A COVID-19 community outbreak has been declared in Kanesatake.
The Emergency Response Unit (ERU) released a statement last Thursday, February 4, confirming the community spread. Five positive cases were reported among the same family bubble. ERU spokesperson Robert Bonspiel said that the cases were all related as they all had been in close contact with each other.
“Numerous cases are still under investigation and waiting for results,” said Bonspiel. “They are slowly coming back and are negative for the most part.”
While the Riverside Elder’s Home was set to reopen for visitors, it was once again put in lockdown as a preventive measure to keep residents safe. The seniors home has had zero cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
The ERU also reported close contact exposure to the virus from one of the students at Rotiwennakehte Elementary School. Bonspiel said that the child was immediately tested, and was never in school after being in contact with the positive case.
According to Bonspiel, the ERU took all the precautionary measures to ensure that there wouldn’t be any possibility of spreading. As a result, the school bus and the classroom were both disinfected, while the student remains in preventive quarantine for 14 days.
While there was speculation going around, Bonspiel confirmed that the community spread wasn’t related to the school’s potential exposure.
“There’s no tracing back to the school,” said Bonspiel. “That is a rumour that was started and it’s dangerous. People are trying to draw parallels where there aren’t any. By doing so, people are being targeted.”
Bonspiel explained that as Kanesatake is a small community, keeping the identity of the positive cases is important in order for the ERU to prevent rumours and stigmatization.
“A community member was accosted and yelled at because people believe that person had COVID-19,” said Bonspiel, explaining that this type of behaviour might result in shame and guilt, making people with real symptoms not want to get tested, or just generally reluctant to disclose their situation.
Experts repeatedly mentioned that the key to stopping the spread is communication. Quebec health authorities provide the number of positive cases, but no information regarding the identity of the cases. For Bonspiel, it means that collaboration becomes extremely important.
“We ask on a voluntary basis that we collaborate and that anyone who has COVID-19 to quarantine and advise the ERU so we can take care of all your needs and eliminate the necessity of you going out,” said Bonspiel.
One Kanehsata’kehró:non that has been grateful for the ERU support is Ashlee Cross Fisher. Her family resides close, but not in Kanesatake’s present territory. Fisher’s step-son Josh, who is 16, tested positive on February 2 after a case was declared in his classroom at Laval Senior Academy. Since then, her teenage daughter Khloe and four-year-old son Jace, along with her husband Ryan, have all tested positive.
“I can’t stress enough how fast the virus is passed,” she said. “Especially for children, they have almost no symptoms or very mild symptoms and you wouldn’t even think they are positive. I can see how they are super spreaders and how they can easily infect people without knowing.”
Vaccines An outbreak is exactly what Kanesatake grand chief Serge Otsi Simon fears as the community still waits for the vaccines.
“It’s getting frustrating because I’m hearing about other communities that are receiving shots, and we have received nothing yet,” said Simon.
While the entire country is struggling with the vaccine’s rollout, the ERU and the Centre intégré de santé et de services sociaux des Laurentides (CISSS) confirmed that Kanesatake should be receiving the shots directly on the territory in mid-March.
“We are working extremely hard to make sure that when the time comes, we are ready,” said Bonspiel.
Virginie Ann, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door