Nevada National Guard helps Shoshone Tribe in fight against COVID-19

Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jerzy Horst, left, holds a biohazard bag open for a soldier who collected a nasal swab sample from a local resident at the Duckwater Community Based Collection Station in Duckwater, Nev., July 1, 2020. ( National Guard photograph by Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie)

Nevada National Guardsmen with medical task forces 221 and 17 traveled north to assist the Shoshone Health District with COVID-19 community-based COVID-19 test collections in Duckwater, Nev.

According to Shoshone Health District records, their combined efforts July 1 resulted in testing 102 residents: 57 percent percent of the population and more than 80 percent of the active older adult population.

The Shoshone are a Native American tribe in eastern Nevada, where their people share a long and rich history. They are also known to be a part of the Great Basin American Indians, and at one point in history, the Shoshone tribes could be found stretching from central Wyoming to Texas, into California and up into parts of Canada. Although not known for their jewelry, Shoshone artists are famous for their beautiful beadwork, paintings, hides and woven baskets.

Army Staff Sgt. Keith Linford, with the Task Force Medical 17, discussed his take on the number of people tested within the timeframe. ”We tested over a hundred people in just four hours,” he said. ”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.

Nevada National Guardsmen pose for a photo with members from the Duckwater Shoshone Health Department, Duckwater, Nev., July 1, 2020. (National Guard photograph by Staff Sgt. Ryan Getsie)

”Any time we leave the reservation, the closest store for supplies is 77 miles away,” she said. ”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.”

Having to travel hundreds of miles for testing was also a major hurdle for tribe members. The closest hospital with any type of specialty care is in Ely, Nev. There’s a cost associated with transportation, rooms, meals and any other incidentals, O’Neil said, adding that personnel and scheduling, along with the logistical requirements, need to be taken into account when planning medical trips off of tribal land.

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


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