A sign welcoming people to Indian Island has a second sign warning of a checkpoint, installed by the Penobscot Nation during the height of COVID-19. Credit: Sawer Loftus / BDN

The Penobscot Nation will suspend its youth program and daycare on Indian Island by the end of the week to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The temporary closure is one of several measures the Penobscot Nation outlined in a letter to community members on Wednesday as coronavirus cases have surged throughout Penobscot County.

Those measures also include reducing the number of workers at tribal offices, barring public access to tribal offices except for the health center and public safety facilities, instituting a mask mandate inside tribal buildings, banning public meetings and gatherings and prohibiting most visitors to the tribe’s assisted living facility. 

All new measures take effect Friday at the close of business, Chief Kirk Francis wrote in the letter.

“I understand that this is disappointing and frustrating news. Our hope is that these measures will only have to be in place short term,” Francis said. “We will continue to evaluate the situation weekly. Our goal and objective, first and foremost, is to protect public health.”

Francis also encouraged community members to get vaccinated against COVID-19 if they had not already and asked members to wear masks in public. 

Two weeks ago, leaders from the Penobscot Nation Health Department hosted a virtual town hall to discuss the status of the pandemic with members of the Penobscot Nation.

During that meeting, health director Candy Henderly said that current estimates put the Penobscot Nation’s vaccination rate between 33 percent and 45 percent, both below the statewide vaccination rate. 

For now, officials will monitor the situation week by week to determine next steps and what changes need to be made, Francis said. 

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Sawyer Loftus

Sawyer Loftus is an investigative reporter at the Bangor Daily News. A graduate of the University of Vermont, Sawyer grew up in Vermont where he worked for Vermont Public Radio, The Burlington Free Press...