Dr. John Krueger, Chickasaw Nation Department of Health Under Secretary, says his first advice for most people who test positive for coronavirus is to remain calm.
“Don’t panic,” Dr. Krueger said. “The vast majority of patients are going to recover just fine. Most patients are okay to go home if they test positive, to shelter in place and isolate. Just stay in touch with your health care provider.”
He said a certain population appears more susceptible to COVID-19’s more serious side effects than others.
“The one thing we do know about this virus is that in some patients it can act very rapidly. People can be fine one minute and then, just over a period of hours, they are having a very difficult time breathing.
“The elderly and those with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, COPD, asthma, those who are immunosuppressed or treated for cancer in the past couple of years are who we worry about the most,” he said. “We try to guard that population as much as we possibly can.”
One of the other dangerous COVID-19 traits is its unpredictability in affecting some who do not fit into the standard demographic.
“We think most people experience it as a mild disease, but some who are seemingly very well may still come down with it and succumb to it,” Dr. Krueger said.
One of the challenges is that some who have contracted coronavirus may be unaware they are passing it to others.
“What we know is that for the first four to seven days of getting the virus you may experience really very low or no symptoms and yet still be spreading it. This is what makes this virus so difficult to protect yourself from - the fact that others can look fine and still spread it to you and your family.”
The prevention basics of social distancing, hand washing and wearing masks continue to be the recommended methods of stopping its spread.
Dr. Krueger said wearing a mask is a form of good community stewardship.
“The mask doesn’t really protect the person wearing it,” he said. “The virus particles are so small they can pass right through the mask. But when it’s contained within a water or vapor droplet in your cough or sneeze, the mask can potentially trap and stop the amount of surface contamination.
“It’s a great thing to do for your friends, family, and everybody around you. If we do the right thing for our neighbors, maybe they’ll do the right thing for us.”
Dr. Krueger says other helpful tips include getting good rest and nutrition, sticking with daily routines of going to bed and rising at normal times and avoiding excess consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco.
The Chickasaw Nation has set up COVID-19 testing sites at its medical facilities in Ada, Ardmore, and Purcell. All three sites are open to the general public as well as Chickasaw citizens and other Native populations. Testing results are usually available with two to four days.
“We’ve developed them to be touchless,” Dr. Krueger said. “We don’t touch you and you don’t touch us, so it keeps everyone safe with social distancing. The whole process takes about five to ten minutes from the time you drive into the time you drive out.”
Keeping the Chickasaw Nation Health Department staff healthy is also a priority.
“We’re trying to make sure our strategies mirror the best practices in our communities and those we’re seeing around the world. We’re screening and testing our employees, making sure we have a stable, resilient workforce that can come in on a moment’s notice and continue to deliver services to our patients.
“As doctors and nurses and everybody who went into the health profession, this is what we do. Health care is not our job; it’s a calling. It’s an honor to be able to serve people during this time. We want to reach out to our patients and let them know we’re here for them and to meet their needs as best we can,” he said.
Dr. John Krueger
Department of Health