By: Laura Monti, BRN Senior Fellow
On behalf of the Comcáac Health Relief team we are deeply grateful to all of our donors for your generous support. These extraordinary times of Covid-19 have required extraordinary commitment, tenacity and passion on all of our parts. The returns are incalculable: local healthcare teams galvanized and equipped, lives have been saved, and we hope the disease may be starting to diminish. Further, this community engaged approach to Covid-19 care is being used as a model by other indigenous communities in the region.
The funds raised and volunteer support has helped to mobilize resources directly to the Comcáac healthcare team, and to equip them to better respond to health care challenges related to Covid-19. The result is that the Covid response clinics are now established in the two Comcáac villages of Desemboque and Punta Chueca, staffed by 13 community health promoters and supported by medical and public health consultation.
Each clinic now has satellite internet to allow for consultation and emergency transfers. Two integrative healthcare teams now include six health promoters supported by five expert herbalists bringing together modern medical treatment with traditional desert plant medicine to treat patients with Covid-19. Dr. Laura Monti is overseeing the effort on the ground, working with the Comcáac healthcare teams backed up by medical doctors from the Sonora Public Health and Indigenous Health departments.
The health care teams in both villages have been working around the clock, seven days a week to care for patients with Covid-19 in their communities. During early July through August 10th, new cases of Covid-19 continued to rise with an average of 5-8 new cases per week in each village. During late June to mid-August, the number of cumulative cases of Covid-19 cases was just over 100, confirmed during a series of eight testing clinics carried out by the Public Health Secretary.
In each village approximately 50 cases were documented through testing, with at least 20 more persons in each village identified with positive Covid symptoms. Our conservative estimates are that since May 2020 in Desemboque (population 300 +-) has experienced a 25% infection rate. Punta Chueca, with over 700 people has had a 10% infection rate. While the numbers seem to have begun to decline, complicated cases have continued to occur, with one recent hospitalization.
While unfortunately five persons have died due to Covid-19, as of late August most patients under the care of the Comcáac health promoter team have recovered or are recovering.
The Health Promoters of Desemboque and Punta Chueca have provided the following services and activities:
● 125 consultations evaluating and caring for patients with Covid-19 symptoms.
● 50 oxygen and respiratory therapy treatments have been delivered.
● The herbalists have gathered bushels of medicinal plants traveling to remote
areas where specific plants are found.
● 100 patients have received a “Covid Kit” with hand sanitizer, masks and a two
week supply of plants known to be effective for Covid-related symptoms.
● 120 home visits to provide follow-up treatment and preventative care from July through mid-August to patients with Covid and their families.
● 24-hour care for 7 patients ranging from 1-3 days to 4 weeks.
In addition, Dr. Monti and the healthcare teams have initiated contact tracing mapping the locations of cases of Covid-19 by neighborhood and are providing follow-up care and prevention for Covid+ patients, families and neighbors in their native language. This outreach has reached dozens of individuals and families who have not approached the clinic or participated in the Covid testing clinics.
The health care team doubled their efforts in “hotspot” areas distributing protective gear, masks, face shields and hand sanitizer to all of the stores, fishing sector and their families living closest to the beach area, and to vulnerable groups that have not contracted the disease.
This science and community based public health approach, combined with excellent clinical care has reduced deaths and prevented many hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients in the Comcáac communities of Desemboque and Punta Chueca.
To date, no deaths have occurred under the care of the health promoters since the beginning of the Comcáac Health Relief Fund, a fact that Indigenous Health Coordinator of Sonora, Dr. Martin Maldonado says has made this indigenous Covid response program a model in the state and the nation.
“We send profound gratitude to our many friends that have supported us. Before this program began we were alone, without experience or knowledge confronting a situation that seemed impossible. We had no protective gear and were exhausted. Now it is a different story completely. We have a team and a circle of friends. Now we feel confident because many have recovered under our care.” -Desemboque health promoters-- Omar Casanova and Isabela Morales.
Thanks to the following individuals for their support:
Comcaac authorities and leaders Francisco Fonseca, Rogelio Montaño, Leonel Hoeffer and Reynaldo Estrella are currently providing ongoing logistical support. Work has begun to restore adjacent buildings to the clinics. Additional safe space is essential to keep the healthcare team healthy, to provide adequate space for patient isolation, a work room for the herbalists and equipment storage. The clinic water pump in Desemboque has been repaired and the clinic now has running water thanks to Solarex company workers. Restoration of additional safe space will begin soon with installation of electricity and running water to these much needed areas.
Our next steps of this project are to continue health promoter support, renovate structures adjacent to the clinics to assure safe space and working conditions for the health promoters and patients; support nutrition and home gardens and achieve affordable clean water for both community. We have raised approximately $31,000 at this point along with thousands of dollars of in-kind supplies.
Your continued contributions are needed as we move to the next phase and are greatly appreciated!
Questions? Contact Dr. Laura Monti, BRN Senior Fellow, Researcher, University of Arizona, College of Public Health and The Southwest Center
Read in Spanish here.
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