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3 COVID-19 cases linked to Cree health board lodging in Montreal

Widespread contact tracing is being done by Cree health board staff and anyone who visited Espresso hotel between Sept. 1 and 9 is being asked to self-isolate.

At least 1 community locks down to outsiders, Cree women's association postpones annual general assembly

The Cree health board is carrying out widespread testing and contact tracing and is asking anyone who visited the Espresso Hotel between Sept. 1 to 9 who has not yet been contacted by the CBHSSJB to self-isolate and call the info-line at 1-866-855-2811. (Stephane Gunner/CBC)

The Cree health board has confirmed the presence of three cases of COVID-19 linked to the Espresso Hotel in Montreal, where Cree patients stay while receiving medical treatment in the city. 

Two of the cases were confirmed last week, and a third confirmed late Sunday night. 

"The situation at Espresso is evolving quickly," said the announcement posted Monday morning on the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay Facebook page. 

"We have received confirmation of a new case of COVID-19 infection among the contacts of one of the two confirmed cases reported last week."

The Espresso is a place where high risk, very vulnerable patients stay.- Faisca Richer, head of public health at CBHSSJB

The latest confirmed case is currently under isolation at Espresso, and their contacts are being traced and isolated, according to the release. 

Of the two cases confirmed last week, one is an elderly patient, and the other is a non-medical Cree heath board employee.

"The most immediate [concern] is the fact that the Espresso is a place where high risk, very vulnerable patients stay," said Faisca Richer, head of Cree Public Health, in an interview recorded last week. 

"So cases at Espresso [are] always a red flag to intervene very quickly."

Priority also to protect communities

The second concern, according to Richer, is protecting the Cree communities.

"There has been very rapid contact tracing for people who have returned from Espresso to their communities," said Faisca Richer, head of Cree Public Health. (CBHSSJB)

The Cree Health Board is asking anyone who visited the Espresso Hotel between the Sept. 1 and 9 who has not yet been contacted by the CBHSSJB to self-isolate and call the info-line at 1-866-855-2811. 

"There has been very rapid contact tracing for people who have returned from Espresso to their communities," said Richer last week.

As of Monday, 51 employees either of Wiichihiituwin (Cree Patient Services) or of the Espresso Hotel have been identified as significant contacts, and 45 have been tested. 

In addition, 143 people have been identified as contacts of the confirmed cases, either Cree patients receiving care or their escorts, who come to help them navigate the trip or act as interpreters. As of early Monday, 103 tests had been carried out, with 83 coming back negative. The others are either awaiting results or will be tested soon.

Nemaska not allowing in outsiders

At least one Cree community has moved to close its borders to people from the outside. 

Clarence Jolly, the Chief of the community of Nemaska announced in a radio address that was shared on Facebook on Friday, that outsiders would not be allowed in until at least Tuesday, when Cree leaders will next gather to assess the situation. 

"After meeting with our local COVID-19 team and other workers, we asked, 'what are we going to do for our community?'," said Jolly in Cree in a radio message.

"When it was mentioned that there might be over 100 people who might have been around the people who recently tested positive for COVID-19 at the Espresso Hotel...this is why we decided to deny access to our community for non-residents."

The community is getting ready to host its annual general assembly and celebrate its 43rd anniversary. 

The Cree Women of Eeyou Istchee Association announced Monday that it is postponing its annual general assembly and will move the event on-line at a later date. 

The event was scheduled to take place the Sept. 25 to 27 in Val d'Or, Que. 

Unless absolutely necessary, people should stay in their communities- Faisca Richer, health of Cree public health

Richer, said she and her team have been expecting an increase in cases in early September.

Public health is recommending people refrain from travelling outside of the region.

"Unless absolutely necessary, people should stay in their communities until we really have a clearer picture of what's happening in the province," said Richer, adding if they do have to travel, they really need to follow the guidelines and precautionary measures diligently.

"Washing hands, keeping distance, wearing a mask....so that we really limit the risk of importing the virus into the community," said Richer.

The Cree health board is also reminding people who have received a negative COVID-19 result that they must still remain in self-isolation for the full period they were told to isolate. 

With files from Betsy Longchap, Susan Bell and Jaime Little

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