TAHLEQUAH, Okla. — Cherokee Nation and Cherokee Nation Health Services have reported the tribe’s first positive case of novel coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The male patient is a Cherokee Nation citizen from Adair County in his 40s. Positive test results were confirmed on March 24. The patient is self-quarantined.

The Cherokee Nation is following all safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Indian Health Service. This includes Cherokee Nation health officials contacting those people who may have had direct contact with the patient.

“The Cherokee Nation and our health care professionals are taking every precaution to ensure our Cherokee citizen is protected and has access to our health care team,” Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. said. “I recognize that the presence of this virus is in our communities and can affect any one of us. My family feels that same concern. That’s why I ask that we all continue to pull together while making every effort to be proactive against the spread of COVID-19. This includes taking care of ourselves, our families and our elders, and staying indoors as much as possible. The Cherokee people have always been resilient and we will continue in that tradition. In the meantime, our thoughts are with our fellow Cherokee.”

Cherokee Nation health officials are investigating to determine how the patient was infected.

“I want to ensure all of our tribal citizens, employees and community members that we are taking great steps to protect our workforce and Cherokee families,” said Dr. R. Stephen Jones, Executive Director of Cherokee Nation Health Services. “We are prepared and ready to care for any of our citizens who may be affected by this virus.”

The tribe’s health care professionals continue to urge citizens to practice social distancing – staying at least 6 feet away from other persons – in order to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. Other precautions include staying home unless travel is absolutely necessary, and washing hands often.

Before going to an urgent care or emergency room, unless essential, those who have symptoms of COVID-19 including cough, fever and respiratory problems such as shortness of breath should first contact their health care provider and ask for a nurse. The Cherokee Nation also has a COVID-19 Call Center at 833-528-0063 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday-Friday.