A recent increase in COVID-19 cases is of concern to the Blackfeet Tribal Council and they have taken action to address this increase. “There were over a hundred new cases last Friday,” Public Information Officer James McNeely said on Monday, January 10. The numbers prompted the tribe to take action to return to the restricted opening Phase 2 until January 24. the restricted opening took effect immediately on January 10.
According to information released by KWebb Galbreath, Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Commander, case count and test availability are of the utmost importance and are being monitored and updated frequently in order to direct the COVID-19 response and the community phase plan.
The restricted opening of Phase 2 recommends that community members adhere to the following guidelines in an effort to reduce the community spread of COVID-19, specifically targeting the highly contagious Omicron variant:
• Community members should stay put in their primary residence and refrain from interaction between the homes of extended families and friends. Exceptions will be made for child care, elderly care and other types of essential care.
• Face-to-face meetings are permitted for essential tribal or civic duties as long as the guidelines are in place. Video conferencing is encouraged where possible.
• The mask’s mandate is reinstated in all public places.
• Travel by reservation is limited to essentials, including shopping, obtaining medication and medical care.
• No in-person gatherings including, but not limited to weddings, birthdays, non-spectator sporting events or spiritual gatherings at 50% capacity (churches).
• Funerals will be limited to 25 people indoors as long as social distancing can be observed and proper disinfection is available. Graveside for immediate family with prior approval from a committee including Safety Officer, Tribal Public Health, Incident Command.
• Do not engage in risky outdoor activities that could further strain health care or emergency response systems.
• Do not recreate with people who live outside your immediate household.
The Blackfeet tribal offices are closed and will reopen on January 25.
• All departments will have a reduced team during normal working hours; the workforce must report to the intervention command.
• Tribal buildings must be disinfected.
• Employees who are elderly and have underlying health problems should be placed on administrative leave.
• Businesses will operate at 50% of their capacity.
• All tribal buildings will be closed to the public; however, utilities should be provided by appointment or completed over the phone if possible.
• The swimming pool will operate at 50% of its capacity.
The following programs are classified as essential: BLES, Blackfeet Care Center, Child Protective Services, Covid Testing, Covid Vaccine Clinic, Crystal Creek Lodge, EMS, Fish and Game, IHS Security, Incident Command (Switchboard Operators and Tribal Security), Nurturing Center , Revenue Department, Compliance Officers, Solid Waste, Transit, Transportation, Tribal Court, Southern Piegan Health Center and BEO Water and Wastewater. Other programs may be deemed essential as determined by Incident Command.
• Curfew: from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.
McNeely also noted, “We had a lot of snow, wind and ice. The weather was insane last week, and we were semi-prepared for it. We encouraged people to stay off the roads, but with the cold and the snow and the wind it’s a mix that we’re trying to deal with today – the cleaning part.
A big problem is stranded motorists, McNeely noted. Responders include many agencies such as the Browning Volunteer Fire Department, Blackfeet Law Enforcement, Emergency Medical Services, Fishing and Game, Search and Rescue, and more. Calling for help after ignoring officials urging them to stay at home puts those people at unnecessary risk, McNeely recalled. “People have to listen when they are warned,” he said.