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Health ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Assessing the Covid situation as the second wave hits Quebec

BY Ben Powless Oct 9, 2020

As Covid-19 cases rise across Quebec and the rest of the country, one new case occured in the community of Kuujjuaraapik, neighbouring on Whapmagoostui, but health authorities believe the case is contained.

According to Jenny Simpraseuth of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS), the case was confirmed September 21 from an individual who is believed to have become infected while travelling in the south. 

“All the significant contacts have been reached, tested and isolated. From the information we have from the investigation, there is no Covid-19 circulation in the community,” Simpraseuth said. 

The Cree Health Board (CHB) is working with the NRBHSS and confirmed that none of the person’s contacts were residents of Whapmagoostui and said there was no need to close services or schools in the community at this time. 

That news comes as the Quebec government confirmed that a second wave of Covid-19 has struck the province, raising the threat level to its maximum in several areas.

This follows the discovery of three positive Covid-19 cases recently at Montreal’s Espresso Hotel, affecting Crees travelling south for health care. The CHB issued a statement expressing gratitude to the hotel staff and to patients forced to stay in the hotel under self-isolation measures. 

“There was a total of three cases that arose and after contact tracing it can be confirmed that Covid-19 was quickly contained and there was no transmission of Covid-19 in Espresso or beyond those three cases,” the statement read. 

The CHB said it would be using the experience to help improve its response and services at the Espresso for the future. 

The statement also said the Cree Nation is still confident that the “maximum measures” have been put into place to insulate Eeyou Istchee from the “alarming trend” of rising cases in the south. 

“The immediate implementation of preventative measures like physical distancing, mask wearing when appropriate and most importantly our local mandatory self-isolation have allowed us to be confident in opening schools and giving children as normal a life as possible during these trying times,” the statement continued.

A new committee in the Cree Nation Government will support local public security officers to assist with exemption requests from local mandatory self-isolation laws. 

Public health authorities were also looking at making adaptations for regional gatherings, such as the Regional Science Fair and Art Contests, and said they will be shared soon. 

A recent survey of post-secondary students was completed with over 350 respondents, indicating that 55% of them have decided to continue their studies from their communities.

The Cree School Board reminded parents to fill out the mandatory daily student health checks on eeyoueducation.ca, whether or not children are attending class.

As of September 29, there was still one active case of Covid-19 related to the Espresso Hotel outbreak, with 12 total cases recovered. With 1,134 regular tests, 1,112 tests returned negative and another nine were waiting for results. A further 1,385 screening tests were done, with 1,371 negative results and 14 still awaiting results. 

For those travelling outside of Eeyou Istchee, there are several changes to regions considered unsafe. All except regions 8 (Abitibi-Témiscamingue), 10 (Nord-du-Québec), 17 (Centre-du-Québec) and 18 (James Bay) are now considered unsafe, with regions 1, 4, 9, 11 and 12 considered unsafe since September 18 and region 2 considered unsafe starting October 2. In Ontario, Sudbury, Porcupine, Timiskaming and North Bay are considered safe for now. 

All mining sites are considered unsafe except for those with proper documentation from the Windfall Lake site of Osisko Mining Inc, the Renard site of Stornoway, and the Éléonore site of Newmont as of October 5. All forestry camps, except the Forestry Camp at Km 105 are also considered unsafe. 

Anyone who travelled to an unsafe area is required to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning to Eeyou Istchee. 

There was a confirmed outbreak of four cases recently in the Porcupine Health Unit region surrounding Moose Factory, with three cases alone on Moose Factory Island, according to a statement from Moose Cree Chief Mervin Cheechoo. 

Cases have begun to rapidly rise across the country, with recent days seeing over 1,700 new cases nationally, and over 800 a day in Quebec alone. 

In response, the Quebec government has limited all gatherings and parties and closed bars, restaurants, theatres, libraries, museums, casinos and cinemas until at least October 28 across Greater Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches. 

Quebec has pledged not to close schools even in the regions facing new outbreaks. 

Ontario is also fighting large outbreaks, with the government estimating it would likely see 1,000 new cases a day in early October. However, Premier Doug Ford has said the province will not return to the lockdowns seen earlier in the pandemic and says he intends to keep schools open.

This comes as the federal government passed new legislation providing for more financial aid for unemployed or underemployed workers. The measure is meant to help transition millions of recipients of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit to employment insurance, which will have expanded eligibility rules and benefits. 

Across Canada, there were over 153,000 reported cases of Covid-19 and over 9,300 deaths. Globally, over 33.7 million cases were reported, as the global death toll passed one million deaths. 

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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.