WMAT issues health notification regarding variants

WHITERIVER — A Public Health Notification regarding COVID-19 variants was issued by the White Mountain Apache Tribe (WMAT) Emergency Operations Center (EOC) on Friday, Aug. 6.

The notification states that WMAT has been placed on high alert regarding the uptick in COVID-19 cases on the reservation. They note four variants which have been detected on the reservation: 21 of the B.1.1.7 Alpha; 00 of the B.1.351 Beta; 02 of the P.1 Gamma and 08 of the B.1.351 Delta, for a total of 31.

EOC identifies the timeline on each of the four variants regarding its detection in the United States and where it was initially identified (cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/variants/variant.html).

The Alpha variant was first detected in the United States in December 2020 and was initially detected in the United Kingdom; Beta was first detected in the United States at the end of January 2021 and initially detected in South Africa in December 2020; Gamma was first detected in the United States in January 2021 and was initially identified in travelers from Brazil in an airport screening in Japan in early January; and Delta was first detected in the United States in March 2021 and was initially identified in India in December 2020.

According to EOC, “The Whiteriver IHS and the EOC report these variants as soon as we get them but the state lab has been experiencing significant backlog in testing and variant analysis which delays our reporting to the community. Our hospitalizations for COVID-19 related reasons have also increased. We currently have six community members admitted for COVID-19 with three at outside facilities and two of them in ICU.”

EOC states that vaccinated individuals can still get COVID-19 but are less likely to exhibit symptoms, and that vaccinated individuals who test positive for COVID-19 are still contagious and can spread the virus.

There is still a mask mandate in place on the reservation for Tribal members and visitors. Employees must follow the employee check-in process and wear masks regardless of vaccination status or prior infection with COVID-19.

With school in session, the EOC says they are aware of positive cases at Whiteriver Unified School District and Cibecue Community School. The Tribe and IHS are in the process of doing contact tracing.

EOC says they have worked with most reservation schools on updating their Infectious Disease Control Plan, and with most being part of Johns Hopkins University School Safety Plan, they feel there are safety plans in effect regarding the safety of the children.

The EOC continues to urge precautionary measures on and off the reservation be followed to prevent and mitigate the spread of 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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