It's back to lockdown for WMAT

WHITERIVER – On Sunday, Dec. 27 the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) entered into Phase One of their Revised Phase Reopening Plan and now, just two days later, The Activation System has been triggered for a 72-hour lockdown beginning Wednesday, Dec. 30 at 8 p.m. until Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021 at 8 p.m.

In a Facebook post by the WMAT Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at 10:46 a.m. on Tuesday, the EOC advised Tribal members that the number of COVID-19 cases diagnosed had increased by 21 from the previous day. Tribal members were urged to prepare their families and households for the upcoming Dec. 30 lockdown.

Prior to the latest lockdown, a 72-hour shelter-in-place was implemented by WMAT after 40 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed over a three-day period. Then, when 77 new cases were diagnosed over a five-day period, the Tribe extended the lockdown to Saturday, Dec. 12 at 8 p.m., followed by a 2-week shelter-in-place which expired on Dec. 26, at 8 p.m. As that shelter-in-place ended at 8 p.m., a curfew immediately went into effect lasting until Sunday, Dec. 27 at 5 a.m. when Phase One went into effect.

WMAT has managed to revert to Phase One two times following lockdowns — Aug. 10 and Dec. 27.

There are four phases to the Revised Phase Reopening Plan — emergency, phase one, phase two and phase three. Each successive phase may be entered after a minimum 14-days of downward trajectory or stable low counts of COVID-19 cases without activation of a Shelter-in-Place order. The Reopening Plan requires the automatic reinstatement of the Emergency Phase should a Shelter-in-Place Order be activated at any time during the reopening process based upon the newly adopted COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place Activation System. The Reopening Plan requires that the existing curfew and all precautionary measures remain in place throughout each phase of the Plan, including but not limited to: social distancing of six feet apart; mask wearing; wiping down commonly used areas; and frequent hand washing.

The current guidelines were revised by the Tribal Council on Dec. 1.

Speaking on Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood’s Saturday, Dec. 26 Facebook livestream, White Mountain Apache Tribe Emergency Operations Center Policy Unit Coordinator Derrick Leslie said, “The alert system has been set up so that when numbers rise, chaos can be averted and more lives are not lost.”

Cautioning Tribal members regarding the different phases, Leslie said, “It is not the EOC or Tribal Council who determines the numbers. Yes, we have established thresholds but it comes down to community and individual responsibility.”

The final sentence of the Dec. 29 Facebook post by EOC reminded people of that individual responsibility Leslie spoke of. It stated, “We are one WMAT. We are stronger together. We will get through this together.”

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Barbara Bruce is a reporter for the White Mountain Independent, covering arts and entertainment on the Mountain and the Pinetop-Lakeside town government.

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