First case of COVID-19 confirmed on the James Bay Coast

The Porcupine Health Unit and the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority say there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on the James Bay Coast.

Moose Factory, Kashechewan and Fort Albany go into community lockdown

Visitors coming to Moose Factory Island now have to quarantine for 14 days and all public gatherings are banned, after someone in the James Bay community tested positive for COVID-19. (Erik White/CBC )

The Porcupine Health Unit and the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority say there is a confirmed COVID-19 case on the James Bay Coast. 

This first positive test in the remote region is from someone between the age of 20 and 40 on Moose Factory Island. The Porcupine Health Unit says an investigation is underway to determine how the person contracted the coronavirus.

The Weeneebayko Area Health Authority says the person and people they've been in close contact with have been isolated and any other additional contacts will be notified.

The case has prompted Moose Cree First Nation to pass a new bylaw which covers all of Moose Factory Island.

It requires people to wear masks in all public places and bans all public gatherings with people from another household for the next 14 days. 

"I know it's hard on us. We're very social people. We like gathering together. But to prevent the spread of COVID, we need to take these measures for the next few weeks," Moose Cree Chief Mervin Cheechoo said in a video statement posted to Facebook.

"I know there's been a lot of questions too about the identity of the individual. You know, everyone has a right to privacy, especially when it comes to medical issues. I want to assure you that even I don't know who the individual is. And I'm OK with that."

Anyone visiting or returning to Moose Factory Island is also now required to quarantine for 14 days, with the exception of someone coming from the neighbouring town of Moosonee or anyone coming back from hunting or fishing.

Moose Cree Chief Mervin Cheechoo says there were a lot of anxieties and fears about COVID-19 before the first case of the virus was reported in his community over the weekend. (Erik White/CBC )

Some 140km to the north, Fort Albany First Nation is also going back into community lockdown because of this first COVID case in Mushkegowuk territory.

People are only to leave their homes when it is necessary and only essential services such as grocery stores and gas stations will remain open.

Fort Albany is also taking steps to bring band members back to the community over the next few days, with a "special charter" flight planned for Wednesday and special exemptions for those accompanying the remains of loved ones that are to be buried in Fort Albany.

With the first case of COVID-19 reported on the James Bay Coast, Fort Albany First Nation has ordered a community lockdown for the next 14 days. (Erik White/CBC )

The First Nation is requiring anyone who returns to the community to quarantine for 14 days and get tested for COVID-19, which is also now mandatory for anyone who has recently arrived in Fort Albany from Moose Factory or Moosonee.

Fort Albany is also closing its school, Peetabeck Academy, for the next 14 days. The Ministik School in Moose Factory did not re-open it's doors yet this fall and continues to offer classes online. 

Kashechewan First Nation is also going into lockdown for 14 days and closed its elementary and secondary schools for that time.

The First Nation is also requiring any visitors to quarantine for 14 days, something that's been in place in most James Bay Cree communities since the pandemic began six months ago.