The Southern Ute Indian Tribe recently wrapped up a three-day voluntary drive though viral testing program for COVID-19 last week. The event took place outside of the Sky Ute Casino Resort, in the heart of the Southern Ute Reservation. The Southern Ute Indian Tribe collaborated with International Medical Relief and the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment for the mass testing event in Ignacio, Colo., which took place Tuesday, June 9 – Thursday, June 11.
A total of 828 tests were administered over the three-day period, which identified one confirmed positive result. While half a dozen results were considered invalid, 820 tests came back confirmed as negative for COVID-19. The single positive test result was identified as an employee of the Tribe. During this testing event, no Southern Ute tribal members tested positive.
The testing was initially open to Southern Ute tribal members, their households. Tribal employees working directly with the membership were also asked to test. On the final day, the free drive though testing was made available to anyone in the community at Chairman Christine Sage’s request.
“This was a very successful event, a rewarding story for the tribal members who are exercising caution and maintaining social distancing; only going out when they need essential items,” emphasized Amy Barry, Public Information Officer (PIO) for the Tribe’s Incident Management Team.
The medical support that made this testing a success came from the Colorado based organization, International Medical Relief out of Loveland, Colo. Shauna King, Founder and President of IMR was on-site all week with her staff administering the physical test in collaboration with Tribal employees and the Incident Management Team.
“It was a really great team effort by the IMT, the IMR and Southern Ute leadership to make it happen in such a short time, and the Southern Ute Tribal entities who volunteered,” Barry explained. “Everybody contributed, from logistics to security, to operations.”
“Shauna King and her group were very beneficial during those days that they were here,” Barry explained. “They were very motivated to learn about the Southern Ute community, and even were able to take a tour of the Southern Ute Museum to gain a better understanding of the community they were working for. The Southern Ute Tribal Council thanked them for working with the team, and their effort – it was just amazing.”
A blessing was given on the first morning by Sun Dance Chief Hanley Frost. Southern Ute Tribal Council attended the blessing, and the majority also volunteered to be tested during the three-day program, setting an example for others as tribal leadership.
“From a tribal perspective, the leadership was listening to the membership,” Barry said. “They heard that and delegated this to the IMT to make it happen — the membership wanted to be tested. It was voluntary, but [the overall message] is encouraging to keep yourself and your families safe as we continue to have zero tribal members and their households testing positive!”