Since February 5th, 2020 planning for the unprecedented COVID-19 situation developing in China was discussed. The Nation and its various departments began making preparations for significant changes to staffing and continuation of essential services during the predicted disruptions. The writing was on the wall around the world as the virus was seen spreading closer to our territories after it made landfall on the US continent. An initial needs assessment was asked of directors of immediate resources required to work through this event making its way to our region.
In the days that followed, which has turned into weeks, directors from Emergency Management, GIS (Geographic Information System), Seneca Media and Communications Center, Housing, Enterprise/One-Stops, Transportation, Legal, Fiscal, and the Seneca Nation Health System, directed by staff from the President’s Office, met to establish the Seneca Nation COVID-19 Response Task Force. The Seneca Nation casinos ceased operations and non-essential Nation employees were placed on standby leave to immediately reduce the number of people being in close proximity during this pandemic.
An initial face to face meeting was held on March 17, 2020, to address needs for the community with respect to social distancing, travel requirements, and safety of our elders. Duties and responsibilities were delegated, and the various branches of the taskforce got to work in their respective areas to ensure a comprehensive and planned response.
Emergency Management continues to coordinate communications with regional and local health departments and County emergency managers while working to provide supplies. Action plans are in place should the community experience a major outbreak, which to date this has not occurred. Better external communications with our county public health agencies has been a consistent request to gain new information on persons found to be carriers of the virus that reside on territory.
Our GIS staff created a real-time website (https://coronavirus-response-sni-gis.hub.arcgis.com) with local data and links to relevant information and resources needed to understand the COVID-19’s impact on our territories. Media, Newsletter, IT, and WGWE are working regularly to update our information platforms with messages from executives and informative media addressing the pandemic situation.
The logistics branch of the taskforce has worked ensured food from the casinos did not go to waste and was quickly distributed to our members, while continually working to secure needed supplies of disinfectants, sanitizers, and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) for frontline Nation workers. New department protective protocols for entry into Nation buildings were put into place for Health, EMS staff, Facilities, and our elder housing facilities (44 Seneca and Oak Tree).
As the situation has evolved with a known positive test of an Health employee and a Sanitation employee, contact tracing has taken place to track any potential community spread of the virus.
Fortunately, these two cases appear to have been isolated and well-contained situations where those people responsibly self-quarantined as soon as they started feeling sick and sought testing from county health agencies. Be aware this low number does not truly reflect the possibility of others within our community that could be carrying the virus.
The taskforce asks the Seneca Nation community to respect the new stringent building protocols that have been put into place, and every effort has been made to protect essential Nation workers and the entire community. It is imperative for the community to do their part to stay home and plan accordingly for absolutely essential activities. In order to ensure that all the needs of our community members are met call or text to your family, friends, neighbors and see if you can help them out during this time.
Until public health experts determine it it is safe to resume normal activities the Seneca Nation asks you to Stay Home to Save Lives. The Task Force will continue to work tirelessly to address the COVID-19 crisis and ensure that the safety and well-being of the Seneca Nation is our top priority.
COVID-19 Task Force: