WMAT enters modified normal phase

WHITERIVER — Policy Unit Coordinator for the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) of the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT), Derrick Leslie, appeared as a guest on Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood’s Facebook livestream on Saturday, May 15. Leslie announced that as of Monday, May 16, the WMAT entered the Modified Normal Phase of the Tribe’s Reopening Plan.

In the Tribe’s May 14 press release it stated that the Tribe is able to move into the new phase due to the trend of positive COVID-19 rates remaining below 5%, along with the fact that the Tribe has reached its goal of 8,500 unique vaccinations.

Though the Center for Disease Control (CDC) relaxed the wearing of masks and social distancing on May 13 for persons who are fully vaccinated, except where required by law, Leslie stated that the EOC will review the mask issue and make a recommendation to Tribal council soon. In the meantime, masks are still mandatory on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation.

Modified Normal Phase

  • All Tribal departments and employees continue to observe the protocols provided in the Tribe’s Phased Reopening Plan
  • Face masks are mandatory for all contact with non-household members
  • Residents will continue limiting all indoor gathering
  • Events are encouraged to occur outdoors and adhere to social distancing and mask wearing mandates
  • One-night wakes are allowed
  • The Tribe continues to actively promote and administer the COVID-19 vaccine; and
  • All residents shall be prepared to return to the Emergency Phase, if necessary

“Many people still are not vaccinated,” said Leslie. “Elders do a good job. Younger people, hard to get,” said Leslie, who identified the 18 to 40 age groups as the group who is only 33% vaccinated.

Leslie said they need to up their recruitment efforts for the younger age group. He said that vaccinations are now available for those 12 years of age and older, and applauded the two recent vaccination clinics held at Bashas’ and Hon-Dah.

The Indian Health Service (IHS) Vaccine Clinic held at Bashas’ on Thursday, May 13 yielded 70 vaccinations for young people 12 to15 years old. Their Hon-Dah clinic on Friday, May 14, vaccinated 24 youth in the same age group.

“It is important for children to get vaccinated,” Lee-Gatewood, who reminded people that the Emergency Room cannot do child vaccinations due to the required forms.

The EOC posted IHS vaccination information on their Facebook page. It states that “Now anyone 12 years of age and up are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.” The COVID-19 Clinic moved to the main pharmacy in the hospital on May 3. The Pharmacy Immunization Clinic hours are Monday – Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. All locations for child vaccinations will also take unvaccinated adults. Guardians or parents need to accompany minors (anyone younger than 18 years of age) to sign the consent form. All vaccination locations for children will also take vaccinated adults. IHS will be administering the Pfizer vaccine.

Reach the reporter at bbruce@wmicentral.com

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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