RAPID CITY – Native American people in Rapid City account for 53% of the total COVID-19 cases in Pennington County.
As of June 23, 2020, there are 475 cases of COVID-19 in Pennington County, 250 of those cases are tribal-citizens. Based off data retrieved by the Great Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center and Monument Health, despite only representing 10%-20% of the county’s population, tribal-citizens represent 53% of the total positive COVID-19 cases.
Coming off a mass testing event this past weekend where close to 200 patients were tested for COVID-19, Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and Oyate Health Center CEO Jerilyn Church says more testing is needed. She also called for the city, state, and federal governments to respond appropriately to the dangers COVID-19 poses for the Native American community in western South Dakota.
Church’s full statement is below.
“Ȟtayétu wašté Oyate Health Center Mitákuyepi! Jerilyn LeBeau Church emaciyape ksto, Taŋyáŋ yahí.
I greet you today on this important date with warm wishes and prayers. It was 144 years ago when Oceti Sakowin; led by Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, and others defeated General George Armstrong Custer and the United States 7th Calvary at the Battle of Greasy Grass. This day represents a proud moment in our shared history as our people stood as one to protect our sacred way of life.
Today, the people must remain vigilant as we were on this date in 1876. The COVID-19 virus is impacting our Native American community in Pennington County disproportionately. Data uncovered by the Oyate Health Center and the Great Plains Tribal Epidemiology Center shows that more than half of the COVID-19 cases in Pennington County are tribal-citizens.
This shocking revelation must serve as a warning for our people, and as a wake-up call to the city, state, and federal governments to take immediate steps to slow its spread amongst our people.
This past weekend, we screened close to 200 patients at the Oyate Health Center. Only 3 of these tests came back positive for COVID-19. Of the 839 tests we have completed so far, we have confirmed 114 as positive.
There must be more testing of our population. In the coming weeks, the Oyate Health Center plans to host two more mass testing events to help reach those who need care and better track the virus.
Wopila Tanka for socially distancing, wearing your masks and for being a good relative! We pray that our Oyate remains healthy and happy.
CEO Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board