Oklahoma Tribes See Spike In COVID-19 Cases

Friday, July 30th 2021, 6:18 pm
By: Amelia Mugavero

MUSKOGEE, Oklahoma -

Tribal members in Oklahoma are testing positive for COVID-19 more than other Native Americans across the country.  

Muscogee Nation Health Secretary Shawn Terry said COVID cases in his tribe are getting worse by the day.

"Our positive rates today are in the upper teens probably somewhere around 16 -17% positivity rates, which is a lot higher than what we would like to see it," said Terry. 

According the Indian Health Service, tribal members in the Oklahoma, Kansas area have the highest positivity rate in the county - at nearly 13%. 

The IHS also reports the same area having the most COVID-19 cases throughout the pandemic, at over 62,400 cases total among tribal people.

"We've had a very similar increase as the state," explained IHS director Travis Watts.

Watts said the numbers are high because there are more Native Americans in this part of the country.

"Those more citizens lead to more cases. If you look at it now, where we had a recent uptick of cases that started in Missouri and Arkansas and kind of spread into northeastern Oklahoma," Watts said. 

Terry said some of their patients are in critical condition and the vaccination rate among the tribe is only around 30 - 40%.

"So, we are definitely seeing a second round. "We are really concerned about the unvaccinated and equally concerned with the hospitals filling up," Terry admitted. 

The Muscogee Nation said it's fighting the rise in COVID cases by adding hospital space, especially with opening a new 20-acre healthcare campus in Tulsa. Terry said the new campus will have hundreds of beds and hospital rooms where people can quarantine and get COVID-19 treatment. The campus will also offer vaccinations.

"I think it's definitely a game-changer for us taking care of those patients," said Terry. 

The nation reinstated a mask mandate for unvaccinated members and employees.

The new medical facility and campus was recently named Council Oak Comprehensive Healthcare. It is located at the former Tulsa Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) facility at 10109 E. 79th St.

The facility will have a soft launch next week for select patients and open for urgent patients soon as well.