Cherokee Nation COVID-19 Response Subject Of National Press Attention

Nov 30, 2020

Cherokee Nation's response to the COVID-19 pandemic is drawing praise from public health experts and attention in the national media.

A recent feature story in STAT, a news outlet focused on health and medicine, quotes Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, as calling the tribe's pandemic response "very impressive."

"If the U.S. had acted as the Cherokee Nation did, 'we would be doing so much better,' Jha added, 'with tens of thousands of fewer deaths, and probably a much more robust economy,'" the STAT story reads.

Senior Director of Public Health Lisa Pivec of Cherokee Nation Health Services appeared as a guest on NPR's Weekend Edition on Sunday.

"We have to come together as one people. We have to think about others. And that's something that Cherokees do, and that's how we live, is collectively, and understanding that what we do and how we live impacts others," Pivec said. "Don't ask 'What are my rights?" Ask 'What are my responsibilities?'"

NPR's Sarah McCammon asked if the tribe's efforts to combat the coronavirus has been hindered by Gov. Kevin Stitt's refusal to implement a mask mandate in Oklahoma.

"Oh, I would say yes. Leadership matters, and when you have a leader who makes decisions that are not rooted in science and that are not rooted in what's best for everyone, then that does impact anyone that lives in that area. So when you have a leader at that level say that a mask mandate won't help or doesn't matter or you shouldn't care, then lots of people are going to listen and believe that," Pivec said.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. has been one of many prominent voices around the state who has long called for a statewide mandate. Hoskin has called Stitt's refusal to implement one "an absence of state leadership."