Spike in COVID-19 Cases Prompts Quarantine Order in Babb, St. Mary

Health officials place residents of two Blackfeet communities under mandatory 14-day quarantine

By Tristan Scott

A surge of COVID-19 cases in the unincorporated communities of Babb and St. Mary on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation prompted public health officials on Sept. 17 to issue a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all residents.

According to the Blackfeet COVID-19 Incident Command Center, public health officials identified the communities “as a COVID-19 outbreak area” and on Thursday issued the quarantine and isolation order, effective immediately under the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council’s Ordinance 121.

According to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, Glacier County reported 13 new cases on Sept. 17, and another four cases on Sept. 18, bringing the total number of active cases to 29.

Until recently, aggressive restrictions limiting non-essential travel on the reservation seemed to have paid off, with the Blackfeet mounting a concerted effort to keep its case count low from the beginning of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Our tribal council declared that emergency ordinance in March and we went into total lockdown at that point,” Jim McNeely, a tribal spokesperson, said. “We have been there ever since. People wonder why we have stayed closed, why all this vigilance, and it’s because we can see the progress here. But these new cases show that we need to do more.”

The ordinance allows for the enforcement of a broad range of enforceable safety orders on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, many of which are more stringent than the state’s restrictions. They include prohibiting vacation rentals, maintaining the closure of non-essential businesses, and maintaining closures at entrances to Glacier National Park that are located within the Blackfeet Indian Reservation’s boundaries, as well as closures of reservation roads to non-essential travel.

According to the new quarantine order, any residents who are in need of food, cleaning supplies or medication should contact the Blackfeet Fire Cache at (406) 338-2946. For other questions, they should call the Community Health Department at (406) 338-6191

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