Nevada Guard helps Shoshone Tribe in fight against COVID-19

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Nevada National Guard Tech. Sgt. Jerzy Horst holds a biohazard bag open for a Soldier who collected a nasal swab sample from a resident during COVID-19 testing in the Shoshone Health District July 1, 2020, in Duckwater, Nev. (National Guard photograph by Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie)
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DUCKWATER, Nev.–Members of the Nevada National Guard traveled north to assist the Shoshone Health District with COVID-19 testing July 1, 2020, in Duckwater.

The Shoshone are a Native American Tribe found in eastern Nevada. Their people have a long, rich history in America and are known to be a part of the Great Basin American Indians. The Shoshone Tribes once lived from central Wyoming to Texas and into California and up to Canada. Shoshone artists are famous for their beautiful beadwork, paintings, hides and woven baskets.

Task Force Medical 221 and 17 combined efforts to assist Shoshone health care partners in the fight against the coronavirus, testing 102 people — more than 80 percent of the active older adult population and 57 percent of all residents in Duckwater.

“We tested over a hundred people in just four hours,” said Staff Sgt. Keith Linford, with the 17th. “I think that’s the largest number compared to all the other rural communities so far.”

Brenda O’Neil, the health manager for the Duckwater Shoshone Tribal Health Clinic, discussed some of the challenges her people faced the past few months as the pandemic spread throughout the country.

“Anytime we leave the reservation, the closest store for supplies is 77 miles away. Some of those stores were out of basic necessities like bread, flour, sugar and toilet paper. We had to sometimes travel further to cities like Las Vegas or Reno that would expose us more to the virus,” she said.

Having to travel hundreds of miles for testing was also a major hurdle for Tribe members. The closest hospital with any specialty care is in Ely.

“The majority here are Elders, and they make up about 60 percent of our population. We didn’t want them leaving the reservation and possibly exposing them to coronavirus.” O’Neil said.

Once testing was scheduled, SHD informed neighboring communities so members there could also be screened whether they were a part of the Shoshone Tribe or not.

“We’ve invited and opened up the community-based testing to some of the ranches down here and Railroad Valley,” she said.

O’Neil stressed the importance of testing. “Whether it’s negative or positive, it’s important information to know, so we have a baseline to work with. If they’re positive, who have they been in contact with? We can then contact those people to keep our community safe.”

Cpl. Nathaniel Clark, with 221, said the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe members were thankful for the Guard’s help. “All the people here are really nice, and everyone I talked to were very kind and appreciative.”
O’Neil agreed.

“I want to say how thankful we are the Guard was able to come out and test the majority of our population.” she said. “A huge thanks to the Nevada Guard!”
 
 
 

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