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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 Clinic Reflects On Its COVID-19 Response

A man looking at the camera stands in a doctor's office and is wearing a mask.
Melodie Edwards
Wyoming Public Radio
Wind River Cares CEO Richard Brannen in the clinic's dentist office.

Many tribes in the U.S. have higher vaccination rates than other ethnic groups. For some reservations, that number is as high as 95 percent. And high vaccination rates aren't the only way indigenous communities have been aggressive in combating COVID-19.

As soon as the pandemic hit, the Northern Arapaho tribe immediately implemented contact tracing, social distancing, curfews and other measures. Meanwhile, the Northern Arapaho Business Council gave tribal members permission to quarantine in the casino for those living in crowded conditions.

Wind River Cares CEO Richard Brannen said these efforts helped slow the number of cases and deaths.

"We knew we didn't have the luxury of waiting for the COVID to take over. I mean, we've got to be proactive," he said. "So there were a lot of other tribes that called us and asked us, 'how'd you do this, how’d you do that?' And so in a way, we tried to help other tribes."

He said even after the state department of health gave up on contact tracing, the clinic never did. And he said they were a leader on testing.

"I believe our clinic represented about a third of all the testing that went on in Wyoming. And the Arapaho Business Council were there, backing us up, helping us. They allowed us to use the casino hotel for quarantine."

At a recent gathering of tribal leaders and first responders, Brannen complimented everyone on a job well done.

Melodie Edwards is the host and producer of WPM's award-winning podcast The Modern West. Her Ghost Town(ing) series looks at rural despair and resilience through the lens of her hometown of Walden, Colorado. She has been a radio reporter at WPM since 2013, covering topics from wildlife to Native American issues to agriculture.
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