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Eeyou Istchee moves into Phase 4 of deconfinement

BY Ben Powless Aug 21, 2020

Cree health authorities announced August 18 that the successful efforts to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in Eeyou Istchee has enabled communities to move into Phase 4 of deconfinement.

This relaxes the remaining restrictions on gatherings, allowing for events such as weddings and graduation ceremonies to take place. Indoor gatherings of 50 people, and outdoor gatherings of 150 people, are now allowed. However, physical distancing of two metres and other precautionary and hygienic measures must still be maintained. 

However, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) observed that many jurisdictions across Canada and the world continue to struggle with containing the virus. Even though most of Quebec was doing well with the coronavirus, the board observed, Montreal remains a hotspot. 

The news comes a week before schools across Eeyou Istchee open for a physical return of students to classrooms. 

The CBHSSJB now deems travel to Regions 1-5, 7-12, 17 and 18 as safe, meaning self-isolation upon return to Eeyou Istchee is no longer required. Only travelers to Regions 6 (Montreal), 13 (Laval), 14 (Lanaudière), 15 (Laurentians) and 16 (Montérégie) still require self-isolation of 14 days.

Workers visiting any Hydro-Québec site, forestry site or mining site also require self-isolation, with the exception of Osisko Mining’s Windfall Lake site on presentation of proper documentation.

Training and information sessions for Eeyou Eenou Police Force members are in full swing, as well as an evaluation of resources such as personal protective equipment that may be needed for a second wave. July only saw three files opened for violations of the self-confinement law, which the CHBSSJB said showed that most were following proper health procedures. 

Across the communities, 803 tests have been administered, with 782 coming back negative, and 11 awaiting results. An additional 980 screening tests have been conducted, with 972 coming back negative, and eight awaiting results. 

The CHBSSJB cautioned, however, that even though false positives were not common, false negatives were known to be possible. That means that up to a third of individuals who have no symptoms and test negative may actually be infected by the virus. The health agency pledged to keep up on testing. 

As many governments across the world struggle to get this first wave of infections under control, it serves as a reminder that many of these measures may have to continue until a viable vaccine can be found. 

Across the world, more than 165 vaccines are currently in development by different pharmaceutical companies and governments. 

Typical vaccine development often takes years, involving significant research and testing and may involve lengthy and costly permits from governments. As governments rush to develop a vaccine, many of those processes are being expedited. 

The first human trials for a Covid-19 vaccine began in March, and many more are currently in human trials. Many pharmaceutical companies are racing to try and meet a White House demand for a vaccine before the US election in November, but it is expected that most vaccines wouldn’t be ready until early next year.

The US’s Food and Drug Administration has said that it considers a vaccine that prevents 50% or more infections to be effective. 

Across Canada, over 118,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed, with 60,000 of those cases in Quebec alone. So far 9,000 people have died from the disease, including 5,700 in Quebec. 

In the US, over 5.5 million people have been infected, with 170,000 dead from the disease. According to the New York Times, however, an analysis of “excess deaths” shows that over 200,000 people have likely died in the pandemic.

Globally, over 18.5 million have contracted the disease, with over 700,000 deaths. The US, Brazil and India remain hotspots, each reporting tens of thousands of new cases every day. 

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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.