As of Monday, Oct. 5, all non-essential Tribal Offices remained closed until Oct. 25 as part of the extended shutdown imposed on Oct. 4. Those that remain open include Law Enforcement, EMS, IHS Security, Blackfeet Care Center, Fish & Wildlife, Forestry & Fire, Tribal Security, Nurturing Center, Solid Waste, Southern Piegan & School Based Clinic, THIP, Medicine Bear, Tribal Facilities and Incident Command. The Blackfeet Food Distribution Program is closed until Thursday, Oct. 8, due to deep cleaning in progress.
Tribal Court has limited hours, and folks can call 338-5061 for more information about their scheduling.
While both Teeple’s IGA and Glacier Family Foods have reopened for business this week, Town Pump remained closed on Monday, Oct. 5.
“Everyone’s being extra cautious,” said Public Information Officer James McNeely. “Faught’s closed for a couple days on their own last week to deep clean, and Nation’s Burger Station also closed on their own.”
McNeely reminded folks that the new shutdown order lasts through Oct. 13 and stressed the use of masks in public, social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and prohibiting indoor gatherings. He further noted the Blackfeet Tribal Court will be en-forcing the ordinance.
The Tribal Business Council is now meeting remotely via Zoom as all the Tribal Offices are being deep cleaned, but the Tribe’s construction projects are ongoing.
At 5 p.m. Monday, Oct. 5, McNeely reported there were 323 active cases in Blackfeet Country as recorded by the Southern Piegan Health Center and the Indian Health Service.
McNeely also noted with great sorrow the loss of two more people last week. There are now five individuals who were Blackfeet or had ties to the Blackfeet Reservation who died from COVID-19. “Our condolences go out to the families,” he said. “They are people we all knew and will miss now that they are gone.”
The total number of deaths includes two tribal members who lived off the reservation, two tribal members who live on the reservation and one non-member who was married to a member.
The Blackfeet Care Center is closed but functioning, McNeely said. A total of 17 staff members tested positive and are currently isolated and in quarantine while seven residents also tested positive. They’ve been moved to a separate wing with a separate nursing staff to keep them isolated from the rest of the residents. All residents are tested daily, McNeely said.
The length and duration of the pandemic is also impacting those on the front lines.
“First, folks need to take this seriously because there are some who don’t,” said Robert DesRosier, a member of the Incident Command Team. “It’s taking a toll now in the workforce.”
He pointed to personnel deficiencies at the Care Center, the Food Distribution Program, the Fire Cache and among ambulance drivers. “They’re overtaxed,” he said of the drivers. “They’re just going and going, and there’s no letup in sight.”
As a result, some help is due to arrive on Tuesday, Oct. 6, when the Montana National Guard is scheduled to arrive with personnel to assist in the four areas, helping the heath care workers at the Care Center, making up food boxes at the Fire Cache and Food Distribution, and aiding EMS.
“They’re here to help with the workers who are stuck at home with COVID,” he said.