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Tribe encourages vaccine as phase two returns

HOLLYWOOD — Gatherings and events were being scheduled in a big way during the first two weeks of July as the Seminole Tribe moved forward on phase three Covid-19 reopening protocols. The return of smaller gatherings like community meetings and family movie nights to larger events like Indian Days signaled a move toward a post- pandemic way of life for tribal members and their families.

However, activities were abruptly postponed July 17 as the tribe returned to a phase two of Covid-19 prevention. Phase two also includes a directive for tribal members to wear masks and social distance outside their homes. Phase three remained in place for tribal government operations – which includes masks to be worn inside tribal buildings.

“As precaution we are asking anyone with symptoms or anyone in their family with symptoms to not enter a tribal building, but call their clinic or doctor,” a Health and Human Services directive states.

The reason for the return to phase two, Dr. Vandhana Kiswani-Barley said, is an increase in positive Covid-19 cases and the recent deaths of three tribal members to the virus.

Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary, spoke about the importance for Indian Country to get vaccinated. (Courtesy photo)

“The tribe’s numbers have significantly increased just like the nation’s,” Kiswani-Barley, executive director of HHS, said. “We are hoping more tribal members will come out and get tested and vaccinated.”

As part of the tribe encouraging more tribal members vaccinated, Seminole Media Productions distributed a Department of Interior-produced YouTube video of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland (Laguna Pueblo) carrying a message to Native Americans.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a heavy toll on Native communities across the country. I have mourned with and shared stories with members of my own community who lost multiple family members to this terrible virus,” Haaland said in the video. “We’ve done so much to keep our people healthy – closed the gates to our tribal lands; social distanced from friends outside our families; worked and attended school from home; and limited our traditional gatherings. There’s one more thing we can do to help Indigenous communities recover from the impacts of this virus so that we can gather again, practice our traditions and enjoy time with those we love. Get the vaccine. We can do this. Let’s get vaccinated for our elders, for our traditions and for our people.”

Tribal clinics are offering the Moderna and the Pfizer vaccine. Tribal members can call their local clinic or the HHS hotline at (833) 786-3458 to determine eligibility and be placed on a waiting list. Tribal employees can call the hotline to determine their eligibility as well.

Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at