Recommendations to Reduce the Spread of COVID-19 in Tribal Settings
CDC’s COVID-19 community levels can help Elders and leaders make decisions about community prevention strategies based on whether their own or a neighboring county is classified as a low, medium, or high community level. CDC supports and respects sovereignty and self-determination of tribal governments in the United States. Recommended prevention strategies that accompany each community level are meant to support—not replace—tribal laws, rules, and regulations aimed at protecting the health of tribal communities.
Tribal ceremonies such as sweat lodges, social gatherings and seasonal ceremonies, and larger gatherings such as pow wows and rodeos are a vital part of cultural identity and common traditional practices in tribal communities. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 at tribal ceremonies and larger gatherings is especially important for tribal community members who may be more likely to get very sick from COVID-19, such as people with underlying medical conditions.
Vaccines are one of the most effective tools to protect our health.
If you test positive for COVID-19 and have one or more health conditions that increase your risk of becoming very sick, treatment may be available. Contact a health professional right away after a positive test to determine if you need treatment, even if your symptoms are mild right now. This is especially important if you:
- Are age 65 years or older
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have one or more health conditions that will make you more likely to get very sick
Don’t delay: Treatment must be started within the first few days to be effective.
Staying Safe During Ceremonies and Gatherings
- Hold events in large, well-ventilated areas or outdoors, as circumstances and tribal traditions allow.
- Promote healthy hygiene practices.
- Encourage tribal members to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
- Provide adequate supplies to support healthy hygiene behaviors, including soap, clean water, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, tissues, and no-touch trash cans.
- As always, anyone who is sick should stay home and not attend ceremonies and gatherings. Visit CDC’s COVID-19 Quarantine and Isolation Guidance for more information.
- Consider limiting the sharing of frequently touched items that are passed or shared among tribal members, if traditions allow.
- People may choose to wear a well-fitting mask at any time. People with exposure to someone with COVID-19 should also wear a well-fitting mask. Follow Federal, State, and Local requirements for masks on public transportation.
Tribal Elders and leaders can layer prevention measures based on whether their own or a neighboring county is classified as having a low, medium, or high community level.
Frequently Asked Questions: COVID-19 and Funerals
Am I at more risk when attending a funeral for someone who just died from COVID-19?
There is currently no known risk associated with being in the same room at a funeral or visitation service with the body of someone who died of COVID-19. However, being in crowded or poorly ventilated indoor spaces may make you more likely to get sick if people around you are infected. Learn more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19.
How can I protect myself when preparing the body of someone who died from COVID-19?
If washing the body, shrouding, or other important religious or cultural practices are observed in a specific tribal community, families are encouraged to work with their cultural and religious leaders and funeral home staff on how to reduce their exposure as much as possible.
How do you transport the body of someone who has died from COVID-19?
Follow transportation protocols for a body of someone who has died of respiratory illnesses. No additional protocols are recommended at this time.
Are there any special requirements for burying or cremating people who die from COVID-19?
People who died from COVID-19 can be buried or cremated. But check for any additional tribal, state, local, or territorial requirements that may dictate the handling and disposition of the body of individuals who have passed from certain infectious diseases.
What do funeral home workers need to know about handling deceased who had COVID-19?
- Tribal traditional practitioners and family members handling of body should follow the precautions outlined for funeral home workers.
- After the body has been prepared for viewing and burial, clean surfaces using EPA-approved productsexternal icon in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for all cleaning and disinfection products (such as concentration, application method, and contact time).
What resources are available for burial of American Indian/Native Alaskan veterans?
Spouses and families of American Indian/Alaska Native veterans may be eligible for burial assistance. Burial benefits can include opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, a burial flag, and a Presidential Certificate—at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible to receive money to help cover the cost (burial allowances).
The National Cemetery Administration oversees burial benefits. This office is under the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Veterans Benefits Administration. The VA can be contacted at the following phone numbers:
- For financial assistance with COVID-19 related funeral expenses: 1-844-684-6333 or COVID-19 Funeral Assistance | FEMA.govexternal icon
- For burial, survivors’ pension, or other benefits: 1-877-294-6380
- For the status of VA headstones and markers: 1-800-697-6947
- For obtaining bereavement counseling: 1-202-461-6530
- For telecommunications devices for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing services, dial 711.
- Burial Benefitsexternal icon
- VA Survivors and Burial Benefits pdf icon[1.75 MB, 60 Pages]external icon