Winnebago Tribe in first phase of safety plan to keep COVID-19 from affecting reservation

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WINNEBAGO, Neb. (KCAU) – The Winnebago Tribe of Nebraska is taking action against the COVID-19 outbreak. The tribe is increasing precautions aimed at keeping the virus from affecting the reservation.

The Winnebago Tribal Council has issued a 30 day travel ban for all Winnebago Tribal employees. They are being asked to refrain from using mass transit systems and to not travel outside the state of Nebraska.

Tribal Council members said they have all hands on deck to protect the community.

Victoria Kitcheyan is a Winnebago Tribal Council member. She said the tribe is a very tight knit community.

“Many of our homes have multi-generational family members in them and with the elderly and children being some of the most vulnerable tribal members, we want to make sure they’re protected,” Kitcheyan said.

She said they’ve worked closely with the Winnebago Tribal Organization and the Winnebago Comprehensive Health Care System to implement an infectious disease response plan.

Kitcheyan said their main focus is taking care of elders and others at high risk of getting sick from the virus.

“We have the highest disparity of illnesses like diabetes and so we understand that something like this would have a devastating impact on our community,” Kitcheyan said.

The tribe is holding community presentations, senior citizen programs, and even taking to social media to update the community on ways to protect themselves. Mona Zuffante is the Winnebago Public Health Administrator. She said they’re taking extra precautions at Twelve Clans Unity Hospital.

“Everyone comes in to the two front doors here. And then we do have staff that are posted there trying to interview people to make sure if they have come in contact with someone who possibly has COVID-19 that we would be screening them, getting a mask on them, and taking precautions,” Zuffante said.

She said they also have screening options at clinics and senior citizen centers.

Kitcheyan said tribes are advocating for federal funding to be disbursed by Indian Health Services. She said it’s the quickest way to get the money to tribal communities.

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