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The latest on Covid-19 in Eeyou Istchee

BY Lachlan Madill Jun 5, 2020

With no new Covid-19 cases reported in a month, the number of total infections in the territory remains stable at 10. This means Eeyou Istchee has one of the lowest regional case rates in Quebec.

In her weekly update, Cree Health Board chairperson Bella Petawabano said this is something to be proud of. “This has been achieved through a very cautious approach that includes strict limits on travel, and proactive testing and contact tracing,” she said.

No active cases remain in Eeyou Istchee, although two elders succumbed to the illness in May. CBH has done 447 tests to date with 429 returning negative and 18 awaiting results. There were also 57 asymptomatic screening tests, which health authorities say take longer for results.

As deconfinement starts rolling out across Quebec and the various health regions, Petawabano stressed that Eeyou Istchee will not be following the rest of the province in that plan. She stated that there will be “different rules and regulations” as well as a slower deconfinement than the rest of Quebec.

The low number of infections signals that the way things have been handled in Eeyou Istchee has been effective. “If this trend continues, the people should be confident that the region is Covid-19 free, and people should feel confident to travel between communities,” said Petawabano.

Up to this point, the 10 cases have been traced back to outside the territory via air travel to Montreal and internationally. 

Jason Coonishish, the coordinator of Prehospital and Emergency Measures with the CBH, says that the risk now is community transmission. “Now it’s going to a different level because transmission is going to be travelling by vehicles when people travel to other regions,” he noted.

Coonishish said there is a plan in place for that because of deconfinement rollout across the province. He explained that the 14-day self-isolation law for people returning from certain high-rish regions is a result of that.

As for the plan, checkpoints will be set up with local community Covid teams and other health authorities to screen people entering Eeyou Istchee communities to help contain any future outbreaks. 

“We will be asking questions to find out their names, addresses and phone numbers, and where they’ve been, and for how long,” Coonishish said.

The information gives contact-tracing teams a head start if someone entering a community begins to exhibit symptoms and shows up at a clinic, said Coonishish. “That way we can contain it fast.”

So far, the measures like the house service for suspect cases and lodgings provided to isolate people for 14 days have worked, he said.

Coonishish meets regularly with the heads of Emergency Measures of the other 17 health regions, which all have developed their own plans. As for Eeyou Istchee plans, he said, “We’re the Cree and we’ve adapted to our needs.”

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Lachlan Madill is a Saulteaux/Cree journalist from Treaty 4 territory in Saskatchewan. He has been working as a television, radio and web journalist the past 15 years. Originally from Regina he now lives in Montreal with his wife, daughter, dog and lizard.