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Blackfeet Reservation Prepares To Reopen After Drop In COVID-19 Cases

 Seal of the Blackfeet Nation
Seal of the Blackfeet Nation

Blackfeet tribal leaders announced Wednesday that the Blackfeet Indian Reservation will move into phase three of its reopening plan — exactly one year after they declared an emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Blackfeet Nation will move to phase three, known as the "new normal" phase, on March 15. Tribal spokesperson James McNeely says conditions on the reservation have dramatically improved since last fall's peak of COVID-19 cases.

"On March 15 of 2020, the Blackfeet tribe declared an emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic at that time — which we are still under. That has never expired, the emergency pandemic declaration."

A Blackeet Nation press release said that moving to this next phase comes with risk, adding that the community can move backward in its phased plan if needed. 

Details on what changes phase three will bring to the reservation are coming soon, according to McNeely, and that policy will also govern how businesses will operate this upcoming tourism season. He clarified that forthcoming details will not include a decision on reopening Glacier National Park's east gates.

The press release also said 80% of the Blackfeet Reservation's adult population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Active cases on the reservation are in the single digits, according to the Blackfeet Incident Command.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.