COVID causing more shutdowns

Fort Belknap goes into lockdown


Last updated 1/19/2022 at Noon

As new COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the state and the region, more jurisdictions are closing.

Fort Belknap Indian Reservation announced Tuesday that it was going into lockdown at 12 a.m. today, effective until Wednesday, Jan. 26, at 11:59 p.m.

The shutdowns affects all non-essential businesses within the Fort Belknap Indian Community, a release on the Fort Belknap Indian Community Council Facebook page said. Essential businesses providing food and fuel are on limiteed hours.

Fort Belknap reported 56 new active cases - with three recoveries - Tuesday, the highest single-day total on the reservation so far.

The state tracking map reported Tuesday 2,051 new cases across Montana.

The school board at Dodson, just outside Fort Belknap reservation, held an emergency meeting Tuesday, a release from Dodson Superintendent Gary Weltz said, and voted to close the schools immediately to reopen Monday, Jan. 31.

And Rocky Boy Schools Superintendent Voyd St. Pierre issued a release Tuesday evening saying those schools would move to remote learning for the remainder of the week.

Box Elder Superintendent Jeremy MacDonald announced Tuesday morning that those schools were moving to distanced learning for the rest of the week.

Posts on the Facebook page of Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation's tribal council, Chippewa Cree Business Committee, announced the Chippewa Cree Housing Authority was locking its doors due to the surge in cases and asked people to try to do their business by phone if possible, although people can be let in if necessary. It added that the authority's finance staff has been hit hard and some services may be delayed.

The page also shared posts such as by the Rocky Boy Health Center asking people to help slow the spread by letting contacts know if they have been exposed and to call ahead to schedule appointments if they need to test for COVID or are symptomatic, but no new restrictions on the reservation were listed there.

The closures come in the wake of Havre's Sunnyside Intermediate School going remote and St. Jude Thaddeus School closing last week, to reopen Tuesday.

The omicron variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 is much more contagious than previous variants, appearing likely to cause reinfections of people who have previously had COVID-19 and breakthrough infections of vaccinated people.

While the variant seems to generally be less likely to cause serious illness, with the massive numbers of infections the number of people hospitalized and dying also has shot up nationwide.

Vaccination and boosters are still considered the best way to defend against omicron, reducing the chance of infection and greatly reducing the chance of serious illness and death.

Most of the hospitalizations and deaths in this surge continue to be in unvaccinated people.

But the vaccinated still are likely to spread the virus if exposed, leading health officials to urge people to mask up when in public to help slow the spread.

And anyone who has been in large gatherings in recent weeks is told to basically expect that they have been exposed. People are asked to test if they have been in any large gatherings in past couple of weeks and if they have any symptoms, and to stay home if they feel ill.

In fact, the message from public health on the national-, state- and local-level has remained the same for the past year. Vaccination is the best way for people to protect themselves and their loved ones.

The vaccines for COVID-19 have remained effective at preventing hospitalization and death throughout the pandemic and the rollout of boosters for the vaccines provide an extra layer of protection that drastically reduces the chances of people getting seriously ill.

Aside from vaccination, much of the same procedures are still recommended to slow the spread of the virus, including omicron. Wearing masks while in public areas is still a key way to slow the spread of - and reduce the chance of contracting - the virus, with recommended masks still effective at reducing the spread of the variants of the virus, including omicron.

Avoiding being in large groups of people outside of a person's household when possible also will reduce the chance of contracting the virus, as will regular handwashing and people covering their coughs and sneezes with a tissue or their elbow.

In Hill County, vaccinations and booster shots are available through Bullhook Community Health Center, 406-395-4305; the Hill County Health Department, 406-400-2415; Northern Montana Health Care's Specialty Medical Center at 406-265-7831 or its Family Medical Center at 406-265-5408; Western Drug Pharmacy, 406-265-9601; Gary & Leo's Pharmacy, which takes walk-ins; Walmart; and the Rocky Boy Health Center 406-395-4486.

The Blaine County Health Department, 406-357-2345, and the Fort Belknap Health Center, public health nurse 406-353-3250 and pharmacy at 406-353-3104, can schedule vaccinations and booster shots.

Vaccine is available in Chouteau County at the Chouteau County Health Department, 406-622-3771, and Big Sandy Pharmacy at 406-378-5588.

People can call Liberty County Health Department at 406-759-5517 to schedule a vaccination.


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