Bureau of Indian Education distributing more than one million masks to schools
Equipping and protecting Tribal communities against the ongoing spike in COVID-19
February 4, 2022
WASHINGTON – The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected Indigenous populations across the country, including among children. In response, the Bureau of Indian Education announced today it is acquiring personal protective equipment to distribute to schools for the health and safety of the Tribal communities it serves.
“Tribal communities have been seriously impacted by the pandemic and have taken proactive measures to protect their communities to stop or slow the spread of COVID for the past two years. With this initiative, we are leveraging our existing resources in rural and remote communities to improve access to protective masks and respirators,” said Bryan Newland – Assistant Secretary, Indian Affairs. “These are critical public health tools that teachers, administrators and students need to protect themselves and others from COVID-19.”
BIE will distribute 600,000 surgical masks for K-12 students at all 183 BIE-funded schools and 600,000 N95 respirators to K-12 schools for staff and adults in student’s households, as well as to Haskell Indian Nations University and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute for students and staff.
“We must each do our part to protect ourselves and each other,” said BIE Director Tony L. Dearman. “We are deploying every resource at our disposal to help protect our students, staff and Tribal communities from this devastating global pandemic.”
By early February, the Biden-Harris administration is issuing 400 million free non-surgical N95 respirators to local pharmacies and community centers to stop the spread of COVID-19. In support of this effort, BIE’s goal is to provide additional access to protective equipment in Tribal communities it serves.
For more information about infection rates in Indian Country, visit the Indian Health Service at https://www.ihs.gov/coronavirus/.
The Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs advises the Secretary of the Interior on Indian Affairs policy issues, communicates policy to and oversees the programs of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Bureau of Indian Education, and the Bureau of Trust Funds Administration, provides leadership in consultations with Tribes, and serves as the DOI official for intra- and inter-departmental coordination and liaison within the Executive Branch on matters concerning American Indians and Alaska Natives and the federally recognized Tribes in the United States.
The Bureau of Indian Education currently supports 183 bureau-funded elementary and secondary schools located on 64 reservations in 23 states that serve approximately 46,000 Indian students. Of these, 53 are BIE-operated, and 130 are Tribally controlled through BIE contracts or grants. Additionally, the BIE directly operates two postsecondary institutions: Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico.