Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, addresses the executive council winter session of the National Congress of American Indians in Washington, D.C., on February 12, 2019. Photo by Indianz.Com (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Rep. Tom Cole: Flatten the curve

Note: On the morning of March 19, 2020, Rep. Tom Cole (R-Oklahoma), a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, announced he was placing himself in self-quarantine after being in "extended contact" with a fellow member of Congress who tested positive for COVID-19.

With confirmed cases of COVID-19 multiplying rapidly across the nation and around the world, there is increasing concern about how to effectively slow the spread of this mysterious coronavirus in the United States. While I am grateful for the Trump Administration’s swift and decisive response thus far, the reality is that each of us have a part to play in saving and protecting lives during this pandemic.

President Donald Trump rightly acknowledged the critical nature of the situation last week by declaring a national emergency. Moreover, he issued new travel restrictions effectively banning European visitors from entering the United States. These pointed measures are unprecedented, but it shows that the president is willing to go to great lengths to protect American lives and livelihoods. He is wise to act cautiously and seriously on the nation’s behalf.

While the worsening situation has led to alarming stock market drops and swings, the spread of this coronavirus has also caused unthinkable disruptions to our daily lives, and it will continue to do so for some time. While it is easy to get discouraged or even feel scared as events and plans are canceled and with business as usual on hold, it’s important to heed the direction of our government leaders and health authorities. I am encouraged by the work of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force and the regular public briefings they are providing to the American people. But for life to return to normal, every single one of us must commit to taking precautions.

Whether you have been following the situation through news sources or on social media, by now you have probably heard the directive to “flatten the curve.” This is in reference to how we can collectively contain and defeat the virus, preventing it from reaching more communities and overwhelming our health system. At the most basic level, this includes washing your hands thoroughly and often – for at least 20 seconds – and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces daily. If you cannot immediately wash your hands with soap and water, use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. And as much as possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. If you are sick, protect the health of others and stop the spread of germs by keeping your distance, covering your mouth when you cough and throwing away used tissues.

More broadly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the President’s Coronavirus Task Force recently issued new guidance for preventing community spread. For the next eight weeks, it is strongly recommended that organizers cancel or postpone in-person events that consist of 50 people or more throughout the United States. This week, the Task Force also advised Americans to avoid gatherings of 10 people or more for at least the next 15 days.

Even with many events canceled, it may be tempting to be out and about as usual interacting with people or joining informal large gatherings. However, whether you feel sick or not, do your best to stay in as much as possible to avoid contracting or becoming a carrier of the virus. Even if you don’t think you are at risk, there are many vulnerable populations – including older Americans and those with pre-existing respiratory illness – who may not be able to recover. If fewer people contract the virus though, more lives will ultimately be saved. And the better off we all will be.

While the situation is ever-changing, we can and will get through it together. In the days ahead, please commit to doing your part in protecting yourself, your family, your loved ones and the most vulnerable in our communities. For the latest guidance, I encourage you to frequently check the CDC’s dedicated website on the ongoing nationwide response to COVID-19: For the latest guidance on the situation in communities across our state, including testing, please consult the Oklahoma State Department of Health’s special website here:

If you have additional questions or need assistance with another matter, my staff is available to help. There are numerous ways to reach out and stay connected. To send an email on my website, please visit I will also provide regular updates on my Facebook and Twitter pages (TomColeOK04) and via my e-newsletter: To speak directly with a staff member, please call my Norman office at (405) 329-6500.

Tom Cole, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, is serving his eighth term in Congress as the elected representative of Oklahoma's 4th Congressional District. He is recognized as an advocate for taxpayers and small business, a proponent for a strong national defense and a leader in promoting biomedical research. He is considered the foremost expert in the House on issues dealing with Native Americans and tribal governments. He and his wife, Ellen, have one son, Mason, and reside in Moore, Oklahoma.

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