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News ᑎᐹᒋᒧᐧᐃᓐ

Third wave fades; Vaccination campaign moves to schools

BY Ben Powless Jun 19, 2021

The Cree Health Board says the battle against Covid-19 is “improving significantly” in Quebec and across Canada due to a combination of vaccinations, restrictions and preventative health measures. 

Vaccinations have moved swiftly in Eeyou Istchee, with 11,849 people, or 89% of the above-18 population, receiving at least a first dose. Nearly 64% of people 12 and older have received a first dose, while 8,647 people, representing 47% of the population, have had both doses. 

Cree health officials said that, as early as the week of June 14, significant reductions of local isolation requirements could be made, depending on the overall Cree vaccination rate, vaccination rates in other regions and their relative number of active cases. 

For now, however, even individuals who have received two doses of a vaccine are required to isolate seven days when travelling to an area of risk, and everyone else must self-isolate for 10 days. The only areas of Quebec not considered at risk remained Region 8 (Abitibi-Témiscamingue), Region 10 (Nord-du-Québec), Region 17 (Nunavik) and Region 18 (Eeyou Istchee).

Vaccination appointments were still available to Cree beneficiaries in the Outaouais, Estrie, Abitibi and Montreal areas. The government of Quebec was also issuing proofs of vaccination through their Health and Social Services Ministry website.

Vaccinations for youth aged 12-17 began June 3 and are ongoing. CHB spokesperson Corinne Smith said that mobile youth vaccination clinics would continue through July for youth who aren’t currently attending school. The mobile clinic, headed by public health nurse Émilie Moreau, started in Mistissini June 7 and will end in Chisasibi June 24.

The Cree School Board moved schools into Scenario A June 7, allowing for cloth face coverings which may be removed while in class with stable groups. Adult education facilities also allow for procedural masks to be removed when at a two-metre distance. 

Pfizer is to begin testing its vaccine on 4,500 children under the age of 12 across the United States, Poland, Finland and Spain, the company announced. The trial will feature smaller doses of the vaccine per age group, down to 6-month-olds. 

Across Canada, new coronavirus cases were at their lowest point since September, with only 1,235 new cases reported June 7. That represents a decline of 32% in just one week, as Quebec reported just 149 new daily cases the same day. 

Quebec Premier François Legault announced that many of the long-standing restrictions would be softened starting June 14, including allowing people to gather with another household indoors. 

Montreal, Laval and other areas were to return to yellow zones, allowing for indoor dining and gyms to reopen for the first time in nearly nine months. Funerals and weddings would also be allowed with up to 50 people. 

Quebec will begin its vaccination program for students aged 12 to 17 on June 14. Outdoor proms for high school students will be allowed as of July 8, two weeks after the end of the school year. 

Nationally, over 62% of the population had received the first dose, and 8% had been fully vaccinated. Many jurisdictions are rushing to get people vaccinated as another coronavirus variant, the Delta variant, spread across the country, bringing a higher rate of infection for those still not immunized.

In Ontario, Kashechewan saw a spike of 59 cases recently in the community of 1,500, while Fort Albany was reporting 50 cases in the community of 900. This led MP Charlie Angus to call for the federal government to send in a deployment of armed service members to help with the situation. 

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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.