TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokees Nation is providing first responders and emergency personnel in northeast Oklahoma with a supply of personal protection masks to keep them safe as they continue the fight against COVID-19 in their communities.

Cherokee Nation is providing more than 2,500 KN95 protective masks to fire departments, police departments and emergency management teams across the tribe’s 14 counties that expressed a need for the equipment. The tribe is also sending an additional 5,000 KN95 masks to the Navajo Nation, whose citizens have been impacted by the virus more than any other Native community in the country.

“Fire departments, emergency management operations, law enforcement and ambulatory services face uncertainty every day. That’s why Deputy Chief Bryan Warner and I want to ensure all of our first responders and emergency personnel are provided the resources they need to continue protecting our communities and keeping citizens safe,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr. “We also want to help our brothers and sisters in the Navajo Nation who have taken the hardest hit in Indian Country at the hands of this devastating virus. We do this because as Cherokees, we know the importance of lending a helping hand in times of uncertainty. We will get through this as long as we remember that we are all in this together.”

For many first responders, securing protective masks has been difficult due to low supplies and high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic. With Cherokee Nation’s own health system properly stocked with personal protective equipment, tribal leaders worked for several weeks to secure the KN95 masks for area first responders.

“We know how important first responders are to so many families during this crisis, and how vital it is for them and their departments to have all the safety standards they need to perform essential emergency services,” said Deputy Principal Chief Bryan Warner. “It is important to protect those who protect us. These men and women dedicate their lives to save the loved ones of others every day. Their courage gives me every bit of confidence we will get thought this unprecedented crisis, together.”

The tribe donated the masks to fire and police departments that expressed a need, including Bluejacket Volunteer Fire Department in Craig County; Butler Volunteer Fire Department in Delaware County; Centralia Volunteer Fire Department in Craig County; Chance Community Fire Department in Adair County; Disney Fire Department and Police Department in Mayes County; Foyil Community Volunteer Fire Department in Rogers County; Inola Fire Department in Rogers County; Lakemont Shores Fire Protection District in Delaware County; Nicut Rural Fire Department in Sequoyah County; Redland Fire Department Inc. in Sequoyah County; Stilwell Fire Department in Adair County; Tahlequah Fire Department in Cherokee County; Taylor Ferry Fire Department in Wagoner County; Vian Volunteer Fire Department in Sequoyah County; Warner Volunteer Fire Department and Warner police Department in Muskogee County; and Welch Fire Department in Craig County.

Dante Sanders, who serves as the fire chief at Taylor Ferry Fire Department in Wagoner County, said his department receives multiple medical calls each day, placing first responders in close contact with other individuals. He said the masks will be vital to performing their daily operations safely.

“We serve around 3,500 people in our district, so with the donation of the protection masks our fire department will be able to use the masks to help keep us safe and help prevent the spreading of the coronavirus in our community,” Sanders said. “These masks are greatly appreciated, and we are thankful for the help of the Cherokee Nation.”

Cherokee Nation also donated 100 masks each to the emergency management departments in each of the Cherokee Nation’s 14 counties, which include Adair County, Cherokee County, Craig County, Delaware County, Mayes County, McIntosh County, Muskogee County, Nowata County, Ottawa County, Rogers County, Sequoyah County, Tulsa County, Wagoner County, and Washington County.