Walpole Island First Nation suspends all programs after staffer tests positive for COVID-19

The Walpole Island First Nation Council has suspended all programs and closed its office buildings and facilities as a result of a positive COVID-19 case in the nation's finance department.

All staff to be tested after a positive case in the finance department

Walpole Island First Nation Council has decided to suspend all programs and do a thorough cleaning of all buildings and facilities after a positive COVID-19 test result in its finance department. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

The Walpole Island First Nation Council has decided to suspend all programs and close its office buildings and facilities because of a COVID-19 case.

In a post on the Walpole Island First Nation Council (WIFN) Facebook page Sunday, director of operations James Jenkins said all programs would close immediately and all staff were expected to get a COVID-19 test.

"In a meeting with chief and council and health staff this evening, we have determined that it is necessary to achieve a baseline of infection status in the WIFN workplace," it reads. "As a result, all programs are to close immediately with the expectation that all staff obtain a COVID-19 test. The priority of testing will be coordinated by the WIFN Health Centre over the next two weeks."

In an interview, Jenkins said the programs, which include education and social services, will be phased back in over the next two weeks.

In a video posted to the page Tuesday, Walpole Island First Nation Chief Charles Sampson said there was a COVID-19 case in the nation's finance department.

"As a result of that [the council] met to discuss some remedial measures to address the concerns of staff and to do a thorough cleaning of the governance building," he said in the video message. 

'Extreme precautionary measure'

"Plus, we provided that instruction to the rest of the band-operated buildings and facilities. And hopefully, within the next two weeks, we're going to gradually phase back into operation and to continue on with the service to the community members."

Sampson called this is an "extreme precautionary measure." He added that the council needs to work on a more comprehensive action plan going forward to address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The community restricted access to non-residents in the first wave of the pandemic, in an effort to limit the spread of COVID-19. 

Kyla Stonefish, the community health supervisor, reiterated in a separate Facebook video that the measures are meant to be proactive.

"I'm just giving a quick message to reiterate that we are doing things — taking extreme precautions. We don't have high numbers of outbreaks or anything like that," she said. "It's just more pro action to make sure that we have a baseline and know where we stand infection-wise in the community."

The Wapole Island First Nation is home to approximately 1,600 people. The island is unceded territory in the St. Clair river between Ontario and Michigan. 


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