PESHAWBESTOWN — The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians are among those in the region who are seeing an acceleration of daily caseloads among Michigan’s fourth COVID-19 wave.
In the month of November alone, GTB has seen 20 new cases at its health department — more than half its total of 36 cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
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This is a cause of concern for the tribe’s Health Department because it members live in counties that are also reporting staggering numbers of new cases.
Leelanau County has seen more than 200 new confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, according to data released from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
The Grand Traverse Health Department’s COVID-19 data reports that the county currently is categorized as Red, and now is considered to have high transmission according to the CDC.
As the number of cases continues to rise throughout northwest Lower Michigan, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the state ranked worst-in-the-nation for new infections and patient counts, as reported last week by the Record Eagle.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the tribe has taken strong steps in efforts to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus and to protect the community by implementing progressive policies, such as aggressive testing and vaccination availability.
The Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians’ Health Department continues to make it a top priority by still offering testing and vaccines, which are are available on tribal properties throughout Grand Traverse, Benzie, Antrim and Leelanau counties.
As previously reported by the Record-Eagle, GTB has been among those leading in the region to roll out availability for newly approved COVID-19 vaccinations to those eligible.
Through the tribe’s health department, 4,334 total doses have been administered to the community since becoming available in December 2020, according to the tribe’s health administrator, Soumit Pendharker.
Earlier this month, the Pfizer vaccine for children became available at the tribe’s Health Clinic to tribal citizens ages 5 to 11 and members of their household, with eligibility expanding to include children in households of GTB employees and tribal citizens.
Beginning in October, GTB Health Department began administering both the Moderna and Pfizer-Biotech boosters to eligible patients and now administered more than 183 in the community, expanding its efforts to any eligible adult needing the booster shot.
Pendharker stated that in response to the recent rise in COVD cases throughout the region, the tribe will continue to make testing and vaccine availability for the GTB community a top priority, but also will begin offering a new COVID-19 treatment.
Beginning Dec. 2, GTB Health Clinic will offer monoclonal antibody therapy to COVID-19-positive patients, and will also be the first in the region to offer it at this level.
“Some of our patients have had the therapy done and they’ve had really amazing results, we are excited to expand the accessibility to all of our patients,” Pendharker said.
Since being granted Emergency Use Authorization by the FDA earlier this year, monoclonal antibody therapy has not been accessible outside infusion centers or hospitals.
Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses.
According to the FDA, “Casirivimab and imdevimab are monoclonal antibodies that are specifically directed against the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry into human cells.”
Pendharker said GTB is excited to offer the treatment that may help prevent deaths and serious complications that lead to hospitalization.