over the phone or prior to entering the facility. If patients meet the criteria for a COVID-19 test, they are directed to a triage tent located outside each medical facility. These areas are routinely sterilized and cleaned.
Once patients are tested in triage, they are instructed to self-quarantine and monitor symptoms until they receive test results. Should patients receive a positive test result, they are instructed to remain in self-quarantine and follow the directions given by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
CPNHS encourages its patients who believe they have symptoms of COVID-19 to call 405-273-5236, ext. 3062 or 405-695-6003, ext. 3315 for pre-screening.
To better serve those most vulnerable to COVID-19, FireLake Foods reserved the first hour of operations for seniors and others deemed high risk by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Additionally, high demand has strained FireLake Foods’ normal wholesaler. Richard Driskell, director of FireLake Foods, began working with different suppliers to ensure essentials are always in stock.
“As a local grocer, we know our community places significant faith in us, and we don’t take our commitment lightly,” Driskell said. “We strive for retail excellence and will continue to do everything we can to keep our shelves fully stocked with needed resources and are prices low.”
Citizen Potawatomi Nation suspended gaming operations at Grand Casino Hotel & Resort and FireLake Casino on March 19, 2020. As of March 22, all gaming operations across Oklahoma had been suspended. On March 26, the National Indian Gaming Association confirmed all tribal gaming in the U.S. was suspended.
“Nothing is of greater importance to the tribes than the health and well-being of the citizens of their Nations and the citizens of Oklahoma. We always want to be good neighbors, and to lead by positive example. In making the decision to temporarily suspend our gaming operations, we are hopeful that we will have a positive impact on the health of Oklahomans,” said Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association Chairman Matthew L. Morgan.
FireLake Designs, a Tribal enterprise, and the Cultural Heritage Center assembled more than 1,000 face masks for CPN Health Services and other local health providers to help with shortage situations.
The mask pattern was the same approved by hospitals and medical professionals nationwide. While not N95, they can be used by patients entering the Tribe’s clinics, leaving much needed personal protective equipment available to nurses, doctors and staff.