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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Inchelium under nightly curfew as COVID outbreak surges

Inchelium will now have a nightly curfew in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation announced Monday.

The curfew is active each day between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m., effective immediately. Residents and visitors to the reservation must remain indoors during the curfew, except for essential travel to a verifiable place of employment or to seek urgent medical attention.

“With the spike that is presently occurring, it was important for us to take additional measures to keep our people safe as much as possible,” Colville Business Council Chairman Rodney Cawston said.

As of Tuesday, the reservation has 60 active cases, with 47 of those in the Inchelium District. Additionally, 42 people are in preventative quarantine across the reservation, including 36 people in Inchelium.

As of last Friday, Ferry County had 122 total cases of the virus, with just 68 of those in the past two weeks, according to the Northeast Tri County Health District, which covers Ferry, Pend Oreille and Stevens counties.

The reservation has been closed to nonessential visitors since March with the closure continuing through the end of the year.

Most of the reservation’s guidance has followed what Gov. Jay Inslee has put in place for the state, Cawston said.

While Inslee has not implemented a statewide curfew, Cawston said he needed to do more to keep everyone safe, especially as the cases in Inchelium keep rising.

“We’ve thought we’ve already done pretty much everything, but at least putting a curfew in would bring a public awareness to our communities and continue to slow people down in their interactions,” he said.

Those who violate the curfew may be cited or prosecuted according to the Colville Tribal Code, according to a news release. Cawston said they haven’t assessed any penalties for breaking the stay-home order, but law enforcement has the ability to do so.

Northeast Tri County Health District administrator Matt Schanz said he supports the tribal council taking the measure it deems appropriate to stop the spread.

Schanz said the district is aware of those measures but wasn’t involved in the conversations about it. The district does its best to be good partners with the tribes, he added.

The COVID outbreak is affecting more than just the community’s health. Because of rising numbers, convenience store Short Stop has had to cut its hours, cashier Sara Finley said.

The convenience store announced Friday its hours would now be 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., opening one hour later and closing one hour earlier than before. Because so many people are getting sick or having to quarantine, Finley said, business has been slow, so they can’t afford to stay open for as long.

“We had to cut back,” she said.

The business won’t be affected by the new curfew, as it closes before the curfew starts each night.

Business across the street at the Inchelium Community Store has also been slow since the stay-home order went into effect, manager Bessie Simpson said. Because it is the only grocery store in town, it is still considered essential and can stay open.

The store closes at 6 every night, so it also won’t be affected by the curfew.

“I think (the curfew) is a good idea,” Simpson said. “But the people who will follow it are the ones that really don’t need it.”

Cawston said he is concerned about the toll the stay-home orders and the new curfew have on businesses, but they tried to start it at a time when many businesses are already closed.

Finley said she’s seen people in the district out late and partying with people outside their households. Her hope is that with the right enforcement, the curfew will help end that.

“It will get us in the right direction,” she said. “I’d like to see something more happen, but I’m not too sure what else can be done at this given time.”

Finley, 26, said it’s the younger generation that seems to be acting out, and she wants to see the pandemic under control as soon as possible.

“Being just a small community, you’d think we’d be able to come together a lot better,” she said.

Cawston said no one was expecting the virus to hit their communities as hard as it has, especially because of how remote and rural they are. But because everyone is so close in Inchelium, if one person leaves the reservation and comes back with COVID-19, it can spread quickly.

A lot of people naturally come in contact with each other, he said.

“It just goes to show, this disease doesn’t have any boundaries as to where it travels and who it impacts,” he said.

Laurel Demkovich's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.