The K’ima:w Medical Center on the Hoopa Valley Reservation. | Image via


Health officials with the Hoopa Valley Tribe have confirmed nearly two dozen cases of COVID-19 on the reservation since Monday morning, and according to Chairman Byron Nelson, Jr., the outbreak is tied to a family trip outside the county.

“Basically it’s one family that had been exposed,” he told the Outpost via phone this morning. “They’re being monitored and quarantined, and the county is doing the [contact tracing] on all those cases.”

The tribe has identified 23 cases since Monday morning. All of those cases remain active, according to the tribe’s Office of Emergency Services dashboard. On Tuesday, the tribe issued a press release announcing that the Hoopa Valley Tribal Council had chosen to shut down non-emergency operations for two weeks to allow for contact tracing and other precautions.

That evening, Dr. Eva Smith, medical director at the K’ima:w Medical Center, reported another 12 positive cases, and on Wednesday night another five were confirmed, bringing the total number of active cases on the reservation to 23. Prior to Monday, the tribe had only identified a single positive case.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the official countywide COVID-19 case tally stood at 62 active cases and 255 total cases since the first one was identified on Feb. 20. County health officials do include Hoopa’s case numbers in the county’s totals, though as Humboldt County Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich explained yesterday, there’s sometimes a lag as the county receives and vets the results.

Nelson said health care workers at the K’ima:w Medical Center use both rapid testing kits that can provide results within 15 minutes and the more-common molecular testing methods, which require sending samples to commercial labs or the county for results. 

At an emergency meeting this morning, the Hoopa Valley Tribe finalized the roster for a COVID-19 response team, Nelson said. This afternoon, on Hoopa Tribal Radio KIDE FM, some key members of that team discussed the outbreak and the tribe’s response. 

“One of the things we really want to emphasize is please stay within your household bubble,” said Dr. Stephen Stake, chief operations officer at the K’ima:w Medical Center. He urged reservation residents to stay away from groups and other households.

Greg Moon, the COVID-19 response team’s incident commander, said tribal employees have been placed in key positions and the team is “making some great strides right away.”

“We’re taking full authority to mobilize the tribe in this effort,” Nelson said. “We’re making executive decisions, trying to get ahead of this.”

Moon said tribal leaders are working to bring in more health care resources. “Imagine a tent city coming in here … with ventilators,” he said. “It’s not gonna be a small deal; it’s gonna be a big deal.”

The K’ima:w Medical Center has conducted about 30 tests per day this week, according to Dr. Stake. He urged reservation residents who need testing to call the facility at (530) 625-4261, ext. 0218. 

Nationwide, the New York Times reported last week, “there are strong indications that Native Americans have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus.”

Nelson and the team he’s helped assemble are aiming to contain the spread of this outbreak on the Hoopa Valley Reservation. 

“I hope it stops here,” he said.