Leech Lake band asks nonresidents to avoid area

The Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe is asking nonresidents to avoid traveling to or through the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leech Lake Chairman Faron Jackson says the band is "taking every precaution to ensure that the health and well-being of our communities is protected."

Jackson asks anyone who lives more than a county away from the reservation's boundaries to "please stay home." The reservation is near the headwaters of the Mississippi River and shares territory with Chippewa National Forest.

In a statement, the Leech Lake band points out that American Indians have higher incidences of underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and respiratory illnesses that make individuals vulnerable to the coronavirus.

The band's Reservation Business Committee has declared a public health emergency, triggering its emergency operations plan. The band also has adopted stay-at-home resolutions and closed nonessential government operations and services, including its casinos.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.