WMAT council member questions EOC numbers

Responding to a Facebook post by the White Mountain Apache Tribe Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Facebook, Councilman Jerold Altaha questions EOC numbers.

WHITERIVER — Following a Dec. 29 post on Facebook by the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) Emergency Operation Center (EOC) at 3:51 p.m., WMAT Councilman for District II, Jerold Altaha, responded to that post questioning the accuracy of the numbers being reported.

  • EOC’s post stated, “Navajo County Numbers: Off-Tribal lands number is higher than the State number for the entire County because Public Health Nurses are still working through a backlog of cases from over the holiday. As a reminder, we do not report off-tribal land cases until they have been verified by our Nurses (provided by AZDHS)

507,222 cases in Arizona

11,119 cases in Navajo County

Some additional detail for off-tribal lands:

(provided by Navajo County Public Health Nurses)

4,237 cases

78 new cases reported

3,118 individuals have been released from isolation by Public Health Nurses, which means 1,119 active cases off-tribal lands”

Altaha responded to EOC’s post just seven minutes after EOC posted it, stating, “My question to an EOC official today was, ‘Is IHS testing those who don’t live on the reservation and are those numbers being including in our daily count?’ Their response was, Yes, they are being included and we are addressing that issue today. So this tells me our numbers are not as accurate as being claimed.”

Following Altaha’s comments, six people made comments regarding the alleged inaccuracy of EOC’s numbers.

The Independent reached out to Altaha asking for further comment further on the post, but to date has received no response. The post was removed but had been copied by the Independent when the request was made for further comment from Altaha.

A future search for the names of those who responded to Altaha’s comment about the EOC numbers did not allow the Independent access to the councilman’s Facebook page. A general search for the post did produce a Facebook standard response which stated, “This content isn’t available right now. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people, changed who can see it or it’s been deleted. Go to news feed.”

The post was located under public posts on Facebook and showed 19 people had viewed the post and also showed comments made which included one by another WMAT Council member, Arnold Beach Sr.

Beach’s reply post stated, “I’ve heard different from IHS, Covid-19 testing are done at IHS for individuals living off the reservation, but the results are separated and not included with daily count for the reservation.”

Checking with the EOC’s Policy Unit Coordinator Derrick Leslie regarding Altaha’s post, Leslie stated, “Our 3,415 total positive cases since April 1, 2020 is reflective of the Whiteriver Service Unit, which includes Whiteriver Indian Health Service Hospital (IHS) and Cibecue IHS Clinic, respectively, which expands beyond the boundaries of the Fort Apache Indian Reservation and includes eligible American Indians who live in our neighboring towns. Additionally, we have non-American Indian employees, and their dependents, who may be eligible for services as part of their work on our reservation. During this COVID-19 pandemic we have tested eligible American Indians who receive their regular care from the IHS in addition to non-eligible members of our workforce as part of our ongoing COVID-19 prevention and mitigation. I cannot speak to the intent of the councilman’s post, but all these numbers contribute to our ongoing community spread which we strive to mitigate and prevent here at the Emergency Operations Center.”

The WMAT EOC was activated on March 12, 2020 and charged with the prevention and mitigation of COVID-19 on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation after the Tribe declared a State of Emergency regarding COVID-19.

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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