Wahta First Nation copes with first three COVID cases since pandemic began 

By John McFadden

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Chief of the Wahta First Nation said his territory is doing everything it can to stop the spread of COVID-19 now that the community  is reporting its first three cases since the pandemic began.

Chief Philip Franks said the three people are now self-isolating and  their health is stable. He added he is confident that they probably did  not spread the virus. The Chief said officials as well as community  members are continuing to take the measures needed to keep others safe  and virus-free. He added the three people tested positive for the  coronavirus last weekend. He added that contact tracing has been done on  anyone that may have come in contact with the three people who have  tested positive.

“It is confined to a family grouping. It is not a case where people  were disregarding health practices. In fact they were very much  following all health practices. The virus got in and it is unfortunate,  but public health has followed up. Our community health nurse is  following up,” Chief Franks said. “I am pretty confident that it is  contained. Hopefully there will not be any more positive tests coming  out of this. They didn’t really have a whole lot of contact with the  community.”

The Chief said that the First Nation has hosted two COVID testing  clinics in the past three months. He wasn’t exactly sure how many  members were tested but said the clinics were well attended.

“An incident like this, when we were being so careful, is a real  eye-opener. The majority of our members, if not all of them, have been  very careful,” the Chief said. “We have done a lot of work with this  pandemic from the beginning. We’ve had a plan, including messaging, and  it is working.

Chief Franks said it is more important than ever that the community  does not let its guard down. That includes continuing to wear masks,  sanitizing, social distancing and limiting travel outside the home and  the community.

“There is no room for error. The community has to be aware of, even  more so now, that we have to consider anyone whether it is on the  territory, or in the towns where they have to go to get their supplies,  as if they may have been infected,” Chief Franks said.

“That’s the main  message coming out of this. We are glad that it is not an outbreak. But  it is an example of why we have to re-enforce our practices.”

The Chief said his confidence to nip the virus in the bud stems from  the responsibility his members have shown for almost a year now in  following the protocols and guidelines laid out by the First Nation and  its health partners.

“All in all, I think we’ve done very well. It shows though that just  like anywhere else, in any other community, it will creep in,” the Chief  said. “The coronavirus is very hard to control. We are making every  effort to protect our people.”

Chief Franks said locking down the First Nation or restricting access  to it is impossible because the busy Highway 400, part of the  Trans-Canada Highway, cuts through the northwest part of the territory.  He added that people don’t want to see the community closed off. The  Chief said that most people on the territory who can work from home have  been doing so, including **>First Nations<** staff. He added that businesses  in the community that have remained open have limited access to them.

Chief Franks stressed that his community members are all in this  together and the only way to get through the pandemic is to help each  other.   He added that he hopes to see a vaccine rollout on the  territory as soon as possible but admits it may be a while before that  happens.

John McFadden is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering Indigenous issues for MuskokaRegion.com, ParrySound.com and Simcoe.com.  His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local  Journalism Initiative.


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