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Local Tribal Communities Respond to Delta Spread with Mask Mandates, Vaccine Incentives

Mole Lake Casino Lodge Facebook

As the Delta variant spreads through Wisconsin, masking across the state is mostly optional and many major entertainment venues remain open.

Local tribal communities, however, are taking a stricter approach.

After an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Sokaogon Chippewa Community, the tribe’s leaders decided to close the Mole Lake Casino until after Labor Day.

It’s a decision they hope will help contain the spread of the contagious Delta variant, says Jake Goodin, the tribe’s public information officer.

“Their belief is that we’re going to have people from all over the state around Labor Day weekend,” Goodin explains, “so [tribal leaders] figured it was better off to keep the reservation shut down to make sure we don’t have any more cases.”

In addition to closing the casino, the tribe has also reimplemented a mask mandate in public buildings on the reservation.

It’s a move the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa has also taken.

Additionally, the tribes are incentivizing people to get the COVID vaccine.

The Sokaogon Chippewa Community has offered free play to the casino for residents and casino employees who got vaccinated.

Now, the Lac du Flambeau tribe and the Forest County Potawatomi are offering t-shirts and Kwik Trip gas cards to tribal residents who get the vaccine.

So far, those incentives have worked.

That’s according to Dan Thompson, who works for LDF as an emergency management coordinator and is the incident commander for the tribe’s COVID-19 response.

“Since we have been offering these incentives, we have definitely seen an increase in people coming in,” Thompson says.

The Lac du Flambeau tribe currently has zero active COVID cases.

With more masks and vaccines, it’s a number Thompson hopes will stick around.

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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