Virus Spikes Take North Dakota Tribes ‘Back to Square One’

North Dakota Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis says the state’s tribes are “back to square one” after recent coronavirus outbreaks linked to July Fourth gatherings.

The Spirit Lake Nation in northeastern North Dakota took measures in the spring to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, including the financially painful decision to close the casino where many tribal members work. COVID-19 numbers stayed relatively low.

Then residents became complacent and attended gatherings over the July Fourth weekend, translating into a spike in cases, tribal officials said. The reservation’s primary county, Benson County, has had the most confirmed new cases per capita in the state in the last two weeks, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Similar increases are being reported among other tribes in North Dakota, state Indian Affairs Commissioner Scott Davis said.

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