Osage Nation reports zero COVID-19 cases among its employees following testing event

Wahzhazhe Health Center employees run a COVID-19 testing event on Sept. 8 in Pawhuska. CODY HAMMER/Osage News

The Osage Nation government workforce is Covid-free, for the time being.

On Sept. 8, the Wahzhazhe Health Center tested 382 ON government employees and there were zero positive cases, according to an Osage Nation press release. The Nation is the largest employer on the reservation and employs more than 400 people. The testing event was an effort to reduce the spread of transmission in the workplace after one department had more than seven positive cases of COVID-19 in under two weeks.

The Nation currently operates with a mask mandate and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear has encouraged vaccinations. Per an executive order by Standing Bear on Aug. 2, “employees who have taken the extra step in helping protect themselves and others in the fight against COVID-19 by becoming fully vaccinated, an extra day off for PTO time will be granted to those employees who have completed the 2-dose series, such as Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or their single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson's Janssen vaccine.”

Vaccine mandates and monetary incentives

Over the past few weeks, several tribal Nations across the country have implemented vaccination mandates for their tribal employees, while others have offered monetary incentives.

The Crow Tribe issued a vaccination mandate on Sept. 1, “consistent with President Biden’s Executive Order and Centers for Disease Control Guidance,” that all tribal employees must receive at least the first dose of a two-dose vaccine or the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The Navajo Nation has done the same for its tribal employees.

The Muscogee Nation is offering their employees and contractors a one-time payment of $500 for those employees who can show proof they are fully vaccinated. Employees who are vaccinated between Oct. 1 through Dec. 31 receive a reduced payment of $300. The Muscogee National Council also passed a citizen vaccine initiative for citizens 12 years and older. Their citizens are eligible for a payment of $500 with proof of vaccination and those citizens who are fully vaccinated between now and Dec. 31 will receive $300. The Cherokee Nation is also offering a monetary incentive for fully vaccinated employees in the amount of $300.

Osage Nation Congressman Billy Keene has introduced two pieces of legislation, one for a COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive Fund for tribal employees (ONCA 21-89) and a second for a COVID-19 Vaccine Incentive Revolving Fund (ONCA-21-90). ONCA 21-89 asks for an appropriation from American Rescue Plan Act funds in the amount of $250,000. If passed and signed into law, the initiative would pay $500 to all ON employees that are fully vaccinated. Both bills have yet to be discussed by Congress in the ongoing Tzi-Zho Session.

The WZZHC continues to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for both Native and Non-Native individuals 12+ years old Monday through Friday, by appointment only.

• Pfizer – 12 years and over
• Moderna – 18 years and over
• Johnson & Johnson – 18 years and over

If you have questions related to COVID-19, the COVID-19 vaccine, or scheduling a test, please call (918) 287-0028. WZZHC is located at 715 Grandview Ave. in Pawhuska.