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Health ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

As Covid cases spread across Quebec, Eeyou Istchee remains a yellow zone

BY Ben Powless Nov 6, 2020

As Covid-19 cases continue to climb in Quebec and across the globe, Eeyou Istchee remains a relatively safe zone. 

Six regions in Quebec moved into the so-called “red zone”, with the most stringent restrictions, while the remaining regions in the south are split between orange zones and orange zones with some red territories. Only Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nord-du-Québec /Eeyou Istchee, Côte-Nord and Nunavik remain in the yellow zone. 

The Quebec government announced that many of the restrictions imposed in early October will continue until November 23. 

In Region 2, Saguenay Lac-St-Jean, the Quebec government set up an information checkpoint on Route 167 north of La Dore to warn people of the risks, but travel is still permitted. The Cree Health Board (CHB) is recommending against unnecessary trips to the region.

Region 8, Abitibi-Témiscamingue, despite having a few cases reported, is still considered safe by Cree authorities – except for Radisson, where there was a recent outbreak. Public health officials there were nearly finished contact tracing. No contacts were found to have come from Cree communities.

Over 20 Covid cases have been reported at Hydro-Québec installations across Eeyou Istchee in October, and they are currently considered unsafe. 

In Ontario, the areas of Sudbury, Porcupine and Timiskaming, which includes Timmins, North Bay and Moosonee, are still considered safe, despite an outbreak of nine cases in Sudbury. 

This means that the only regions considered safe for travel for Cree community members were Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Nord-du-Québec outside of Radisson, Nunavik and Eeyou Istchee. Additionally, workers at any mine site or forestry camp are required to self-isolate when returning, with the exception of workers at the Windfall mining exploration site, Renard mine site, Éléonore mine site, or Forestry Camp at km 105, with the appropriate documentation. 

In anticipation of Christmas shopping, community members are urged to continue shopping online or from local businesses. Where possible, it is suggested to designate one person to shop on behalf of others to limit exposure.

A new protocol has been developed concerning funerals when the weather will not allow for outdoor ceremonies. Well-ventilated indoor spaces will be required, following protocols for local self-isolation where necessary. 

The CHB is urging community members to get a flu shot, which will be free and available starting in November. Since the symptoms are similar to Covid-19, there is a concern that many people could be anxious about catching the flu this year. 

The CHB is working to increase its testing capacity. This could allow for a reduced self-isolation period of seven days, in anticipation of students returning home for the Christmas holidays. They expect to make an announcement November 17.

The CHB is also trying to bring more specialists to the communities, as it is considered safer than sending patients and escorts south for medical appointments. 

The Cree School Board (CSB) reminds parents to complete the daily health questionnaire for their children, and that masks are needed for students in Grade 5 and up, though none are needed for those in Grade 4 and under unless the student or parents desired one. 

A new school curriculum is being developed based on two terms instead of three to allow more flexibility in assessing and monitoring students’ progress. Currently, the CSB has 389 registered post-secondary students, with 112 of those studying remotely from the communities. 

As it is anticipated that in-person orientation trips will be unavailable for potential post-secondary students, virtual orientation sessions are being prepared. 

As of October 27, 1,298 tests had been completed in Eeyou Istchee. Of those, 1283 were negative, one is awaiting results, and one case of Covid remains active. A further 1,611 screening tests were conducted, with 1,604 negative, and seven awaiting results. Another 942 screening tests were conducted in Montreal on patients and escorts.

Quebec has now over 100,000 cases of Covid, and 6,200 deaths. Canada has over 224,000 cases, and more than 10,000 deaths from the virus. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.