Winnebago Reservation announces new mask mandate amidst rising COVID cases

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WINNEBAGO, Neb. (KCAU) – As COVID cases in the tri-state area rise, a local tribe is taking steps to ensure the safety of their community.

As of July 20, the Winnebago tribe is bringing back mask mandates for all indoor public buildings. This is an effort to combat an uptick in new cases.

Winnebago Public Health Administrator Mona Zuffante said the decision to reinstate mask mandates was out of an abundance of caution.

“Looking at the changes that have been occurring since we actually lifted the mask mandate. Kind of looking around the globe and seeing what’s going on in the countries. So all of those different factors,” said Zuffante.

There is currently no timetable for the reservations mask mandate.

“I think we need to just continue to, you know, gather that data and look at how this effects us and as I said, we’re a small community, but we also have a lot of health disparities and so, you know with COVID obviously we’ve seen that nationally that it affected, you know, Native Americans,” said Zuffante.

The Siouxland District Health Department said vaccination rates in the Tri-state area remain low.

“We still continue to have vaccines going out to many different outlets. Right now we’re right at about 40% of our total population is being fully vaccinated. It gets closer to 50% of those that have at least initiated the series. In the last week, you know, say two weeks ago, we had about 16 to 17 cases. This last week collectively came up at about 47, which is a cause for concern for what it is,” said Kevin Grieme, Director of the Siouxland District Health Department.

Even with a 71% vaccination rate on the Winnebago reservation, the tribe said that is not enough to ditch the masks.

“We have had, I think there’s about 12 active cases today and within the last few weeks we’ve had several breakthroughs of our vaccinated. And so that kind of is, you know, concerning because we are a small community,” said Zuffante.

The 71% of vaccinated residents are part of the near 1,500 people on the reservation who are eligible to get the shot.

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