Community , Government , Health

Osage Nation employees to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work

Photo caption: Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center nurse Marie Rumsey administers a COVID-19 test on April 15 in Pawhuska during the WHC’s drive-thru testing. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

Osage Nation employees will be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work on May 11.

According to an all-employee April 29 executive branch memorandum from Director of Operations Casey Johnson, as a “precautionary measure” all employees will be required to be tested at the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center for the COVID-19 virus prior to returning to their worksite.

The directive is for all Nation employees, whether they have a chart or not at the WHC. The directive does not include Osage Casino employees.

The tests will be administered alphabetically and will take three days. The Nation employs approximately 500 employees who work at sites in Pawhuska, Hominy and Skiatook.

As of April 29, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported 7 active cases in Skiatook of COVID-19, four active cases in Pawhuska and Hominy had zero cases. Johnson said the May 11 date of reopening could change, depending on the behavior of the virus.

Johnson wrote in an April 27 memorandum to employees that the Nation’s school, Daposka Ahnkodapi and the Osage Nation Head Start will remain closed for the summer. The Nation’s Wahzhazhe Early Learning Academies, or WELA’s, will open on May 11 “but extra cleaning and sanitizing needs to occur throughout the day.” Any child attending the Nation’s WELAs will have their temperature taken before they enter the facility. Their temperatures will be monitored throughout the day, according to the memo.

Summer camps and other children’s outside activities have been canceled for the summer, this includes the Osage Nation Foundation’s popular summer camps. Employees with children still in distance learning will be allowed to work from home until the last day of the school year for their child’s district.

Employees also travel from Bartlesville, Tulsa, Ponca City, Owasso and Fairfax to work at the Osage Nation work sites. The OKSDH reported on April 29 that Bartlesville has 85 active cases, Tulsa has 62 active cases, Ponca City has 2 active cases, Owasso has five active cases and Fairfax does not have an active case.

The Osage Nation Gaming Enterprise Board has not released a reopening date for the Nation’s seven gaming properties.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt slowly began reopening the state on Friday, April 24. 

The Osage News office will remain closed to the public until June 1, as approved by the Osage News Editorial Board.