Oyate Health says 12 patients test positive for COVID-19, including RC Walmart employee

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board said in a release Monday afternoon that 12 patients at the Oyate Health Center in Rapid City tested positive for COVID-19, including “at least one” who is an employee of the Lacrosse Street Walmart in Rapid City.

At this point, the South Dakota State Department of Health has not issued a potential exposure warning for any Rapid City business, including the Walmart on Lacrosse Street.

GPTCHB C.E.O. Jerilyn Church said that the positive test result was reported to the South Dakota Department of Health, and that it is unknown at this time if – or to what extent –  any other employees or patrons were exposed. Church also said she informed Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender of the test.

Last week, Oyate Health Center tested 46 patients with COVID-19 symptoms. Out of the 46, 12 tested positive, seven on Saturday alone.

Church called the pandemic “an impending event for weeks” to the Oglala Lakota community.

This comes on the heels of Governor Kristi Noem’s request that the Oglala Sioux Tribe remove COVID-19 checkpoints around the Pine Ridge Reservation, or face legal action by the State.

The following is Church’s statement:

Anpetu wašté Oyate Health Center relatives. Jerilyn LeBeau Church emaciyape ksto, I greet you this Monday with well wishes for you and your family.

As the President and CEO of the Great Plains Tribal Chairmen’s Health Board and Oyate Health Center, it is incumbent upon me to communicate any information that may impact the safety and well-being of our relatives who choose the Oyate Health Center for their care.

We have known for several weeks now that the COVID-19 virus is a serious and looming threat to our community and families. The Oyate Health Center has taken every precaution to ensure that our most vulnerable continue to receive services with minimal contact to the public. We have also taken steps to ensure that our homeless relatives are protected, and those who do contract the virus will have sustainable lodging necessary to self-quarantine.

We are encouraging all our relatives to take advantage of our telehealth program and our pharmacy by-mail program. Telehealth allows our relatives to consult with a provider, including behavioral health services without ever leaving their home.

Unfortunately, in an environment where the State has not implemented shelter in place requirements and local business is conducted as usual, the prevention of risk and exposure is all but impossible. So, I join you today to inform our community that the Oyate Health Center is now beginning to see active cases of COVID-19.

Last week, the Oyate Health Center conducted 46 COVID-19 tests for relatives who presented with symptoms. Twelve of our relatives tested positive for the virus, 7 of which were on Saturday alone. Of the 46 tests conducted last week, 34 tested negative.

The Indian Health Service was immediately notified of the results, and the South Dakota Department of Health was notified that at least one of the positive cases is an employee of the Lacrosse Street Walmart in Rapid City. It is uncertain if other employees tested positive and to what degree the public may have been exposed. I also spoke with Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender yesterday, regarding these recent developments as well. These developments should serve as a warning to all of us that precautions must be taken to protect our families..

It is widely known that American Indians and Alaska Natives are at higher risk for serious illness or death in infected with the COVID-19 virus. Therefore, we are encouraging our OHC relatives to continue to shelter in place, practice social distancing, practice frequent hand-washing, and to wear masks if you must be in public.

If you or a family member are experiencing any of the following symptoms, we encourage you to come to the Southwest Clinic at the Oyate Health Center for immediate testing. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, chills, decreased sense of smell or taste. Priority for testing are for those with COVID-19 symptoms and those who suffer from chronic health conditions, the elderly, our frontline workers, and individuals who reside in communal areas. We have also been testing individuals who have displayed minor symptoms and have been in contact with another individual who has tested positive.

If you have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 and you are not showing symptoms, it is important that you isolate yourself for two weeks as you can be asymptomatic and can still spread the virus to those you love.

We will continue to operate our Southwest screening clinic for those who are experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19. The Southwest Clinic is open from 7:00 AM-7:30 PM.  Urgent Care hours are currently from 7:00 AM-11:00PM. 

 I ask you to join me in Prayer for the comfort and healing for those families that are inflicted and sick and I ask you to hold our tribal leaders, our tribal health professionals, providers, nurses and all others on the front lines in prayer for their safety and strength, as they strive to keep our people safe.

Mitakuye Oyasin”


Categories: Local News, South Dakota News