Blackfeet Tribe issues mask rule as virus spreads in Montana

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Blackfeet Reservation east of Glacier National Park implemented a mask mandate on Monday after 18 cases of COVID-19 were identified in recent days.

The mandate comes even around 90% of reservation residents are fully vaccinated against the virus. In addition to a mask requirement, the tribe announced that its offices would be closed to the public.

The tribe also suspended non-essential travel for tribal programs. The travel restriction does not apply to tourists.

The Blackfeet Reservation has allowed tourists to return this summer after last summer it closed to visitors to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

The tribe’s announcement comes as Montana is experiencing increased spread of COVID-19, with several hot spots including Flathead Valley on the western side of Glacier National Park.

The state announced 473 new cases on Monday, bringing the number of active cases in Montana to over 2,700.

The state had 191 COVID-19 related hospitalizations on Monday, a number last recorded in January.

Of the state’s eligible population, 49% are fully vaccinated against the virus, state health officials reported.

Figures from last month showed that of those hospitalized with the virus, 89% had not been vaccinated.

Gov. Greg Gianforte has urged Montana residents to get vaccinated but has not indicated he would issue a statewide mask mandate or other requirements to slow the spread of the virus.

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