PSA AUG 11, 2020

Submitted by: Lovell Overlie

Chairman Fox began his update extending his utmost condolences, prayers and sympathies to all of the families who have recently lost loved ones as there has been a significant amount of deaths that have occurred within our communities in the past few weeks. 

COVID-19 ON THE RISE

The rise in the number of COVID-19 cases on a national level is well over 5 million cases in the United States as of August 11th, 2020. Chairman Fox quoted that he believes the COVID-19 Virus is on the upswing because of lack of policies regarding mitigation, the opening up of businesses and also individuals in certain areas of the country who don’t believe that there is a negative impact and choose not to wear masks and other PPE. He said until there is a vaccine that takes effect and we receive herd immunity; those numbers are going to keep climbing. The Tribal Business Council has created a mask mandate for anyone indoors of the tribal public buildings and will be working with vendors to make it a requirement within the entire MHA Nation. The enforcement of fines and penalties are still currently being discussed, but they are coming, according to the Chairman. Chairman Fox says, “We’re doing what we need to do to keep the numbers low.” These requirements will not apply to private properties or non-public areas.

The number of active cases in North Dakota is also at the highest point since the pandemic began with 174 new positive test results as of August 11 increasing the overall total to 1,099. As that number continues to rise, it is causing much concern as families are preparing to send their kids back to school.

FORT BERTHOLD SCHOOLS AND DISTANCE LEARNING

In regard to MHA Nation’s upcoming school year, Chairman Fox was very happy to announce that through a number of meetings involving various leadership, all schools within Fort Berthold have agreed to begin their school year with distance learning. Chairman Fox stressed the importance of protecting the vulnerable as well as the importance of education, “Education is very important and we can’t hide from this disease, we just have to be smart about how we approach it.” 

MULTISYSTEM INFLAMMATORY SYNDROME (MIS-C)

In relation to the topic of school starting, Chairman Fox also addressed his concern about a serious inflammatory syndrome in children, including some teenagers that appears to be linked to COVID-19. It’s called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). Although rare, it can have a major effect on children. It is a very serious condition in which some parts of the body become inflamed, and many, but not all children have been found to be infected by the COVID-19 virus in the past. This is shown by positive antibody results. As of today, researchers have reported nearly 300 cases of the syndrome tied to COVID-19 in kids but there have been no known MIS-C cases in North Dakota.

NO CLINICAL TRIALS IN COVID-19 VACCINE

There have been many concerns raised over an article recently published about the CDC’S selection of the State of North Dakota becoming 1 of 4 states to be part of a pilot project involving a logistical plan for distribution of a hypothetical COVID-19 vaccine to residents. The article noted that it chose North Dakota because of the strength of their immunization program and its strong presence of Native American Reservations in the state. It is important to note that this project does not and will not involve clinical trials in any willing or unwilling individuals. It is a project to develop and implement plans and methods for getting medications to people effectively and efficiently as possible in case of a pandemic. Chairman Fox stated that, as of now, the MHA tribal government has not been formally approached to participate in this project and has neither authorized or approved of it. He says, “We’re going to have to sit down with state officials and the governor and try to understand exactly what we want to accomplish through this process. You can be quite certain that the tribal government and all its affect and power is not going to make our membership part of a clinical trial to see if a vaccine works or not.” He went on to say, “Any vaccine that is going to be developed will need to be FDA approved and properly authorized by the federal government.”

FINANCIALS

In regard to MHA Nation’s current financial situation, Elder’s disbursements in the amount of $2,000 were able to be paid out last month and the TBC hopes to have $1000 checks for all enrolled MHA members mailed out no later than September 15th. Chairman Fox stated that although the tribe has received some COVID-19 Relief federal funding, the amount received does not even equate to 40% of what we need. As a tribe, we are suffering losses due to trust asset, beings we are an energy tribe and have been greatly affected by the downturn in the economy and the price of oil.

ABIDING JUDICIAL PROCESS WITH ONGOING FEDERAL INVESTIGATION

Lastly, Chairman Fox touched briefly on the federal investigation regarding a past and present Tribal Business Council member(s) and says the majority of our council has been very cooperative. He stated that they have always done their best to abide by what is required when it comes to criminal misdoing’s and potential liabilities and have been providing whatever is needed to the FBI when asked. As always, it is important to respect the judicial process and remember that people have rights. They are innocent until proven guilty, and we need to respect that. However, he stated that, “if through that process, it is proven that wrong doing has occurred, that is our responsibility as a government that people are held accountable for their wrong doings.” Chairman Fox also mentioned that there is now currently an Ethic’s Office that was responsibly created as of one year ago. “We now have a viable ethics ordinance that exists where people can properly file claims with merits against individuals who may have violated our ethics ordinance.”