[COVID-19] destroying bonds between tribal communities and families

Jul 2, 2020 | Native Hope

In a time when we say, “We’re all in this together,” those who are affected by COVID-19 don’t always feel that way. “There is a lot of fear and anxiety because everyone is shut in. Those who have it [COVID-19] are treated like they have leprosy. No one goes to visit them except for those who drop off food,” says a tribal elder. She goes on to explain that even when the COVID infected are cleared by health officials to leave quarantine, people treat them badly. “People get mad and say mean things to them—'Get away! Don’t come here.’”

Most recover from COVID-19, but the fear of the unknown leaves most of us wondering about a number of things: Are they still contagious? Were they quarantined long enough? What if someone else in their family/household still has COVID? And the list goes on and on.

Support those in need
It is important for community and family members to be supportive. Consider how difficult the journey of recovery is, and social badgering causes more isolation. Those who test positive often feel guilty for being sick; however, COVID is not selective—many more of us will test positive before COVID is defeated.

A Native mother (32) and her middle daughter (13) tested positive COVID-19 after she found out her eldest daughter (15) was diagnosed with the virus. “I was scared of the virus because I have Multiple Sclerosis, an autoimmune disease, and my middle daughter has asthma…I was worried about my oldest. She had it worst because she had an underlying infection, which they [the doctors] had to treat that first,” explained the woman. “I knew I had it [COVID-19] because I lost my sense of smell and taste—so did my middle child.”  After 10 days, their sense of smell and taste returned. “We were thankful that it only affected three of us in our household of five. And that no one had to be hospitalized.”

These COVID-19 patients were lucky to recover, but their return to normal life caused anxiety not only for them but apparently the public as well. “I am back to work and [my oldest] goes back this week. It [the general public’s fear] is better now that more time has passed since we were cleared, but right away, it seemed like people thought we had the plague. My daughter went to a [public gathering] downtown, and people were asking her if she should even be down there,” shares the young mother. “The stares and messages she got were uncalled for, but I explained it to her why people were acting that way.” For those wondering about quarantine length, each state’s health department will not clear a COVID-19 patient from quarantine unless the person has met CDC requirements.

Tribal members responsible for their health
NativeHope CovidUpdateA few weeks ago, one of the local reservations held a mass testing for COVID-19 and had as many as 50 people test positive. This created a scare, but according to one leader, “The community is being very responsible. This week we only had two positive cases.”

The previously mentioned elder told us that she and other elders from her community have been making cedar tea and taking sage to COVID positive families and individuals. They are sharing these traditional medicines and providing awareness about how people can care for themselves. “I just think, for me, we shouldn’t be scared. We need faith and spirituality in these times,” she offers.

“I would say ‘stay home’ like they say, get rest. Take vitamin D and drink lots of fluids! I took hand towels out of my bathroom and had everyone dry their hands with paper towels. I cleaned the bathroom all the time since it was the main room that we all shared,” suggests the mother. “Just be responsible and respectful to others. If you are sick, stay home.”

There is no doubt that COVID-19 poses a real threat to Indian Country, but we must remember that we are all in this together, fighting an unseen enemy that means to do us harm. Don’t let it destroy our bonds. Be a good relative. Honor your friends, family, and others. Many blessings.

COVID-19 Update-1

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