5 people including hospital personnel test positive for COVID-19 in Mohawk community

Positive cases of COVID-19 are in Kahnawake, Que., the Mohawk community’s hospital centre announced this week.

5 cases were confirmed in Kahnawake, Que., this week

The Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre in Kahnawake, Que., announced a number of community members tested positive for COVID-19. (Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre/Facebook)

Five people in Kahnawake, Que., have been diagnosed with COVID-19 including a person working at the hospital, the Mohawk community's hospital centre has announced.

"We haven't been able to identify the source. Therefore, that is a sign of community transmission," said Lisa Westaway, executive director of the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre, at Tuesday's daily briefing by the community's COVID-19 task force.

"What that tells us, there are many people who are COVID-19 positive and that we should all be taking precautionary measures," said Westaway, at the briefing that was live streamed over Facebook.

The task force did not reveal the position held by the member of the hospital community found with the coronavirus. The new cases are unrelated to a case announced last week where a non-resident physician, who works at the hospital, tested positive for the virus after returning from New York, health officials said.

Quebec's public health department told CBC News there is currently no data available on how many confirmed or presumed cases are in First Nations or Inuit communities in the province. But this week's news doesn't come as a surprise to Kahnawake's task force.

"This is not unexpected. We don't give up. We're ready for this," said Westaway. "This is a virus that is easily transmissible. It is across the world that is definitely going to be here no matter what we do."

The Mohawk community is located just south of Montreal in the province's Montérégie region where there were 125 confirmed cases as of Tuesday.

The task force also stated that seven Kahnawake Mohawk peacekeepers are currently in self-isolation with no symptoms. Officials did not explain why but people are required to self-isolate if they've travelled outside the province or have come in contact with someone who tested positive.

Supplies like personal protective equipment for its essential service workers are being stretched.

Like the province, Kahnawake ordered all non-essential businesses in its territory to close. That includes cigarette shops to limit the number of non-residents coming and going.

Westaway said since the announcement was made Monday about positive cases in the community, she's seen a lot of shaming and blaming on social media.

"There is no one responsible, there is no one to blame. We only have the control of our individual selves to help stop transmitting as much as possible," she said.

"If we start going down the road of blame and negativity, it's going to be very difficult to focus our energy on where it should be, which is in working with each other."

Westaway said it's important for community members to continue following measures to protect themselves and others, such as self-isolating, practicing social distancing, washing hands and staying home as much as possible. The sentiments were echoed by Kahnawake's Public Safety Commissioner Lloyd Phillips. 

Lloyd Phillips, the commissioner of public safety at the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake. (Jessica Deer/CBC)

"This is not a setback. It's us trying to look at the mirror and say, 'What else can we do as a community but again as an individual?' As much as we can put our directives and make recommendations, if people aren't going to abide by them, the whole system is going to be impacted," said Phillips.


Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is a Kanien’kehá:ka journalist from Kahnawake, Que. She is currently a reporter with CBC Indigenous covering communities across Quebec.