Increases of COVID-19 cases on San Carlos Reservation spurs more mitigation measures and more invasive checkpoints for interior

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Highway travel remains unimpeded

By Jon Johnson

SAN CARLOS APACHE RESERVATION – Additional cases of COVID-19 on the San Carlos Apache Reservation has spurred the Tribe to increase mitigation measures and to question drivers of all vehicles entering and exiting checkpoints off the highway. There are no checkpoints on U.S. Highway 70 and highway traffic through the reservation remains unimpeded.

On Monday, the San Carlos Council approved tightening mitigation measures, including limiting travel off of the reservation except for essential supplies (Tuesdays and Fridays only), commuting to work, medical appointments, school, and emergencies. Additionally, non-residents are not allowed into the interior of the reservation except for tribal members already residing there prior to March 14, 2020, delivery of essential goods and services, and consultants to or contractors of the Tribe. Businesses on U.S. Highway 70 remain open to all. The mitigation measures also ban liquor sales, require the wearing of masks in public, including a stay-at-home order, and bans wakes and funerals. The vote to increase and extend the mitigation measures passed unanimously 11-0.    

As of Wednesday, the San Carlos Apache Tribe Department of Health & Human Services is reporting 40 total positive tests for COVID-19 for the entire reservation, up an additional seven positive tests from Tuesday. There are also 18 San Carlos Tribal Members living off the reservation who have tested positive for COVID-19. Out of all of the positives, 18 have recovered – leaving 40 active cases, with 31 of them on the reservation – and 142 tests currently pending. The Tribe has recorded two COVID-19 related deaths to tribal members living off the reservation.   

The new checkpoint guidelines, which went into effect Monday, June 15, include a variety of questions upon exiting or entering the checkpoints. Which again, are for into the interior of the reservation off the highway.

When leaving, occupants of a vehicle will be asked where they are going, and if it is out of town to a hotspot they will be reminded they have to contact health services to share their information. Additionally, information on all occupants and the vehicle will be recorded and drivers will be reminded of other current restrictions including a curfew for the reservation and the requirement to wear masks in public.

For vehicles returning to the interior of the reservation, all occupants will be recorded and proof of Tribal membership or proof of being a long-time resident is required. Those returning will also be asked where they are returning from, and, if necessary, health screening may be required for re-entry. Non-natives and non-tribal members working, including delivery drivers, must go to a designated temperature check station prior to gaining approval for entry. The temperature check stations are at the Apache Gold Casino, Coffee Shop, San Carlos Apache Healthcare, and Clarence Wesley Health Clinic.

For most people, COVID-19 causes flu-like symptoms but for some elderly and those with other pre-existing illnesses, it can cause severe illness and death.

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