By Donna Duric and Lynda Powless
SIX NATIONS OF THE GRAND-The Turtle Island News has learned that an alarming report Wednesday (Sept., 30, 2020) of five new cases of Covid-19 on Six Nations are not independent cases but instead all belong to the same family.
That information on the virus being contained to one family was not released by Six Nations Elected Council, (SNEC). Instead SNEC released a statement on Wednesday evening announcing five new cases but provided few details on the new cases. Since the release Turtle Island News has been flooded with calls and emails from community members questioning the announcement and how wide spread the virus is
The statement also came after contact tracing reached Emily C. General Elementary School where staff were told they may have been in contact with an individual who had Covid-19 and were urged to get tested.
SNEC communications did not respond to Turtle Island News inquires Wednesday about new Covid-19 cases instead sending out a press release late Wednesday night without identifying the containment of the virus.
Indigenous Services Minister Mark Miller had not responded to Turtle Island News calls Thursday asking for demographic information on cases and why Six Nations Public Health was not releasing the information that is commonly available off reserve.
The community had gone over a month without a single confirmed case of Covid-19 until Wednesday’s announcement and spread of the virus.
The statement said three of the cases are lab-confirmed, while two are probable cases.
A probable case is when someone has been identified as having a highrisk of exposure (in close contact with a positive case, and symptomatic) but has declined testing to confirm, and are treated as positive cases by Ohsweken Public Health.
Contact tracing is underway by Ohsweken Public Health and all of the individuals are in self-isolation.
The latest five cases brings the total number of confirmed cases on Six Nations to 21.
Since the pandemic began, the Six Nations COVID-19 Information and Assessment Centre (located inside the Six Nations Community Hall) has completed 1946 tests and of those tests, 1821 were confirmed negative cases.
There has been one death, an elderly man in his 80s.
The statement speculates that the cases may have been community acquired, prompting calls for the community to follow Covid health and safety guidelines.
“Six Nations members are reminded that as a largely populated First Nations community, we are automatically at a heightened risk of contracting, spreading and fighting the virus for various reasons such as a lack of access to clean water, over crowded housing and underlying health conditions,” the statement read.
However, Turtle Island News has learned the five cases are related to an instance of contact from outside the community.
“If you have high risk people living in your household you must conduct continual risk assessments when thinking of leaving your home and community,” said Elected Chief Mark Hill. “Guidance and educational pieces are out there; we continue to provide such for the community and are requesting the community to please follow these measures.”
The statement said the “the spike” in cases should be a “wake-up call” to the community to increase awareness, tighten up social circles, and follow public health measures such as wearing masks and physical distancing with those who do not live in your immediate household.
“We must remain vigilant,” council said. “We cannot let our guard down and we must continue to protect our people.”
The statement from Six Nations Elected Council asks people to reconsider Thanksgiving or other family gatherings in light of an increased number of Covid cases both on Six Nations and in the province of Ontario.
“We know that everyone wants life to get back to normal, but we need to be extra cautious at this time, especially if you or anyone in your household is vulnerable due to being elderly or have underlying health conditions,” the statement noted.
Health Director Lori Davis-Hill accused the community of becoming “slack” with Covid-19 health care principle.
“Please let these five new cases be a stark reminder that the virus is still in and around Six Nations Territory,” said Davis-Hill. “To see this through with minimal cases we must not ignore the core health principles. My advice would be to conduct yourself as though you have the virus and don’t want to spread it, and as if everyone else has the virus and you don’t want to get it.”
To reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19, Six Nations people are advised of the following:
- Staying home when ill or keeping your child home from school when ill, even with mild symptoms;
- Maintain physical distance by keeping at least two metres from others outside your immediate household;
- Wash hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available;
- Wear a face covering when in public places or when physical distancing is a challenge or where it is mandatory to do so and
- Clean/disinfect commonly touched or high traffic surfaces in the home and at work to minimize the spread of germs and viruses