Santee Sioux Raise Concerns About Variant, Encourage Vaccination

SANTEE, Neb. — The Santee Sioux Nation’s task force has raised concerns about the new COVID-19 variant and is encouraging unvaccinated tribal members to receive the shot.

The Santee Sioux Nation is located in northern Knox County, Nebraska. Tribal members also live off the reservation.

“The task force meeting set for (Tuesday) was surrounded immediately about the rising threat of the Delta variant around the United States and especially those cases rising close to home in the surrounding areas,” the tribe said this week in a Facebook post.

“We urge all of our tribal members and neighbors to get vaccinated. It is known that this pandemic is far from over,” the post added.

Knox County has recorded 1,160 positive COVID-19 cases out of a total population of 8,426 (according to 2019 census estimates) for a 13.8% infection rate.

The North Central District Health Department (NCDHD) reported, as of July 21 and the preceding seven days, Knox County had recorded one positive case among 68 tests.

So far, the pandemic has apparently hit hardest among the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. Those groups are urged to receive COVID-19 vaccinations, which are now open to anyone ages 12 and older.

Tribal officials and the Santee Health Center have focused efforts on COVID-19 since the pandemic began, first on testing and treatment at the outbreak and now including vaccination efforts.

“The Santee Sioux Nation has not had a single case of COVID-19 coronavirus since January 6th, 2021 and we are proud to announce that with continued vigilance,” the Facebook post said.

The Delta variant, now found in all 50 states, appears to spread faster and has become the dominant strain of the virus. The first case in the United States was identified in March. By early July, the variant had accounted for more than half of the cases in the U.S. and now makes up 83% of U.S. cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The largest number of new cases from the variant appears to come from unvaccinated people, according to CDC data.

Santee Sioux tribal and health officials are urging members not to ease up on their vigilance against the coronavirus.

“Tribal headquarters, tribal programs and tribal businesses are requested to use their protocols and procedures in instances where a threat of the virus is among us,” the post said. “We urge our programs to continue with the good work and steadfast vigilance in order to provide safe services to our people, our clients and our patrons.”

The tribe and health officials are looking ahead to the start of the school year, which brings with it interaction among students and also the general public attending their activities.

“With the public schools opening up, (and with) Nebraska Indian Community College and other entities pacing towards fully opening, we are proud to announce that we are prepared to take action in any case where there is threat of a virus spread in our community or places of business,” the post said, not specifying what actions would be taken.

“Lastly, we have events in the planning for future vaccination encouragement, and we plan to continue working towards a safe and healthy lifestyle and environment. The safety and welfare of our people and our children are first and forefront, of course the concern for our neighbor communities as well.”

The Santee clinic has begun offering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. Anyone interested in receiving the vaccine should call Dava at the clinic (402) 857-2300 to set up an appointment.

The NCDHD, which includes Knox County, has listed upcoming clinics (all Moderna) that require calling ahead or setting up online appointments. They include two clinics July 27 from 1-3 p.m. at Avera Creighton Hospital in Creighton, Nebraska, and from 1-4:45 p.m. at the Rock County Hospital in Bassett, Nebraska.

The next round of Pfizer vaccines will be Aug. 5 at 10:30 a.m. at Santee Community Schools and August 27 at 10 a.m. at Niobrara Public Schools in Niobrara, Nebraska. The vaccines are open to anyone age 12 and over.

The Santee Sioux Nation’s Facebook post encouraged the public to get vaccinated and continue taking precautions against the new variant.

“We recommend that everyone should continue precautions such as, social distancing, masks (still optional in public facilities), wash hands often, sanitize often (and) limit your attendance in public places or large groups,” the post said.

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