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Reopening, Phase 2

BY Ben Powless Jul 3, 2020

The Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay announced on June 23 that Eeyou Istchee was ready to enter Phase 2 of deconfinement, as Covid-19 cases remained static in the region. 

Announcing the change in Covid-19 measures, Board Chairperson Bella Moses Petawabano noted on the Cree Radio Network that there are “no new cases, and we want to keep it this way.” 

She cautioned, however, that, “The reopening will be slow and gradual.” 

This means that several previous restrictions have been lifted, some have been altered, while others remain in place.

Larger social gatherings of up to five households will be permitted outside, if there is adequate space for ventilation and physical distancing – including avoiding direct contact, sharing food or utensils, and team sports. Individual sports, like walking, jogging or biking, are allowed. 

Indoor social gatherings can resume for up to two households, ideally with the same families as during Goose Break.

All local businesses and public services can reopen, providing precautionary measures are in place. These include screening for symptomatic workers, self-isolation for those who have travelled to an at-risk area and ensuring physical distancing between clients and staff. The services may reopen at different times in different communities, so it’s important to check with local authorities.

Non-essential healthcare services, such as dentists or other specialists, are also able to return to work. 

Daycares are set to slowly increase capacity, and in Phase 3 will be allowed to have 75% of their normal capacity. Day camps will remain closed until Phase 3 is implemented. 

The childcare program by the Cree School Board is set to end June 26. Secondary 4 and 5 students are to receive their results by early July, with summer school to begin for those students July 13. 

The decision to move to Phase 2 was based on three factors, Petawabano said. They include the results of previous phases, the overall situation with Covid-19 in the region and across Quebec, and the ability of communities to deal with health challenges. 

Overall, 533 tests have been conducted for the public in Eeyou Istchee, with 516 coming back negative, 10 positive results having recovered, and seven still waiting for results. There were 438 tests done for healthcare workers and other high-risk workers with no positive results, and 15 are still awaiting results. Nearly two months have passed since the last positive case in Eeyou Istchee.

Petawabano stressed that hygiene measures remain in place: regular handwashing, proper coughing and sneezing etiquette, maintaining a two-metre distance from others, and limiting trips outside the home – especially for those with fragile health, while children should be left at home as much is possible. She also strongly recommended that masks be used when distancing can’t be maintained, such as in stores.

Non-essential travel is still permitted within Eeyou Istchee, Nunavik and Region 10. But anyone travelling outside of these areas or to any mine site, forestry camp or Hydro-Québec site is required to undergo 14 days of self-isolation upon returning. 

Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean, Region 2, has declared nine cases in the past few weeks, with dozens of others under contact-tracing investigation. 

The number of new cases declined to 53 across the province June 24, the lowest daily number since March. However, Quebec’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, warned in a CBC interview that Quebec is likely to see a second deadly wave of infections as early as mid-August. 

“Covid-19 has presented many challenges for our Cree Nation, our communities and our people. The situation we’ve been living in this spring has left many people feeling worried, anxious and down,” Petawabano stressed on her radio announcement.

“We can help each other by talking about this. If you would like to talk to someone, we invite you to call Wiichihiiwaauwin, the Cree Health Board’s phone line. You can speak to someone in Cree and ask to speak with a traditional healer.”

That number is 1-833-632-4357. 

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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.