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Stories, Stats, Impacts: Wyoming Public Media is here to keep you current on the news surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Northern Arapaho Chairman Tests Positive For COVID-19 After Meeting With Gov., White House Official

Chairman Lee Spoonhunter of the Northern Arapaho Business Council has tested positive for COVID-19. According to a statement released Monday afternoon, Spoonhunter is experiencing mild symptoms and self-isolating under the supervision of the Northern Arapaho Tribe's clinic, Wind River Family and Community Healthcare.

"Like many of our Arapaho brothers and sisters, this virus is now impacting my family," Chairman Spoonhunter wrote. "Testing positive for COVID-19 is a scary experience, but I am in consultation with the Tribal medical team and am grateful my symptoms remain mild. I'll continue doing the Tribe's important work while remaining isolated, and am confident I'll fully recover with rest and the passage of time."

Last Wednesday, Spoonhunter attended an indoor roundtable meeting with Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force. More than a dozen local, tribal and state leaders, including Gov. Mark Gordon and state health officer Alexia Harrist, were also present at the roundtable. Spoonhunter and Gordon sat next to each other at the event.

Just after Spoonhunter's announcement, the Governor's office announced that Gov. Gordon had been potentially exposed to the virus at a "meeting where all attendees took precautionary measures" including wearing masks for the duration. A representative from the Governor's office confirmed Monday evening that he was exposed at last week's roundtable.

"After he was notified [of the exposure], the governor took a rapid test at the Laramie County Health Department, which came back negative for COVID-19," the Governor's office wrote in a statement. "He is currently awaiting the results of a secondary test. As a precautionary measure, and in alignment with CDC guidance, the governor is currently self-quarantining for 14 days from the possible exposure, which would be until November 11."

This comes as Wyoming continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases and to break records for active cases and hospitalizations daily. Last Wednesday, Dr. Birx stressed mask wearing and proper social distancing as the best tools for slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Wyoming, but stopped short of recommending a statewide mask mandate.

"Governors and mayors and tribal nation leaders really understand their communities best about how to bring these guidelines forward," Dr. Birx said. "I think we've been very clear on what the guidelines are and of course we follow the governor's lead."

There is a mask mandate in place on the Wind River Reservation, where medical officials say cases of the virus are also surging. In his statement, Chairman Spoonhunter urged tribal members to heed that mandate and other tribal public health orders that prohibit large indoor gatherings.

"I urge my fellow members to take this virus seriously. Wyoming, Fremont County and Indian Country are seeing a surge in cases, so it is critical people continue to wear a facial mask, avoid crowds and stay home whenever they don't feel well," Spoonhunter wrote. "The next six to 12 weeks are going to be very difficult, but I know we can get through this together."


Savannah comes to Wyoming Public Media from NPR’s midday show Here & Now, where her work explored everything from Native peoples’ fraught relationship with American elections to the erosion of press freedoms for tribal media outlets. A proud citizen of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, she’s excited to get to know the people of the Wind River reservation and dig into the stories that matter to them.
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