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Sports, children’s activities, church gatherings can resume with some restrictions

BY Ben Powless Jul 9, 2020

Fresh off the recent announcement to move the communities of Eeyou Istchee into Phase 3 of deconfinement, the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB) took another step to relax pandemic-related restrictions July 7.

The move reflects the board’s confidence that existing isolation measures have been effective – with no new cases of Covid-19 in Eeyou Istchee since May. 

The biggest changes now allow for up to 10 households to meet outdoors, and for members of up to five households to meet indoors. Sports facilities, daycares, summer camps and other facilities are also now able to open. 

Members of different households will still be required to practice physical distancing during their gatherings. This includes activities on the land, such as bush camps, hunting or fishing, as well as activities in communities, such as playgrounds and beaches. 

Indoor gatherings are still at higher risk than outdoor gatherings, which is why gatherings of up to five will be permitted, up from two. This will apply to places like churches, workshops and support groups. 

Individuals are still expected to avoid all direct contact such as handshakes and hugs or sharing food and utensils. Indoor spaces should be well ventilated and have enough room for distancing. 

Indoor sports facilities, including gyms, arenas and swimming pools, can also reopen providing the previous provisions are followed. Team sports, both indoors and outdoors, are free to resume. 

Activities for children and youth, including summer camps and school activities, are likewise now permitted. However, those centres are asked to aim for a maximum 75% occupancy during this phase. 

Childcare centres are currently operating at 40% capacity, with the goal of operating at 50% capacity by July 20, 75% by August 3, and 100% by August 16.

Caregivers are still asked to keep groups to no more than 10 people, including caregivers. They will also be asked to keep a registry on which students and caregivers are present every day. 

Children under the age of 12 will be allowed to play with each other without following physical distancing rules, though they are still encouraged to stay apart a metre if possible. Children 12 and above are still to observe physical distancing protocols. Outdoor activities are preferred over indoor activities.

Summer classes are scheduled to begin July 13. Summer school teachers arrived last month and have been in isolation since then. 

Cree School Board offices in Eeyou Istchee are set to reopen with rotating schedules, while offices in Montreal and Ottawa remain closed, with their staff members working remotely.

Eeyou Istchee has conducted more than 600 tests for Covid-19 among community members, with only four people awaiting results. Since testing began, 586 tested negative for the virus. The last of the 10 positive results came in May. Of the 579 frontline workers tested, 573 were negative while six are still waiting for results.

Outside of Eeyou Istchee, there have been recently confirmed cases in Region 8 (Abitibi-Témiscamingue) and Region 2 (Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean). This means that travel to Region 8 should be avoided until at least July 14 if no other cases are detected. A determination of Region 2 has yet to be completed.

Anyone who travels outside of Eeyou Istchee, Nunavik or Region 10 (Nord-du-Québec) are required to self-isolate for 14 days upon returning. 

The CBHSSJB included this reminder in their update: “It is extremely important to practice physical distancing and precautionary measures. Everyone must do what they can to protect fellow community members. People might be comfortable with accepting a certain level of risk, but you must give thought to those vulnerable people at home which you might be bringing something back to.” 

Across Quebec, there have been roughly 56,000 reported Covid-19 cases, though the rate of new cases is now less than 100 per day. That’s a dramatic decline from the past few months, where daily new cases often surpassed 1,000. 

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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.