Minnesota got a glimmer of good news recently. For the first time since last April, the state reported zero coronavirus deaths in a daily situation. Progress, perhaps. But state and tribal health officials continue to stress vaccinations and safety precautions.
To date, 6,800 Minnesotans have lost their lives to COVID-19.
Positive cases across Minnesota’s Indian Country continue to go down. Since the vaccine rollout late last year, tribes have been the frontrunner in getting their citizens vaccinated.
In a recent video update, Bois Forte Band of Chippewa tribal chairwoman Cathy Chavers said towns in the area have seen an increase in positive cases among young adults. The tribe in northeastern Minnesota is working with Indian Health Service on vaccinations. Chavers encourages tribal citizens 18 and older to contact the tribal health clinic to schedule their vaccine. So far, the tribe has administered more than 2,100 vaccines.
“Bois Forte would like to remind the community that now is not the time to let our guard down. This is not over. We need to continue to wear our masks, social distance, especially when out in public, or having contact with people that have not been fully vaccinated,” she said.
Indian Health Service is working with tribal partners on vaccine distribution. Minnesota tribes that work closely with IHS fall under the Bemidji Area Office, which also includes Wisconsin, Michigan and parts of Indiana. IHS is nearing 93,000 in total doses distributed to the Bemidji Area Office. Indian Health Service is a federal agency under Health and Human Services.
The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe were the first in Indian Country to receive the vaccines from IHS back in December. The tribe regularly posts updated numbers related to the coronavirus on its Facebook page. For most of March, active cases have been in the low single digits, and on some occasions, zero cases.
Vince Rock, interim health director for the tribe, said daily positive numbers were in the 50s before the vaccine rollout.
“So we want to build a firewall, we know that we have to protect the whole community. And that’s also what we’re looking at right now and these are where our plans are. We want to get all the towns on the reservation, Native and non-Native. And then we want to bolster some of those towns on the borders when we get there. The reason we can do this is because we have been given enough vaccines to do that,” said Rock
This week, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the federal government’s top infectious disease expert, continued his message that public health measures need to remain in place.
“I’m often asked, are we turning the corner? My response is really more like we are at the corner. Whether or not we’re going to be turning that corner still remains to be seen,” said Dr. Fauci
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News