Wind River Tribes Continue Stay-At-Home-Order, Add Nightly Curfew To Combat COVID-19

May 8, 2020

Credit Savannah Maher

For more than a month, there has been a strict stay-at-home order on the Wind River Reservation. Tribal members face court fines and potential jail time for violating it. Starting Friday, May 8, they will also be subject to a nightly 9 p.m. curfew.

"The Northern Arapaho Business Council and the Eastern Shoshone Business Council, as advised by authorized Medical Officers, specifically deem this order necessary to protect the public health," the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council wrote in a resolution signed on May 6.

The resolution said the two tribes' medical officers—Dr. Paul Ebbert with the Northern Arapaho Tribe's Wind River Family and Community Healthcare clinics and David Meyers with the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health Department—will periodically reassess the measures according to "epidemiological and medical standards" and report to the Business Councils on their necessity.

As of May 8, Fremont County leads the state with 159 confirmed cases of COVID-19. At least 55 of those cases are among residents of the Wind River Reservation, and at least 80 are among tribal members.

According to Dr. Ebbert, that's in part due to factors like a high rate of pre-existing illnesses and overcrowding in tribal housing that put Native people at a higher risk for COVID-18. But he said the high rate of confirmed cases also reflects a more aggressive testing strategy by Wind River Family and Community Healthcare.

"With our population, we are keeping our patients who are positive and asymptomatic out of circulation. That is not happening in the county or the state, because they don't know [who's positive and asymptomatic]. They have not done enough testing to know," Ebbert said.

Ebbert said that while most Wind River residents are abiding the stay-at-home order, his clinic has seen patients who may have spread the illness by visiting different homes on the reservation or going to unauthorized parties and gatherings.

In an interview last month, Eastern Shoshone Business Council Vice-Chairwoman Karen Snyder said that youth were among the most likely to violate the reservation's public health orders.

"For the most part, people are taking it seriously. They are staying home. The population that it's probably impacted the most, and where there's the most disregard for [the order] is our young people," Snyder said. "If there's a population that does still need some emphasis or some education and some awareness, it's our young people."

Meanwhile, the state of Wyoming has begun to ease restrictions meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. Gov. Mark Gordon announced yesterday that he will allow several public health orders to expire in the coming days, and that the state is looking to restart its tourism economy.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Savannah Maher, at smaher4@uwyo.edu.