94 COVID-19 cases on Saugeen First Nation as stay-at-home order is in effect
Band reaching out to Canadian Armed Forces to request help with temporary lockdown as cases continue to climb
While restrictions continue to loosen provincewide as COVID-19 cases remain low, one First Nation community is seeing a major surge in COVID-19 cases and has been forced to enact stricter measures to control further spread of the virus.
On Wednesday, the Saugeen First Nation — an Ojibway First Nation band located along the Saugeen River and Bruce Peninsula — in joint effort with the Grey Bruce Health Services, declared a state of emergency based on the number of COVID-19 cases.
Residents are asked to refrain from any gatherings and to stay at home for two weeks in order to curb any further spread of the virus within the small community.
As of Sunday, Saugeen First Nation which has approximately 800 residents, recorded 94 cumulative COVID-19 cases over the span of two weeks.
"Our community was safe ... we followed all of the precautions and it encroached right around the time the tourism season peaked," said Doran Ritchie, Band Councillor and Health Committee Chair.
"Next thing I know there was a lot of exposure within the main village of the Saugeen First Nation and it escalated quickly from there."
Ritchie said within the first week, one case quickly turned to 15. On Wednesday, there were 27 cases and the latest data recorded shows 94 cases. Of those, five have been considered resolved and four people are in hospital with the illness.
Three isolation centres have been set up and will begin operating this week. While the Grey Bruce Health Unit has no jurisdiction on the reserve, it is supporting the COVID-19 crisis team and community health services along with help from the Red Cross and other organizations.
'We're not ahead of this yet'
"Because we are requiring our members to stay put and isolate, we have a very small crisis team and only so much resources available to us," Ritchie told CBC London. "So we're putting in a call to the Canadian armed forces to assist us through this temporary lockdown."
"It's a sign of the times that we're not ahead of this yet, and once we think we're out of the woods, COVID-19 has a way of reminding us we're not," he said.
A mass vaccination clinic was held on the reserve on Friday and several were held previously, but Ritchie said there will be a concerted effort to address any hesitancy within the community.
"The comfort level regarding COVID-19 immunization seems to be a conversation that a lot of people have, 'Should I or shouldn't I?'"
The Chief and Band Council will reassess on July 15 to determine if the order should remain in place or be lifted to allow services and businesses to re-open.