Indigenous

Kanesatake confirms its first 5 cases of COVID-19

Six months into the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, Kanesatake's Emergency Response Unit announced its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Mohawk community northwest of Montreal this week.

'We’re hoping people understand this pandemic hasn’t gone away,' says Robert Bonspiel

On May 29, a total of 99 people were tested at a mobile testing site at Ratihen:te High School in Kanesatake, including Mohawk Council of Kanesatake Chief John Canatonquin. (Mohawk Council of Kanesatake)

Six months into the coronavirus pandemic in Canada, Kanesatake's Emergency Response Unit (ERU) announced its first confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Mohawk community northwest of Montreal this week.

On Saturday, ERU spokesperson Robert Bonspiel announced over Facebook live that Quebec public health officials had informed the ERU that two residents tested positive. Three more cases have since been confirmed for a total of five active cases.

"We want people to take this message seriously," Bonspiel told CBC News.

"We want people to wash their hands; we want people to wear masks; we want people to not gather."

As of Aug. 3, Quebec allowed public indoor and outdoor gatherings to increase to a maximum of 250 people but Bonspiel said Kanesatake is still banning gatherings of any size.

"We don't want people to get together. We're asking people to social distance and take it seriously the way they did in the beginning," he said.

"People maybe had this false sense of security because Kanesatake hadn't had any confirmation of cases until Saturday. We're hoping people understand this pandemic hasn't gone away."

Some businesses, elders home close

As a result of the positive cases, the Riverside Elders Home closed its doors to visitors again until further notice. The home had recently reopened to visitors, working with the ERU to develop regulations for families to safely visit the residents.

"As soon as we received word of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in our community, we shut it down again to make sure that they don't get sick and stay healthy," said Bonspiel.

Since mid-May, a mobile clinic has been set up in Kanesatake every few weeks for residents to get tested for COVID-19. (Mohawk Council of Kanesatake)

He said some businesses in the community have closed to allow staff to get tested. A mobile testing clinic was in Kanesatake Tuesday but reached capacity for testing as of 11:30 a.m. The ERU said it is working on having another clinic in the community as soon as possible.

In the meantime, residents are also encouraged to get tested at a drive through testing clinic in nearby Boisbriand, Que.

1 other active case in Quebec First Nation

On Saturday, Quebec public health officials informed the Conseil des Atikamekws de Wemotaci that one of its residents tested positive for COVID-19. It's the first positive case in Wemotaci, which is located 265 kilometres north of Montreal.

The positive case resulted in the closure of the council's administrative building until Aug. 16 for it to be cleaned.

According to Indigenous Services Canada, there's been a total of 35 cases of COVID-19 on First Nations reserves in Quebec with no active cases since mid-May but the data has not been updated since July 31.

About the Author

Ka’nhehsí:io Deer is Kanien’kehá:ka from Kahnawake. She works in CBC's Indigenous unit based in Montreal. Email her at kanhehsiio.deer@cbc.ca or follow her on Twitter @Kanhehsiio.

with files from Radio-Canada

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