GRIC COVID-19 Task Force Reflects on Its Work
Community stakeholders that comprised the Gila River Indian Community COVID-19 Task Force gathered at the Gila River Resorts & Casinos—Wild Horse Pass for their last official meeting on May 4. Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis and Lt. Gov. Monica Antone reflected on the outcome of the work throughout the pandemic, and task force members received certificates of appreciation.
The task force managed the strategic response to the COVID-19 pandemic for three years. They ensured that measures were in place to protect the Community and its members, workforce and enterprises. It also developed messaging concerning the pandemic and safety standards for treating COVID-19 infections and it distributed vaccinations, conducted contact tracing and provided aftercare.
The meeting marked the culmination of the tireless work everyone contributed, which enabled the Community to resume work, school, and everyday life.
“It was January 2020 that we developed this task force, well before we had any sort of sense that the [COVID-19] virus would become a national public health emergency,” said Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis. He shared his sincerest gratitude to every department on the COVID-19 Task Force for committing their time, dedication and resources to the ever-changing health crisis and for strategizing to keep the Community safe.
The COVID-19 Task Force made several humanitarian efforts for the Community. First, they organized the first-ever federal vaccine event for tribal and state members, healthcare workers and nontribal members. It also provided much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to Gila River Health Care workers and every other department in the Community. Lastly, it distributed laptops for employees and students to work virtually during the pandemic.
“To everyone here in the room, thank you for all you gave, and I can honestly say if there’s ever a situation like this again in the future, I know everyone in the room is already prepared, so thank you again from the bottom of my heart,” said Lt. Gov. Antone.
During the meeting, speakers shared some of the impactful moments that occurred during the pandemic. Due to restrictions, most meetings over the last three years were virtual, with limited in-person interactions. As a result, this gathering was a mix of emotions for many as they collectively revisited their pandemic experiences for the first time.
“It’s heartwarming to see how much passion everyone has for our Community and it’s great to all be together in the same room again, for once,” said Suzanne Jones, GRIC Community Manager. “I’m very honored to be here, to work with everyone here, [I’m] proud of all of them, and I hope they’re proud of the work as well.”
Candalerian Preston, Tribal Health Director, said, “Today I feel very humbled and relieved, after hearing we were released of our duties. It was good to hear those words because it’s been a long three years.”