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Another confirmed Covid case in Montreal as outbreaks reported contained in Radisson and Abitibi region

BY Ben Powless Oct 23, 2020

A medical escort travelling to Montreal recently tested positive for Covid-19 but has since recovered, says the Cree Health Board (CHB). 

The CHB reported the case October 5, noting that the escort was placed in isolation while their symptoms were monitored. The individual’s contacts were traced and showed no further risks to other Eeyou Istchee members. 

It is now believed that the person contracted the virus while shopping in Montreal, where another positive case was recorded. The total number cases of Covid-19 among Eeyou Istchee community members since March is now 14, including three cases discovered at the Espresso Hotel in September.  

The Wiichihiituwin Department said it was working hard to keep facilities and ground transportation in Montreal and Val-d’Or safe. Escorts and clients were also reminded to follow health and safety guidelines while travelling outside of Eeyou Istchee, and to limit excursions to only those that are necessary.

Other outbreaks were recorded recently in Radisson and in the Abitibi region. 

A cluster of hydro workers contracted the disease in Radisson. That concerned health authorities, as many community members from Chisasibi and Wemindji regularly travel to Radisson. 

However, an investigation found that all the cases were linked to meetings in one office trailer. No further positive results were discovered from the 73 tests that were then administered in the community. None of the contacts being traced came from the Cree communities. Regardless, the CHB considers Radisson an area of risk.

After a surge of cases in Abitibi-Témiscamingue at the beginning of October, the CHB says the outbreak is under control and the region has a strong contact-tracing capacity. Many of the reported cases appeared to have originated outside the region. 

The Cree leadership and CHB continue to monitor neighbouring regions and assess their risk based on reported cases, the region’s ability to manage an outbreak, and its ability to undertake contact tracing. 

On that basis, most areas of Quebec and the rest of Canada were considered unsafe, except for parts of northern Ontario. 

Regions 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16 and any Hydro-Québec site are currently considered unsafe. The only safe regions are regions 8, 10, 17 and 18, in addition to the Sudbury, Porcupine and Timiskaming regions of Ontario. For mining and forestry sites, individuals are asked to consult the Cree Nation Government website for up-to-date information. 

Across the territory, 1,233 regular tests have been conducted, with 1,217 negative and two awaiting results. Another 1,493 screening tests have been done, with 1,488 testing negative and five awaiting results. 

The CHB will send more specialists to the communities, particularly to augment hemodialysis services. The CHB reminds community members that visiting specialists are required to follow strict screening protocols, supervision and precautionary measures – including multiple tests – and that it is safe to visit the clinics and meet with them.

The Cree School Board (CSB) is monitoring how students are adapting to new regulations. A recent survey showed that students are generally adapting well to the new routines. Of 389 students in post-secondary programs, half chose to remain in their communities. 

Sabtuan Adult Education is successfully following guidelines with its online-learning/in-person hybrid approach. 

Local schools were surveying parents to determine their capacity to move to online learning if it became necessary. The CSB was also developing plans so that students with special needs could receive the support necessary. 

After concerns were raised about anxiety among school staff from the responsibility to implement Covid-19 related measures, the CSB said it was working on a plan to ensure teaching staff has rest and recuperation days. 

The CHB is alarmed at the increasing rates of infection outside Eeyou Istchee. “Southern Quebec and Ontario see daily case numbers at alarming high levels requiring the implementation of ever stricter measures in an attempt to flatten the curve of the second wave of Covid-19,” the public health board said in a statement.

The news comes as several regions of Quebec move into the “red zone” status with severe restrictions on permitted activities, including Montreal, Quebec City and Chaudière-Appalaches. 

Since the beginning of October, Canada has seen days with over 2,800 confirmed cases, breaking previous daily records set in May. In early October, Quebec reported more than 1,300 cases in a single day. 

At press time, Canada’s total cases are at over 188,000, with 89,000 in Quebec. There have been 9,662 deaths attributed to the virus, with 5,976 in Quebec. This matched concerns about a second wave seen to be sweeping much of the world as the weather cooled. 

Meanwhile, nearly 250,000 Canadians applied on the first day for a new economic benefit, the Canada Recovery Benefit, meant to replace the Canada Emergency Response Benefit that expired. The new program provided $500 a week for up to 26 weeks for those who don’t qualify for employment insurance.

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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.