Blackfeet Tribal Councilman Virgil Last Star spoke at last week’s memorial of how he and his wife contracted COVID-19. He noted the long hours he spent outside the hospital praying for her. “Prayers work,” he said, encouraging folks to add their faith to the struggle against the virus.

The Blackfeet Reservation entered “Phase 2,” or “restricted reopening,” as of midnight on Saturday, Jan. 30. Public Information Officer James McNeely reports the COVID-19 numbers remain low with 11 active cases, one hospitalization and 46 deaths as of Sunday, Jan. 31. There have been 1,335 cases recorded since March 15 with 1,293 having recovered.

The curfew has been relaxed to run from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily, and some nonessential businesses, such as hair salons, tattoo parlors and massage parlors will be allowed to reopen following guidelines for capacity and sanitation. Businesses are currently working with the Blackfeet Department of Revenue so they may reopen by Feb. 15. Glacier Peaks Casino is also developing a plan with the Tribal Business Council, Gaming Commission and Incident Command to allow it to reopen at some point in the future.

Churches, ceremonies and outdoor activities will be allowed at 25% capacity, and the Stay-at-Home Order has been lifted as well. The Tribal Offices remain closed to the public, but employees are working and available to provide services via telephone.

However, McNeely notes surrounding areas have experienced spikes in their cases, reinforcing the Tribe’s exhortation for folks to continue following safety guidelines such as social distancing, wearing masks, hand sanitization and avoiding gatherings, especially when traveling off-reservation.

“We hope to get more education out,” he said, noting the vaccine does not confer immunity but rather reduces the odds that someone who is infected will develop severe symptoms. A person receiving both doses of the vaccines now available can still catch COVID-19 and spread it to others while experiencing minor or no symptoms themselves.”

McNeely continued, Wearing masks and following the other rules, therefore, still apply to those who have been vaccinated. Finally, he reminds folks that there is no way anyone can be infected with COVID-19 through being vaccinated. The vaccines contain no viable viruses, just enough genetic material to spur a person’s immune system to begin producing appropriate antibodies.

To date, McNeely reports some 1,500 vaccines having been administered, with 500 of those being second doses.

Finally, Incident Command is encouraging folks to get tested for COVID-19. Testing is available Monday - Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., at the old THIP Building (behind P&M, Coop’s Corner). Call 338-4624 or 338-4724 for questions.

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