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Health ᒥᔪᐱᒫᑎᓰᐧᐃᓐ

Covid-19 outbreak among Cree patients, staff at Montreal hotel

BY Ben Powless Sep 14, 2020

There have been three confirmed cases of Covid-19 tied to Wiichihiituwin clients and staff in Montreal since last week. 

According to the Cree Health Board, a Wiichihiituwin patient from Eeyou Istchee staying at the Espresso Hotel tested positive for Covid-19 September 10. A non-clinical staff member of the health service – a Montreal resident – also received a positive test result. 

Over the weekend, a contact of one of the first two individuals likewise tested positive for Covid-19. That person is a resident of Eeyou Istchee.

Currently, all individuals are in isolation in Montreal under medical supervision, with both Cree community members in isolation at the Espresso Hotel, which has itself gone into lockdown. It was not immediately known how many individuals were under lockdown at the hotel.

The Cree Health Board cautioned that all information suggests the source of the outbreak likely came from Montreal. “As long as the contacts traced so far continue to comply with their strict isolation guidelines, the current situation at Espresso is unlikely to lead to secondary transmission within the communities,” the CHB added in a statement.

The Board is working with the Montreal Department of Public Health to test all clients and staff. The CHB is trying to trace all contacts of clients, staff and escorts who stayed at the Espresso Hotel between September 1-9. 

Anyone present at the Espresso Hotel during this period who has not already been contacted by public health teams is asked to self-isolate and call the Info-Line at 1-866-855-2811. 

Some 45 of the 51 employees of Wiichihiituwin and the Espresso Hotel have already been tested, with 38 tests negative and seven still pending. 

Out of 143 people identified as clients and escorts, the CHB reported that 83 have tested negative, with 30 results pending, and 28 tests still being organized. 

Another 77 contacts who may have stayed at the Espresso Hotel or have encountered those individuals have been identified, with 22 tested so far. Of those, 17 had negative results, with five pending, and a further 55 tests scheduled. 

For the time being, Wiichihiituwin and the Espresso Hotel have postponed all but urgent medical appointments. All travel by charter or car from Montreal to Eeyou Istchee has also been postponed. 

Individuals who had appointments were to have been contacted by their nurse liaisons, but can follow up with their nurse liaison or the Info-Line for other questions or concerns. 

This brings the number of Eeyou Istchee residents who have tested positive for Covid-19 up to 12, at a time when many jurisdictions across Canada are seeing infection rates increase dramatically. 

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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.