Attawapiskat seeks help as COVID-19 count rises to 30 in remote First Nation in northern Ontario

People in Attawapiskat are being asked to stay in their homes, with 30 cases of COVID-19 being reported in the James Bay community in northern Ontario.

Attawapiskat went into lockdown during pandemic waves in December 2020, June 2021

People in Attawapiskat are being urged to stay home after the COVID case count in the James Bay community shot up to 30 this week. (Erik White/CBC)

People in Attawapiskat are being asked to stay in their homes, with 30 cases of COVID-19 being reported in the James Bay community in northern Ontario. 

The request was made after the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority announced 15 new cases in the remote First Nation on Monday.

It also comes after the Canadian military arrived in Bearskin Lake First Nation, where about half the population has tested positive for the virus.

In the north, the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority reported 52 COVID-19 infections in other communities across the James Bay Coast, including 45 in Moosonee-Moose Factory.

A community update from Attawapiskat Health Services said the outbreak currently affects 10 households, and more than 85 high-risk contacts are being monitored. 

The 1,600 people in the community are being asked to stay home, not  visit anyone else's home and wear a mask if they have to go out. 

One person currently self-isolating is Rosie Koostachin, whose three-year-old granddaughter tested positive for COVID-19.

Koostachin and the rest of her family have tested negative, but have all had flu-like symptoms since around Christmas.

She said the rising number of cases worries her.

"We don't have enough resources," she said.

Business owner and musician Adrian Sutherland said it's a stressful time in the community.

"A lot of us are a little bit on edge especially with the increased number of cases that we're seeing happening in the community," he said.

"I'm worried about my family. We've been staying home. We haven't been visiting. Our business has suffered significant loss in the last two years so we're very concerned about that."

'Outside help' needed

Attawapiskat First Nation said it has requested help from the Canadian Rangers and other agencies, and is waiting to hear back. 

Muskegowuk Deputy Grand Chief Rebecca on Friday said the earlier help arrives, the less of a chance there is of the virus spreading.

"The federal, the provincial government has to come down and look and assess the situation," she said. 

"The numbers are going to climb unless they get help."

She added overcrowding in homes will have an impact.

Rebecca Friday is the deputy grand chief of Mushkegowuk Council. (Supplied)

"There are so many people in households that everybody is going to get sick," she said.

"We don't want to go there anymore. We want outside help as soon as we can."

The Canadian military was sent into the James Bay community of Kashechewan in June 2021 when COVID-19 case counts soared up to 300.

Attawapiskat went into lockdown during that wave when some two dozen people in the community were infected. It first went into lockdown in December 2020 when five people tested positive.