The MHA-Nation has been planning and preparing proactively to fight the virus since February. Chairman Mark N. Fox says three tribal members who contracted coronavirus off the reservation also died off the reservation. Two of the three were brought back to be buried. No tribal members have died on the reservation.
Fox says the tribe is following the lead of the State of North Dakota but will likely differ from the state going forward to maintain a balance between opening business activity and assuring safety for people. He observes there is now some “opening up” occurring but it’s still necessary to remain vigilant and strive for the goal to have MHA citizens “suffer less” from the pandemic than the mainstream population. He calls his approach “incremental re-opening.”
In addition to doing its own testing, the MHA COVID-19 Task Force has provisioned a Supply Distribution Center and developed emergency bed capacity in local care centers.
The tribal workforce is now back to about 70-percent strength; the goal is to attain 80-percent in the next several weeks. Now that the tribe’s Four Bears Casino has reopened on a limited basis, it’s important to be sure the staff remains healthy and there’s no risk to patrons.
“Right now, our numbers show nothing to the contrary for opening up, but we do need to do another round of testing,” said Fox. “We expect to get more aggressive with testing. And to expand it beyond front-line people.”
A limitation on testing is the supply chain; Availability of supplies is unpredictable. The tribe could use help processing the tests and would like to test with the anagen anti-body test kits, said Fox.
The tribe plans to distribute personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks. Monetary incentives will be offered for wearing masks in public and writing personal logs of movements and encounters for potential contact tracing in the future.
“We’re trying to get to the ‘new normal,’” said Fox, “so, we’re watching very closely what’s going on in the state and nation. We’re trying our best to stay ahead of the curve.”