The Bois Forte Band of Chippewa is partnering with the Minnesota Health Department to host two, free COVID-19 testing events.
“Open to everyone. Symptoms or no symptoms. Free. No insurance needed,” reads the notice on the Bois Forte Band’s official Facebook page. Both events are scheduled for 12-6 p.m. on Thursday. Individuals can get tested at the Bois Forte Government and Community Service in Nett Lake and the Health Services in Tower.
The events are being held as the coronavirus continues to spread across tribal nations set in northern Minnesota.
As of Tuesday, the federal Indian Health Services reported that 1,144 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the Bemidji area.
That same day, the Bois Forte Band lead nurse Terri Morrison announced that one resident tested positive for COVID-19. They are in their 30s and reside on the Nett Lake sector of the reservation.
“Bois Forte Reservation currently has 11 active positive cases of COVID-19, eight in Nett Lake and three in Vermilion,” Morrison wrote in a statement on the band’s website. “Bois Forte has had a total of 16 active and recovered positive cases of COVID-19, nine in Nett Lake and seven in Vermilion.”
The band’s health officials have been engaged in contact tracing and plan to continue following up on individuals suspected of being exposed to anyone who tests positive for the coronavirus. The band has been collaborating with the state Health Department to “ensure a robust and thorough public health response,” Morrison wrote.
Tribal and state leaders ask that individuals sign up for appointments to help them prepare for social distancing measures in the buildings. Register online at www.primarybio.com/r/boisforte or on the Minnesota Health website.
COVID-19 update for northern Minnesota
The testing events on the reservation also come as tribal leaders call attention to the growing number of coronavirus cases in surrounding counties.
At the end of June, Koochiching County (Pop. 12,500) reported nine cases and zero deaths, according to the state Health Department. As of Tuesday, the county now has 88 cases and three deaths.
In the same time frame, Itasca County (Pop. 43,000) had 63 cases and 12 deaths. The county now has 201 cases with the same death toll.
In St. Louis County (Pop. 200,000), health officials reported 161 cases at the end of June, with 130 in Duluth. The county now reports 902 cases and 23 deaths.
The city of Duluth (Pop. 85,884) accounts for the majority of the current cases at 596 since mid-March, yet the number of cases has been steadily increasing in the smaller communities of the Iron Range: Hibbing, 39; Quad Cities, 24; and Virginia, 22; Tower, 12; Ely, 11; and Orr, 10, according to data from the county’s COVID-19 dashboard on Tuesday.
Kids, teens and young adults have become the most infected sector of the population in St. Louis County. Data from the county shows that individuals ages 15-19 account for 16 percent of the cases, a high percentage considering the state’s remains at 9 percent. The same goes for people ages 20-24 who make up 17 percent of the cases, compared to the state’s 13 percent.
Overall, St. Louis County residents ages 1 to 106 have been infected with the virus. People ranging from 13 to 92 years old have been hospitalized and individuals 62 to 106 died. A total of 68 individuals who tested positive have been hospitalized and 18 have spent time in intensive-care units.