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US: Choctaw tribe hardest-hit by Mississippi coronavirus crisis

作者:admin 2020-08-06

When Sharon Taylor died of coronavirus, her family - standing apart, wearing masks - sang her favourite hymns at her graveside, next to a tiny headstone for her stillborn daughter, buried 26 years ago. Fresh flowers marked row after row of new graves.

Holy Rosary is one of the only cemeteries in this Choctaw family's community, and it is running out of space - a sign of the virus's enormous toll on the Choctaw people.

As confirmed coronavirus cases skyrocket in Mississippi, the state's only federally recognised American Indian tribe has been devastated. COVID-19 has ripped through Choctaw families, many of whom live together in multigenerational homes.

Almost 10 percent of the tribe's roughly 11,000 members have tested positive for the virus. More than 75 have died.

The once-flourishing Choctaw economy is stagnant, as the tribal government put in place tighter restrictions than those imposed by the state, which mandated face masks and delayed the start date for schools in certain counties on Tuesday. 

July brought a glimmer of hope, with some numbers dropping among Choctaws, but health officials worry that with cases rising elsewhere in the state, the reprieve is only temporary.

On Friday, Mississippi recorded its highest single-day coronavirus-related fatality count, 52.

As a community health technician, Taylor, 53, took the virus seriously from the start. She answered calls from tribe members with symptoms and delivered medicine. In June, she fell ill herself.

Kristina Taylor, 18, one of Sharon's five children, learned just before her mother was admitted to the hospital that she had been named valedictorian of the tribal high school.

Sharon had predicted the accomplishment for years. In some of their last moments together, Kristina showed her mom the speech she had prepared for graduation and the Choctaw beadwork her sister used to decorate her cap.

"We were just in tears. Usually, if I started crying, she started crying, too," she told The Associated Press. "She always had that faith in me, that I could do it, even when I doubted myself. She knew I could do it before I did."

VIRUS OUTBREAK-MISSISSIPPI CHOCTAW

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