Temporary studio at the Phoenix Indian School Visitor Center was the home of Indian Country Today. This week the news program moves into a regular studio at Arizona PBS. (Mark Trahant photo)
What population is counted determines our understanding about how widespread the disease is and where it will go next.
But all of that changes if a different denominator is used. The problem here is that we know the Census undercounts Indian Country. We don’t know by how many people, though.
The corona virus pandemic is like nothing we have experienced before. The virus is new — and something we humans have no protection against — and so governments around the world including tribal governments are still trying to figure out how to respond.
This is Trahant Reports.
Why don’t people believe? Why the business as usual? And what will it take to change behavior?
Consider this math: California has a model that projects 25 million of its citizens will be infected by the virus over the next 8 weeks. That works out to 62.5 percent of the population.
And if California is a bellwether — as it often is — that means that out of 3 million people some 1.8 million people in Indian Country.
The World Health Organization and the CDC say mild cases account for 75-to-80 percent of the total. This is harsh, but that model means that about 500,000 people in Indian Country will get seriously ill or will die.
“It’s unfortunate that people are not taking this serious. Maybe it would be mass casualties that would really open people’s eyes,” Dean Seneca, executive director of Seneca Scientific Solutions. He told Indian Country Today and worked for the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s Office for State, Tribal, Local, and Territorial Support for more than 18 years.
Seneca knew the U.S. was going to face a pandemic, and especially when China had more than 20,000 cases.
It is a hard thing to do to shut down everything. No visiting. No shopping. Just sit and wait.
And here’s the thing. We may have to do this for weeks if not months.
In California normally congested freeways are wide open and city streets are mostly empty.
Clearly life is not normal. Yet a lot of people still are living in denial.
Sunday night Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, White Earth, announced on her Instagram page that she lost her brother to the pandemic.
“Almost exactly two months after we buried our dad, my brother Ron passed on Saturday,” she wrote. “To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband.”
Flanagan said several weeks ago her brother was diagnosed with cancer. “His immune system was compromised and he contracted COVID-19,” she wrote. “He fought as hard as he could but it was simply too much for his body. THIS is why we must #StayHomeMN.”
She wrote that someone feeling well could still be carrying the virus … “then you walk past the next Ron, my big brother, in public.
The new normal. I am Mark Trahant.
There is nothing more important now than good science — and that means washing your hands often, staying at home and avoiding people.
This is Trahant Reports.
Our ancestors have faced smallpox, influenza, and war. Now our generation is looking at a pandemic that is disrupting our daily lives.
Things that we take for granted are on hold. Visiting friends, even family. Going to work. Or watching our favorite team or musicians.
The coronavirus spreads by contact, so when you meet someone who has the virus, they are likely to spread it. The math says that everyone who carries the disease will likely pass it along to at least two others. That’s a lot of people. And what makes this even more nasty is that you can spread this disease before you’re sick. So the idea of … if you are sick, stay home … is less relevant. We also know that coronavirus spreads more easily than the flu. Think of it as an infectious pneumonia.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic is new in so many ways, one that’s particularly dangerous for elderly people or those with chronic health conditions such as diabetes.
But the biggest concern is human behavior. Can we all adjust, quickly, so that we don’t spread it on? Can we stay home? Away from people? And this is the big one: Can we wait in line for medical help?
So we have been trained to go to the doctor when we are sick. We want to get fixed up as soon as possible. That’s normal.
Perhaps we even had contact with someone who tested positive.
Yet we should wait.
If we get sick, go to bed. Most people get fever and cough, sometimes fatigue or shortness of breath, and then recover in about two weeks. About 15 percent of the cases develop into pneumonia. The symptoms usually start slowly and often worsen as the illness goes on.
So if you are running a fever, experts say, assume that you have coronavirus. Stay home. Yes there will be a growing number of tests available but those should be reserved for patients who are high risk. Most of us should just go to bed and stay there until it passes.
The alternative is the entire medical system will be overrun and none of us will get the care we need.
This is not in our nature. We want to get healed. Now. But this is different. We should call the doctor — and even seek help if we can’t breathe.
This pandemic is different because we can control the outcome. We can shut down life — for a bit — and then limit the damage from this disease.
I am Mark Trahant.