Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Yurok Tribe Reservation to Be Closed Until at Least July 1

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2020 at 12:36 PM

click to enlarge THE YUROK TRIBE
  • The Yurok Tribe
The Yurok Tribe announced that the Yurok Tribe Reservation will remain closed to non-residents until July 1.

According to a press release,  the tribe is closing off the reservation to protect Tribal elders who are essential to the continuation of the Tribe's traditional culture as Humboldt and Del Norte counties COVID-19 cases continue to rise, including two deaths in Humboldt County.

"According to the United Indian Health Services, approximately 60 percent of the tribal citizens living on the reservation are either elders or individuals who have underlying medical conditions," the press release states. Two of the most vulnerable populations that are at risk of contracting the virus. 

“With the holiday weekend coming up, we want to remind everyone that the Yurok Reservation is closed to non-residents. We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause, but it has to be done,” Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe said in a press release. “Due to the elevated infection rates in the two counties, it is extremely important for the reservation community to continue sheltering in place and practicing physical distancing. Wearing personal protective equipment when outside of the home is also strongly recommended. The health of our elders and the perpetuation of our traditional heritage depend on it.”

The press release also states the work the Yurok Tribe has been doing to help its residents stay at home, including delivering supply boxes, conducting regular check-ins with Tribal elders, waiving internet fees for April and May and the Yurok Indian Housing Authority did not change the rent to residents in Tribal rental homes during April and May.

According to the release, the Yurok Public Health Task Force has developed a phased, COVID-19 Reengagement Plan to guide the effort in reopening the reservation.

Read the full press release below:

Yurok Tribe issues reminder about reservation closure

Tribe strongly encourages citizens to continue practicing all personal safety measures The Yurok Reservation will remain closed until at least July 1 to protect Tribal elders, who are essential to the continuation of the Tribe’s traditional culture, and to safeguard the community as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increases in two neighboring counties.

“With the holiday weekend coming up, we want to remind everyone that the Yurok Reservation is closed to non-residents. We deeply regret any inconvenience this may cause, but it has to be done,” said Joseph L. James, the Chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “Due to the elevated infection rates in the two counties, it is extremely important for the reservation community to continue sheltering in place and practicing physical distancing. Wearing personal protective equipment when outside of the home is also strongly recommended. The health our elders and the perpetuation of our traditional heritage depend on it.”

Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, located to the north and south of reservation, recently received variances from the state to implement Stage 2 of the California Resilience Roadmap. Stage 2 permits certain businesses, such as office-based businesses, car washes and curb-side retail, to begin reopening following the approval of a modified operation plan. In the past week, both counties have seen spikes in confirmed COVID-19 cases, including the first two COVID-19-related fatalities in Humboldt. Both involved senior citizens.

Since March 13, the Yurok Tribe’s Incident Command Team has worked day and night to protect Tribal citizens during this public health emergency. On a weekly basis, the Tribe is delivering food and supply boxes to help approximately 500 vulnerable citizens stay home as much as possible. The Tribe is conducting regular check-ins with Tribal elders. The Tribe waived all internet fees for April and May to assist those who are struggling as a consequence of the crisis. The Yurok Indian Housing Authority did not charge rent to those in Tribal rental homes during the same period of time.

There are curfew and shelter-in-place orders in place on the reservation. These orders apply to all reservation residents and businesses. The Yurok Tribal Council is regularly reviewing the orders and will make announcements when each have been lifted.

When the reservation is reopened, it will be a slow and deliberate process. The Yurok Public Health Task Force has developed a phased, COVID-19 Reengagement Plan to guide this effort. The detailed blueprint is meant to mitigate potential risks associated with reopening.

The Yurok Reservation is located in an area with very few medical resources and limited coronavirus testing. According to the United Indian Health Services, approximately sixty percent of the tribal citizens living on the reservation are either elders or individuals who have underlying medical conditions. Those with preexisting health issues are more susceptible to experiencing the most severe symptoms from the coronavirus, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On April 6, the Tribal Council voted to close the reservation to non-residents. The closure applies to all non-residents except for those who provide essential services. The order does not prevent throughtraffic on the highways traversing the reservation.

“We know this crisis is challenging for everyone, whether you are a business owner or parent of young children. I would like to commend our community for taking this seriously and putting the health of the community above all else,” concluded Chairman James.
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Iridian Casarez

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Iridian Casarez is a staff writer at the North Coast Journal.

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