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Following First Death, Cherokee Nation Braces For Increase In Coronavirus Cases

Jimmy Emerson on Flickr, licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
File photo of the Cherokee National Capitol building in Tahlequah.

Following the death of a tribal official, Cherokee Nation is preparing to face the coronavirus crisis head-on.

In a Facebook Live interview with Indianz.com on Wednesday evening, Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said losing Karen Ketcher, 70, of Stilwell, was a tough blow for the Nation.

"Any death from COVID-19 is a tragedy," Hoskin said. "I can tell you it does hit closer to home when it becomes one of your fellow tribal citizens."

Hoskin said the Cherokee Health System, which he called the largest tribal health system in the country, is as ready for the pandemic as it can be.

"It hits Indian Country particularly hard," Hoskin said. "I think we’re as prepared as you can be, but being prepared as you can be in COVID-19 means bracing for some difficult times ahead."

Hoskin also highlighted food distribution as a major challenge for Cherokee citizens, and touted what he called the largest food program in Cherokee history as having delivered food to 5,000 homebound elders.

A Cherokee Nation spokesperson said on Thursday morning that the Nation has confirmed 28 positive cases of COVID-19 with one death, but those numbers will "likely increase later today."

Oklahoma's first reported death from COVID-19 was Cherokee citizen and Tulsa County resident Merle Dry, 55, on March 18th.


Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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