By SWO Tribal Chairman Donovan White, SOTA, Wed., May 6, 2020, Vol-51-No-19
As anticipated, COVID-19 is quietly but quickly spreading across our reservation. Last week, two of our Oyate at Sisseton Housing tested positive and three at Enemy Swim District. This weekend, the count jumped to five positive cases in Sisseton Housing and seven at Enemy Swim. Two of these most recent members infected had to be taken to the hospital by ambulance.
According to the BIA, we are not doing well in comparison. In fact, SWO is unfortunately ranked #1 with the highest number of COVID-19 infection cases amongst South Dakota tribes.
We cannot risk further spread of this virus, as it is endangering the lives of our elder population, those with predisposed illnesses as well as those with compromised immune systems.
Your Tribal Council has been directed by our elders to do whatever is necessary to move quickly on protections for them from this deadly virus, as it moves through SWO.
Thus, this coming week, as we assess our tribal quarantine enforcement plan, we will be looking at new and improved ways to enforce our SWO Tribal Council's stay-at-home order.
Anyone exposed to the virus refusing to self-quarantine will face a $500 fine and up to a year in jail. We need everyone's cooperation. If you know someone is infected and socializing, please report it.
I understand that the summer is upon us and many are feeling the pressure to go outside and group-up with family or friends. Please do not do that. The CDC recommends a few tips to cope with the pandemic stress: Take care of your body by stretching and meditating, eating heathy, exercising, getting good sleep, avoid using alcohol and drugs and making time to unwind.
The fastest way to spread this lethal virus is by socializing and assembling in groups. We need to stay 6-feet (about 2 arms' length) away from people and use face masks for protection.
I ask you to stay away from large gatherings and crowded places on and off the reservation. For your children's safety, avoid playgrounds and other places where germs can accumulate.
When you come home after you have been out, for essential trips such as getting groceries, getting medical attention or picking-up medicine and going to work, wash your hands or shower.
Be sure to regularly sanitize public areas in your home including entryways and door handles, common seating areas, equipment/appliances (remotes, refrigerators), bathrooms and dining rooms.
You are free to call my office, if you need assistance purchasing cleaning supplies for your home or protective gear including face masks and gloves.
Thanks to the $75,000 NDN grant, which our Planning office secured, and our tribe's $60,000 match, we will produce 3,000 new masks for our Oyate, which will be added to the 600 already in production, whose costs are 100% reimbursable through the CARES Act, from the $8 billion dollar set-aside for tribes.
We will be taking new law enforcement and legal measures to ensure that the few who refuse to abide by our tribal stay-at-home order to protect those most vulnerable.
If you see groups assembling or breaking COVID-19 infection self-isolation, we are asking that you report it immediately to our SWO COVID-19 hotline at 605-698-8249.
SWO awarded $7-plus Million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Funds
After weeks of hard and persistent work, SWO gaming has been awarded $7,445,814.16 dollars in PPP funding. I am happy to inform our casino employees that they will also be receiving hazard pay.
Some SWO Business Open with Caution
With great caution, your Tribal Council has voted to open the Dakota Magic Golf Course, C-Store and Smoke Shop and Dakota Connection C-Store and Tire & Oil Shop.
The re-opening of our tribal businesses means a coordinated public health effort with your Executives and those on the ground to ensure our Oyate's and the general public's safety and well-being.
SWO Community Justice and Rehabilitation Center Funding
In the midst of the pandemic, I can report some positive developments on our plans for a new Community Justice and Rehabilitation Center at SWO.
We have been funded in the amount of $5.175 million dollars for our 25 cell Adult Detention Center. Currently, we are working on our new Police State and an Adult Detention Wing with twenty more cells.
In the summer 2019, we began to work on the In-Patient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center component of our Rehabilitation Center. Because of the Federal limits on funding, the In-Patient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center (32 beds) will be sited adjacent to our IHS Service Unit.
Over a period of years, through Medicaid, Medicare and Third-Party Collections, the IHS has $12 million dollars in reserve at our SWO IHS Service Unit. The IHS planned to use these funds to build Administrative Offices and Behavioral Health Outpatient Offices.
In July 2019, we met our congressional delegations, and asked for their help to require the IHS to consult with our tribal government concerning our priorities, and the Senators and Congressmen said they would support us. In August, the Tribal Council passed a resolution to 638 the planning of facility construction.
Last week, we were notified that the IHS will contract with SWO to perform the planning for facility construction. When plans are complete, the Tribe will 638 contract the construction.
Initially, IHS has told us that they believe the breakdown should be $7 million dollars for IHS Administrative Offices and other Service Unit with $4 million dollars for the Inpatient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center.
Tribal Council's highest priority is the In-Patient Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, so our priorities may call for the majority of funding to be allocated to that project. Council will work out these points in our negotiations with IHS for the 638 Planning and Construction Contracts.
2020 Happy Mother's Day
For Mother's Day this year, we encourage our Oyate members to call your mothers instead of organizing family group parties and get-togethers. I plead with you to respect your mothers and help keep them healthy and alive through this pandemic.
After all, where would we be without their wisdom, guidance and love. We want to ensure that we have them many more years into the future. The only way to keep them safe from COVID-19, in the best sign of love, is to respect the social-distancing guidelines around them.