The CRST Public Health Task Force is an advisory group formed for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that Tribal policy related to COVID-19 is based on the most current scientific data. The three task force members are Margaret Bad Warrior, JD, MPH, Rae O’Leary, RN, MPH, and Randolph Runs After, MPH.
This week the Reservation moves to Level 3 of the CRST COVID-19 Response Plan. There are three measurable public health criteria that trigger moving to a new level under the Response Plan. All three criteria need to be met to move to a lower level.
For example, we are at Level 3 if any of the following is true: the 7-day average of test positivity is between 5-9.9%, or the 7-day average for active cases is between 11-25, or surrounding hospitals have less than 50% capacity of beds for our COVID-19 patients.* We have been at Level 3 numbers for two of those criteria for about 10 days, but until late last week our 7-day average of active cases was over 25, which kept us on Level 4.
The good news is, as of Monday, February 1, our 7-day average of active cases is 17.6. This number includes the results of last week’s mass testing events, which is very encouraging. So this week we move to Response Level 3.
What does Level 3 mean?
The big changes at Level 3 are that schools may reopen, daycares may open for all children, and all CRST programs may bring employees back to work, all with COVID-19 precautions in place.
Further, rodeos, powwows, sporting events, board and community meetings, rummage sales, feeds, church services, and fitness centers may all open with limitations as outlined in the CRST guidance document for that activity. CRST guidance documents can be found at: www.crstcoronavirusupdates.com/covid-19-response-plan/
The 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew is still in effect at Level 3. The curfew will end at Level 2.
How will schools reopen safely?
Each school board has approved a reopening plan specific to that school. Some school boards may phase in reopening through a hybrid model. Other school boards may retain virtual learning through the semester, and make a plan for reopening fully in the fall, once they have a clearer picture of the course of the pandemic.
New studies have found that the spread of COVID-19 in schools is minimal if all safety precautions are followed. These include mask mandates, small class sizes (less than 20), social distancing, and quarantining after exposure.
All Reservation schools have the goal of getting students back in the classroom as quickly as possible, when the spread of COVID-19 in the community is controlled. But since schools are complex systems, changing directions quickly is challenging. For details on your school’s reopening procedure, contact the school to see their plan. The BIE’s Return to Learn Plan can be found at: returntolearn.bie.edu.
What about going back to work?
While many employees are already back to work, the determination of what is best for each employee is a combination of the type of job duties for each position, and the COVID-19 risk for that particular individual. For example, a woman in the third trimester of pregnancy is very high risk. If her job duties involve only telephone calls and electronic reporting, she could safely continue to telework at Level 3 if her workplace has a high level of potential exposure, even if other employees in her department are already back to work. For return to work during a pandemic, sometimes the fairest and most equitable rule is case-by-case, not one-size-fits-all.
Keep it up!
With regard to the many other activities that can now happen under Level 3, it is still critically important to:
- Mask up, practice social distancing and hand washing, and stay home when sick.
- Stay at home when you can, and follow all quarantine guidance if you or a household member are exposed to someone with COVID-19.
- Consider vaccination for you and your household members aged 16 and up.
- If you are hosting a feed or community meeting please read and follow the CRST guidance.
While our numbers are looking good, continuing these practices will help keep those numbers going in the right direction.
And yes, please wear a mask when you are with people outside of your household, especially indoors, even if you had COVID-19 and recovered, and even if you have already been vaccinated.
To schedule a vaccination, please call the IHS Eagle Butte Hospital at 964-7724. The Indian Health Service is vaccinating all Reservation residents; you do not need to be a Tribal member to receive a vaccination.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, the CRST Public Health Task Force can be reached at (605) 200-0670, or by email to email@example.com.
*Criteria explained: 7-day average of test positivity means the percent of COVID-19 tests given on Cheyenne River that had a positive result, averaged over the last seven days. 7-day average of active cases is the average of the number of positive cases on Cheyenne River for the last seven days. Hospital capacity measures our ability to find beds off-Reservation for severe COVID-19 cases.