The report of nine new cases of COVID-19 from Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Garland Stiffarm at Blackfeet Community Hospital on Saturday, June 27, sent the Blackfeet Incident Command Team and the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC) into action with three orders to the Reservation community.
The first was a return to a mandatory, 14-day, stay-at-home order for all but those engaged in “Tier 1” activities and employment. The second order cancelled the relaxed rules concerning outdoor activities. These include social gatherings like restaurant dine-in, campgrounds, group gatherings, fishing derbies, golf, weddings, fireworks and parades. Tribal Council candidate Tony Sinclair Sr. canceled his fishing derby on Saturday to comply with the stricter guidelines.
The stay-at-home order is different from a quarantine, officials noted. Under the stay-at-home order, residents can still travel to doctor’s appointments, and to obtain supplies, groceries and medicine. Those quarantined, by contrast, may not leave the facility in which they are quarantined for any reason; instead supplies and other needs must be brought to them.
Finally, the BTBC voted to identify a quarantine facility for those testing positive, but with no place to be quarantined.
The actions followed a June 25 Tribal order closing all five eastern entrances to Glacier National Park, including Two Medicine, Cut Bank Creek, St. Mary, Many Glacier and Chief Mountain, for the 2020 season. That closure had immediate effects on businesses serving Park visitors. Two Sisters Café, posted, “It is with a heavy heart that we tell you we will be closed for the 2020 season. With the closure of the Park entrances on the east side, staying open is just not tenable for us. We will be back for the 2021 summer season, and hope we see you then.”
Johnson’s of St. Mary also notified visitors their reservations will be refunded.
Other closures include the Blackfeet Higher Education Office, which hopes to reopen on July 13, and Heart Butte School which was closed through Wednesday, July 1. Blackfeet Community College also closed through July 3. Browning Public Schools’ summer feeding program has been canceled.
Additionally, the July 4 Parade is canceled, and the Dispatch Lobby at Blackfeet Law Enforcement Services is closed to the general public.
“If needing 911 addressing, contact dispatch at (406) 338-4000 upon arrival and someone will be out to get the information,” states BLES. “We ask that you wear your PPE (mask and gloves) when in the area of BLES Dispatch. Also if wanting to file a complaint on an incident. please fill it out and give it to the officer before they leave.”
Meanwhile, IHS continues to offer drive-through testing. “IHS is working closely with the county to identify anyone else in the community who have been in close contact with the patients and may need to be quarantined,” their notice stated. “IHS will continue to provide drive up screening services and testing starting at 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.”
Churches are returning to live-streaming services. Blackfeet Manpower’s campgrounds – Red Eagle, Chewing Blackbones and Duck Lake - are closed until further notice.
Nevertheless, Tribal elections went forward on Tuesday, June 30, with five precincts voting at the Stick Game Arbor in Browning and the rest mostly in Head Start facilities in the outlying communities.
The new cases reported include one male, age 0-9, and four females, age 0-9, as well as two females, age 10-19, one female age 30-39 and one female age 40-49. Due to HIPAA law, there is no more information about the patients at this time.