- Two tribes in South Dakota have set up checkpoints to monitor and regulate who comes and goes from their reservation during the coronavirus pandemic.
- Both tribes have very limited medical resources of their own and believe this is the best way to protect themselves. One tribe leader said the closest medical facility to their reservation is three hours away.
- Governor Kristi Noem believes that these checkpoints violate the law as some go into U.S. and state highways, and a recent moratorium suggests that tribes should work with the government before shutting down travel there. She has demanded that the checkpoints be removed, threatening legal action.
- The tribes and other state legislators believe that they are acting within their legal rights, as many laws state that highways running through tribal land are not in the state’s jurisdiction.
Governor Noem’s Demand
Leaders of two tribes in South Dakota are rejecting the Governor’s demand that they shut down coronavirus checkpoints on the borders of their reservations.
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe both independently established these checkpoints in early April to monitor and regulate who was coming to and leaving their reservations. On Friday, Governor Kristi Noem ordered that they take them down.
“If the checkpoints are not removed within the next 48 hours, the State will take necessary legal action,” Noem said in a statement.
In letters to both tribes, she claimed that these leaders were acting outside of their legal authority by exerting control over state and U.S. highways, where some of these checkpoints are located. Noem said that an April moratorium stated that tribes must consult with the state of South Dakota and enter into an agreement before or restricting travel on State or U.S. Highways. She claims no discussion of this nature happened.
Tribal Leaders Respond
The tribes believe that they are acting within their legal boundaries to protect themselves. Both tribes have enacted stay-at-home measures, something that Noem has not done for the state. They believe that those measures, along with the checkpoints, are the most effective way to protect their reservations from an outbreak, which they do not have the means to respond to.
“The nearest health care, critical care is three hours away from where we live,” Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Chairman Harold Frazier told CNN. Frazier also says that while the reservation is home to 12,000 people, they only have an eight-bed facility. They also do not have ICUs.
Speaking in a Facebook Live on Saturday, President Julian Bear Runner of the Oglala Sioux Tribe said his reservation also lacked the resources to respond to this pandemic. His reservation services almost 47,000 people, but was only allocated four ventilators by the government.
Bear Runner claims that his tribe had to take action because both the state and federal government had an inadequate response to the outbreak.
“We have adopted our border arrival and monitoring plan to save the lives of our people, including our elderly tribal members, without whom we cannot pass on our language, culture and traditions,” he said during the Facebook Live. Bear Runner also added that he believes his tribe is not violating the law, as they have not closed off any highways and do not intend to do so.
Frazier has also condemned the government’s response to the outbreak. He put out a statement on Friday rejecting Noem’s request.
“I absolutely agree that we need to work together during this time of crisis, however you continue to interfere in our efforts to do what science and facts dictate seriously undermine our ability to protect everyone on the reservation,” he wrote.
What are the Checkpoints?
According to guidelines set by the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, both residents and non-residents must complete a health questionnaire upon leaving and entering the reservation. Residents can only go to non-hot spots within the state for essential reasons. If a resident plans on traveling to a hot spot or outside of the state, they can only do so for essential work, a medical appointment, or obtaining or delivering essential supplies that are not available within the reservation. They must also quarantine for 14 days when they return unless they obtain a travel permit.
Non-residents are only allowed on the reservation for essential reasons and can only come from non-hot spots in the state. If they come from elsewhere, they must have a travel permit and can also only do so for essential work, a medical appointment, or obtaining or delivering essential supplies that are not available within the reservation. Travel permits can be obtained via application from the tribe.
Letter From Legislators
The tribes have support from 17 state legislators in South Dakota who wrote a letter to Noem on Saturday asking that she work with the tribes on this issue. They believe the state does not have the authority to shut the checkpoints down.
They wrote that several laws and court rulings have established that “the State of South Dakota has no jurisdiction over the highways running through Indian lands in the state without tribal consent.”
The legislators also fear that if the governor escalates the matter to a lawsuit, this “will ultimately cost the people of South Dakota more money.”
The representatives and senators who signed the letter represent districts with tribal lands. They feel that Noem should have consulted them before writing to the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Oglala Sioux Tribe so they could guide her response.
“[Noem] elected, however, not to contact us and sent an ultimatum to both tribes,” they wrote in the letter. “We think a better approach is communication rather than confrontation, cooperation rather than constitutional crisis and discussion rather than demands.”
They closed the letter by encouraging Noem to find common ground with the leaders of the tribes so they can negotiate a resolution that keeps all people “healthy and safe.”
Noem’s office, however, put out an update Sunday maintaining that the checkpoints are not legal and that the matter would be taken to federal court if they are not removed. The matter remains unresolved, as neither tribe has budged.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (KNBN News Center) (Time)
Lincoln College to Close for Good After COVID and Ransomware Attack Ruin Finances
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
One of the Only Historically Black Colleges in the Midwest Goes Down
After 157 years of educating mostly Black students in Illinois, Lincoln College will close its doors for good on Friday.
The college made the announcement last month, citing financial troubles caused by the coronavirus pandemic and a ransomware attack in December.
Enrollment dropped during the pandemic and the administration had to make costly investments in technology and campus safety measures, according to a statement from the school.
A shrinking endowment put additional pressure on the college’s budget.
The ransomware attack, which the college has said originated from Iran, thwarted admissions activities and hindered access to all institutional data. Systems for recruitment, retention, and fundraising were completely inoperable at a time when the administration needed them most.
In March, the college paid the ransom, which it has said amounted to less than $100,000. But according to Lincoln’s statement, subsequent projections showed enrollment shortfalls so significant the college would need a transformational donation or partnership to make it beyond the present semester.
The college put out a request for $50 million in a last-ditch effort to save itself, but no one came forward to provide it.
A GoFundMe aiming to raise $20 million for the college only collected $2,452 as of Tuesday.
Students and Employees Give a Bittersweet Goodbye
“The loss of history, careers, and a community of students and alumni is immense,” David Gerlach, the college’s president, said in a statement.
Lincoln counts nearly 1,000 enrolled students, and those who did not graduate this spring will leave the institution without degrees.
Gerlach has said that 22 colleges have worked with Lincoln to accept the remaining students, including their credits, tuition prices, and residency requirements.
“I was shocked and saddened by that news because of me being a freshman, so now I have to find someplace for me to go,” one student told WMBD News after the closure was announced.
When a group of students confronted Gerlach at his office about the closure, he responded with an emotional speech.
“I have been fighting hard to save this place,” he said. “But resources are resources. We’ve done everything we possibly could.”
On April 30, alumni were invited back to the campus to revisit the highlights of their college years before the institution closed.
On Saturday, the college held its final graduation ceremony, where over 200 students accepted their diplomas and Quentin Brackenridge performed the Lincoln Alma Mater.
Last year, 1,043 schools in the U.S. were the victim of ransomware attacks, including 26 colleges or universities, according to an analysis by Emsisoft.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Herald Review) (CNN)
U.S. Tops One Million Coronavirus Deaths, WHO Estimates 15 Million Worldwide
India’s real COVID death toll stands at about 4.7 million, ten times higher than official data, the WHO estimated.
One Million Dead
The United States officially surpassed one million coronavirus deaths Wednesday, 26 months after the first death was reported in late February of 2020.
Experts believe that figure is likely an undercount, since there are around 200,000 excess deaths, though some of those may not be COVID-related.
The figure is the equivalent of the population of San Jose, the tenth-largest city in the U.S., vanishing in just over two years. To put the magnitude in visual perspective, NECN published a graphic illustrating what one million deaths looks like.
At the beginning of the pandemic, the White House predicted between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans would die from the coronavirus in a best-case scenario.
By February 2021, over half a million Americans had died of COVID.
The coronavirus has become the third leading cause of death in the U.S. behind heart disease and cancer.
The pandemic’s effects go beyond its death toll. Around a quarter of a million children have lost a caregiver to the virus, including about 200,000 who lost one or both parents. Every COVID-related death leaves an estimated nine people grieving.
The virus has hit certain industries harder than others, with food and agriculture, warehouse operations and manufacturing, and transportation and construction seeing especially high death rates.
People’s mental health has also been affected, with a study in January of five Western countries including the U.S. finding that 13% of people reported symptoms of PTSD attributable to actual or potential contact with the virus.
Fifteen Million Dead
On Thursday, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 15 million people have died from the pandemic worldwide, a dramatic revision from the 5.4 million previously reported in official statistics.
Between January 2020 and the end of last year, the WHO estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million people died either due to the coronavirus directly or because of factors somehow attributed to the pandemic’s impact on health systems, such as cancer patients who were unable to seek treatment when hospitals were full of COVID patients.
Based on that range, scientists arrived at an approximate total of 14.9 million.
The new estimate shows a 13% increase in deaths than is usually expected for a two-year period.
“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health who was not linked to the WHO research, told the Associated Press.
Most of the deaths occurred in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
According to the WHO, India counts the most deaths by far with 4.7 million, ten times its official number.
See what others are saying: (NBC) (U.S. News and World Report) (Scientific American)
Official Says Missing Alabama Convict and Corrections Officer Had a “Special Relationship”
Authorities have also said they now believe the officer willfully helped the inmate escape.
New Information on Missing Inmate & Officer
Authorities in Alabama revealed Tuesday that Assistant Director of Corrections for Lauderdale County Vicky White, who is accused of helping a murder suspect Casey Cole White escape from jail, had a “special relationship” with the inmate.
“Investigators received information from inmates at the Lauderdale County Detention Center over the weekend that there was a special relationship between Director White and inmate Casey White,” Lauderdale County Sheriff Rick Singleton said in a statement. “That relationship has now been confirmed through our investigation by independent sources and means.”
Officials have previously said that the two are not related, despite their shared surname.
Singleton elaborated on the nature of the relationship while speaking to CNN later on Tuesday. He said it took place “outside of her normal work hours” and added that although it did not include “physical contact,” he still characterized it as “a relationship of a different nature.”
“We were told Casey White got special privileges and was treated differently while in the facility than the other inmates,” Singleton said.
Also on Tuesday, the Marshals Service issued a statement confirming that authorities believe Officer White had helped Mr. White escape. The authorities described her as a “wanted fugitive” and offered a $5,000 reward for any information on her whereabouts. Earlier this week, the Marshals Service also offered a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to Mr. White’s capture.
Singleton echoed the belief that Officer White’s actions were intentional while speaking to Good Morning America Wednesday.
“I think all of our employees and myself included were really hoping that she did not participate in this willingly. But all indications are that she absolutely did,” he said. “We’re very disappointed in that because we had the utmost trust in her as an employee and as an assistant director of corrections.”
Vicky White and Casey White were last seen leaving the Lauderdale County jail just after 9:30 a.m. Friday. The officer told other employees that she was taking the inmate to a mental health evaluation at a courthouse just down the road, and that she would be going to a medical appointment after because she was not feeling well.
Officials later said her actions violated an official policy that required two sworn deputies to transport people with murder charges. In 2020, Mr. White was charged with two counts of capital murder in connection to a fatal stabbing he confessed to and was awaiting his trial in Lauderdale County.
Mr. White was also serving time for what officials said was a “crime spree” in 2015 which included home invasion, carjacking, and a police chase. He had also previously tried to escape from jail, police said.
It wasn’t until 3:30 p.m. on Friday that a jail employee reported to higher-ups that he was not able to reach Officer White on her phone and that Mr. White had never been returned to his cell.
During a press conference that same night, Singleton told reporters that there had never even been a scheduled mental health evaluation. At another briefing Monday, he announced that an arrest warrant had been issued for Vicky on a charge of “permitting or facilitating an escape in the first degree.”
At the time, Singleton said it was unclear “whether she did that willingly or was coerced or threatened” but added, “we know for sure she did participate.”