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Choctaw Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben Positive for COVID-19

Chief Cyrus Ben - Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians - Mississippi Free Press
Choctaw Chief Cyrus Ben announced Saturday, April 18, on Facebook that he is positive for COVID-19. Photo courtesy Cyrus Ben via Facebook.
Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Chief Cyrus Ben announces on April 18 he has COVID-19.

Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians Tribal Chief Cyrus Ben just announced in an emotional video on Facebook that he tested positive for the coronavirus and is now in quarantine at home. He is not showing symptoms, yet, he said.

Ben, the fifth democratically elected chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and a lifelong resident of Neshoba County, took office on June 9, 2019.

The chief used the video to call for vigilance on the part of tribal members to take the COVID-19 risk seriously and to stay inside and follow all precautions. He wants tribal members to take control of their own safety, he said.

“Every one of you is at risk. Do not think you’re immune,” Cyrus told the Choctaw community.

“Yet I sit here today exposed and now, unfortunately, a positive case.” He called on every person to “please do your part” and stay home.

Chief Ben speaks in Choctaw in the second half of the Facebook video.

Ben and his wife, TaRita, and their children Brodie, Eden and Selah live in the Pearl River community of Neshoba County.

The tribe released additional safety precautions on its Facebook page Friday. Also yesterday, the same day that Gov.  Tate Reeves started easing some shelter-in-place restrictions, the chief wrote a letter to tribal government heads asking them to revisit employees deemed critical to “determine if any additional employees could be relieved of their duties.

Due to COVID-19, the tribe closed its casinos weeks ago and already faces restrictions on sacred traditions such as funeral and wakes, including shared meals.

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