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Seneca Nation Health System facilities close after employee tests positive for Covid-19

The Seneca Nation announced Thursday that it had closed its three Seneca Nation Health System facilities after an employee, a non-Seneca who is a resident of Erie County, tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The Nation said that as of Thursday, it has closed the Allegany Health Center, the Cattaraugus Health Center and the Cattaraugus Wellness Center, and will conduct deep cleaning procedures at each facility.

The individual last reported to work on Thursday, March 12, and had "limited patient contact at the Health System," according to a Seneca Nation release.

The individual who tested positive has not returned to Seneca Nation territory since that last day at work, and the employee began to feel ill the evening of March 12, officials said.

No other workers at the health system have shown any symptoms to date, officials said.

Workers entering the nation's health center buildings will continue to be temperature screened, as all visitors have been for the past several days, the nation said.

"The Nation will seek guidance of health officials pertaining to the re-opening of the Health System facilities," the release said.

Officials advised individuals who are in need of services should call their primary care provider.

"Last night, we were notified that an employee of our Health System has been diagnosed with a confirmed case of COVID-19," Seneca Nation President Rickey Armstrong Sr. said in the release. "That individual showed excellent judgment in remaining away from the Health System and away from Seneca territory upon feeling ill, and our thoughts are with them. We will work cooperatively with Erie County health officials to provide any information we can, in order to assist all necessary response and notification measures."

A state of emergency was declared on Seneca Nation Territories by Armstrong, which "will allow the Nation to access additional federal funding sources to aid in its response efforts," the release said.

"Protecting the health and welfare of our people, especially our elders and our vulnerable populations, remains our highest priority," Armstrong said. "A task force of professionals from across Seneca Nation government continues working tirelessly to implement wide-ranging prevention and response efforts on our territories. Together, we will continue to aggressively monitor the situation on our territories and within our surrounding communities to take every responsible precaution to safeguard the Seneca people."

In addition to the measures announced today, Armstrong has previously instituted travel restrictions for all Nation officials and employees, issued work-from-home and stand-by leave orders for Nation employees, adjusted the delivery of many on-territory services, canceled public activities, closed Nation facilities, and restricted outside visitation to the Nation’s territories.

"I have said before that this unprecedented situation requires an unprecedented response, and that’s what we are seeing," Armstrong added. "The Seneca people can rest assured that every thoughtful decision is being made with our community in mind. We will get through this together."

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