Following lockdown WMAT enters Phase I

Coming out of a second weekend lockdown, the White Mountain Apache Tribe, with a decrease in its COVID-19 cases, entered Phase I of their reopening plan on Monday, Nov. 15.

WHITERIVER — The White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) moved to Phase I of their Reopening Phases as they came out of their second weekend lockdown on Monday, Nov. 15 at 5 a.m. The Nov. 15 COVID-19 dashboard showed an increase of 57 cases over three days.

The Saturday, Nov. 13, report showed an increase of 22 cases; Sunday, Nov. 14, an increase of nine; and Monday, Nov. 15, an increase of 26 — all down from the 47 new cases which were reported on Friday, Nov. 12.

On her Saturday morning, Nov. 13 Facebook show, WMAT Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood addressed the current situation regarding the recent uptick in cases and the lockdowns which were mandated by a Tribal resolution.

“Does lockdown still work? It is a major point of contention in our community,” said Lee-Gatewood.

“When you go into a lockdown, you are stopping the virus from moving around, and the people that are in quarantine, you are staying put not going anywhere, and the virus goes away within you, and you recover. The virus does not move and it needs a host to spread, so we stop and go into lockdown.”

Lee-Gatewood acknowledged that the resolution also stopped all indoor gatherings, so the decline in rising cases could be a combination of the lockdown and the closure of the non-essential indoor gatherings.

‘Have we entered another wave of pandemic’ is one of the questions the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has been receiving.

With the uptick in cases all over Indian Country — state, national and international, Lee-Gatewood said it appears we are headed into another wave.

“Locally, we have seen a significant increase in our hospitalization rate mainly among our elders, and with every person in our community connected to an elder, what we do matters in terms of how careful we are,” said Lee-Gatewood.

Referring to the Nov. 12 dashboard and a graph titled Daily cases with mitigation measures which shows a deep decline, Lee-Gatewood stated again that the graph shows that when the Tribe goes into a lockdown, and people are quarantined, the virus is being stopped when people are not moving around.

Lee-Gatewood asked everyone to mask up and do their best to do their part during lockdown. She reminded everyone that there are some people who have approval to go hunting and cut wood and others that are required to go to work.

Dashboard numbers for Tuesday, Nov. 16 and Wednesday, Nov. 17 both showed an increase of 33, down from Monday and last week’s numbers.

The Independent reached out to the EOC on Wednesday, Nov. 18 to see if the Tribe was planning on going into another lockdown. Their reply was that “only two lockdowns were mandated” and they are now in Phase I.

While some may be questioning the logic of lockdown and quarantine of the WMAT, an article in the Nov. 12 issue of TIME magazine, “An Apache Tribe’s Innovative COVID-19 Contact Tracing Model Saved Lives” by Mark Oprea draws attention to the Tribe’s innovative efforts to protect their Tribal members.

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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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