Health

Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center reports two positive cases of COVID-19

Photo caption: A triage tent is set up in the front parking lot of the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center to treat patients with COVID-19 symptoms. SHANNON SHAW DUTY/Osage News

The Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center reports two patients have tested positive for the novel coronavirus COVID-19.

The tests came back Monday, April 6, said Dr. Ron Shaw, WHC Chief Medical Officer. Both patients are from Osage County. The first patient is a male, 59 years old, and the second patient is a female, 64 years old.

“We’ve had 25 total tests; 18 are negative, five are still pending, and two are positive,” Shaw said. “These, of course, were patients, not to be confused with employees.”

Shaw said both patients were symptomatic and tested for the flu first before a COVID-19 test was administered. Both patients also received chest X-rays and were told to stay home, self-quarantine, self-monitor and the WHC is following up with phone calls. “To our knowledge, neither one went to the hospital,” he said.

Self-quarantine is often confused with shelter-in-place. To self-quarantine means the infected individual stays in one room of the house and when they leave that room, they wear a mask. They do not go to the store, the pharmacy, or anywhere else, Shaw said. They are isolated. “Self-quarantine is more stringent than shelter-in-place.”

Currently, the WHC is only seeing urgencies. All patients are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms. All patients with COVID-19 symptoms are being treated in a large triage tent located in the front parking lot of the clinic. Patients who are in need of a chest X-ray are allowed to enter the clinic through the back entrance with medical personnel. After the X-ray is administered, they are escorted back to the triage tent.

Patients with symptoms are not waiting inside the clinic to be seen. Plastic sheeting is placed throughout the clinic to cordon off hallways to protect employees from possible exposure.

Shaw said all routine patients have been rescheduled six weeks out. The WHC is in the planning phase for a drive-thru testing area and Shaw hopes to have the logistics finalized by early next week. A big component of drive-thru testing is having enough testing kits. They are following CDC guidelines and only testing symptomatic patients who test negative for the flu. “It’s a big change for any medical clinic,” he said.

The clinic is open for dental emergencies. The optometry clinic is currently closed and won’t open until May. Pharmacy is still available and is drive-thru only. The clinic hours have been reduced from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

American Indians at greater risk?

According to NOLA.com, a disparity of the Coronavirus in Louisiana is that about 70 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been in the African American community. The News asked Shaw whether Native Americans could see a similar disparity within the Osage community.

“I will say the most common co-existing illness that develops serious illness is high blood pressure. The prevalence of hypertension is higher in the African American community. That’s the only association I can think of,” Shaw said. “We do believe with influenza that American Indians have a higher complication risk because diabetes is higher in our population.”

“I do know that American Indians have more of these comorbid diseases, such as diabetes, lung failure, kidney failure, so that could increase the risk for American Indians,” he said.

His advice to the community is to stay home and if you need to leave your home, be protected.

“At this time, I think wear whatever mask you have. The cloth masks are good for most folks,” he said.

When asked if he had any further comment, Shaw praised Osage traditional leaders.

“Our traditional leaders have made wise decisions and postponed cultural events, so our people aren’t put at risk. But there are other Native American tribes where it’s harder to cancel their cultural events,” he said. “I’m just glad to see our traditional leaders have made these wise decisions. I know it’s hard to go without our cultural events, particularly during a time of year when we could use them most.”