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Blackfeet Nation pulls back COVID-19 restrictions a day after reinstating them

blackfeet covid sign 2020.jpg
File photo
Signs warning about activity restrictions on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation due to the COVID-19 pandemic stand on all roadway entrances to the reservation, September 2020.

A day after reimplementing "Phase 2" COVID-19 restrictions due to the omicron variant, the Blackfeet Nation now says it is retracting them.

The tribe says masks are "strongly encouraged" along with social distancing, proper hygiene and vaccines.

In a statement posted to social media Tuesday, Tribal Business Council Chairman Timothy F. Davis says the phased reopening guidelines were drafted in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, but "[t]hings have changed since then."

"CDC has changed their positions on how to deal with the pandemic. Vaccines are now available to everyone as well as testing," he said. "With the onset of the variants, especially Omicron, causing a rise in cases across the country, there was a feeling to put some restrictions in place for the Blackfeet Reservation.

"While phase 2 may have been the thought, it [was] not the right one."

Under the Phase 2 restrictions, gatherings and business capacity were limited, a curfew was in place and masks were mandated on the Blackfeet reservation. Residents were asked to limit travel to grocery shopping and medical purposes, and tribal offices were also closed to the public.

The tribe says people can work from home if they are immune compromised, and urges residents to stay home if they're feeling sick.

On Friday, the last day data was available, Blackfeet officials reported there were 104 active COVID-19 cases, and nearly 70% of those people were fully vaccinated. Since the pandemic began, Blackfeet Nation has lost 56 members to COVID-19.

Copyright 2022 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.