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This week, COVID-19 testing returns to Blackfeet Country. The Blackfeet Tribe, in conjunction with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, and Montana National Guard will be conducting free COVID-19 testing for Blackfeet tribal members from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Dec. 18, and Saturday, Dec. 19, in the Parking Lot of Glacier Peaks Casino in Browning. As a bonus, $20 gas cards will be given to the first 1,000 people who stop in to get tested.

Tests will also be offered daily in the green building a block behind Coop’s Corner, formerly P&M, where a full crew of appropriately attired health care workers will be on-site from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Friday. No appointment is needed, and testing is available to all residents of the Blackfeet Reservation.

The testing is being done on an entirely drive-through basis, and tests are sent off for results every day, meaning there is about a two-day turnaround time for the results. Anyone testing positive will be contacted for a rapid test to confirm the first test, the results of which takes around 15 minutes. While those testing negative will not be called, they may call 338-3948 to reassure themselves as to their negative results.

The Blackfeet Reservation remains in Phase I of the lockdown and will likely stay that way until after the first of the year. Public Information Officer James McNeely said that while the latest numbers do not show an uptick since Thanksgiving, he does not believe the numbers are accurate.

“We’re doing fewer tests,” he said. “Now we’re doing around 50 per day, but before it was around 500 a day so we’re encouraging people to get the tests so we know where we are at.”

In other news, the Tribe’s per-capita checks have been mailed out to the membership. Any member who has not yet received one may call Enrollment at 338-3533 for more information. McNeely stressed the importance of members keeping their addresses current. In the future, it is likely more distributions will be conducted by mail so having an up-to-date address is increasingly necessary.

As far as vaccines are concerned, McNeely said he hasn’t received any details, and while he is hopeful the vaccines will “be ready to go shortly,” the specifics have yet to be released.

As of Friday, Dec. 11, there were 36 active cases on the Blackfeet Reservation and six hospitalizations. There have been 1,185 cases since March 15 of which 1,124 have recovered. There have been 35 deaths.

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