“One thing I would like to emphasize is that the numbers we post come from the health care officials at Blackfeet Community Hospital that are compiled around 5 p.m. each day,” Public Information Officer James McNeely said. “The numbers that are reported by the state and county are a day behind ours so the number we post reflects the numbers we’ve seen that day versus seeing it tomorrow.”
With that said, Blackfeet Incident Command, whose reports are posted daily on their Facebook page, showed that as of Sunday, Oct. 11, at 5 p.m. there were 380 active cases on the Blackfeet Reservation. McNeely notes the caseload has remained more or less constant at between 350 and 400 for some time.
At press time there were 15 patients hospitalized. The Reservation has experienced 686 cases since March 15, of which 306 have recovered. Of the six people who have died from the virus, two were from the Reservation but died elsewhere while four passed on the Reservation.
The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, in a special meeting on Oct. 13, extended the stay at home Order issued on Sept. 28. The order was originally set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Oct. 13, but was extended until Sunday, Oct. 25, at 11:59 p.m.
“After hearing from our medical team at Blackfeet Community Hospital and our Tribal Clinics, along with the recommendation from our Incident Command Team, the Council has extended the stay at home orders to help alleviate the spread of the COVID-19 breakout that has hit the Blackfeet Reservation,” stated Chairman Tim Davis.
“We want to remind the people to follow the rules set forth in the order and to practice social distancing, remaining within your own household, the mandatory mask order, following the curfew hours (9 p.m. to 6 a.m. daily) and please follow the guidelines for isolation and quarantine,” he added.
Protocols for funerals during this stay at home order have been approved by the Council in order to help families, including PPE for families and a 25-member or less gathering for graveside services. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families who have lost loved ones during this time,” said Iliff “Scott” Kipp, Sr., Vice Chairman.
Contact the Tribal DES Office at (406) 338-7521 for PPE for funerals.
“Our hope is to assist in the slowing down of this current outbreak while taking measures to safely assist our people,” said Council Secretary Lauren Monroe, Jr. “The well-being of the Blackfeet People is our main priority and we will get through this together.”
For those who are currently isolated or in quarantine, the word is to stay at home until the quarantine or isolation period has passed. For medical supplies, cleaning supplies and food, folks can call 338-2946 while people can address their questions regarding compliance issues to 338-5545. For additional COVID-19 information, call the CHNs at 338-6191.
Around a dozen members of the Montana National Guard have been on-site offering ancillary services in such locations as the Blackfeet Care Center, Blackfeet Fire Cache and the Blackfeet Food Distribution Program. They are performing services like answering phones, delivering medications and food and setting up an isolation tent at IHS. McNeely notes the Care Center is looking for nurses while the hospital is seeking ambulance drivers and EMS personnel.
“We have three main things to combat this,” he said, “masks, social distancing and washing and sanitizing your hands. We’re still in the first wave while other parts of the country are starting their second wave, and I want to encourage people to get their flu shots.” Folks can obtain flu vaccinations from 1 to 4 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday, at Blackfeet Community Hospital.
As of Monday, Oct. 12, Town Pump in Browning remained closed and likely would remain so at least until the shutdown ends.
“Everybody’s being extra cautious,” McNeely said. “Most people are following the rules, and law enforcement is out in full force citing people for curfew violations.” Curfew remains in place from 9 p.m. until 6 a.m. except for folks deemed essential and displaying an essential personnel tag in their vehicle.
Finally, McNeely reports that Browning School Board Chair Donna Yellow Owl stopped by and told him that the Board is meeting on Tuesday evening (Oct. 14) to discuss the future of winter sports in light of previous experience and the ongoing pandemic.