While local officials in Kanesatake continue to maintain a proactive approach to dealing with COVID-19, many are breathing a sigh of relief as cases have been consistently dwindling in the community.
Standing at nine active cases, Kanesatake Health Center Planning and Response Unit spokesperson Robert Bonspiel said authorities are doing all that is necessary to contain the outbreak.
“We’re confident that the community is once again secured, but we’re also cautiously optimistic based on the premise that we have not seen these numbers in the community ever before,” noted Bonspiel.
The outbreak declared last week preceded an initial case confirmed on Thursday, August 5. In the following days, a total of 17 active cases, including two non-local individuals working in the community, had been identified.
“We’re taking it in stride right now since the situation is currently contained,” said Mohawk Council of Kanesatake (MCK) grand chief Victor Akwirente Bonspille.
As schools prepare to reopen, the grand chief asserted that all needed measures will be taken in order to ensure the safety of community youth.
Out of the infections reported in Kanesatake within the last two weeks, Public Health authorities established 90 percent of cases to be the Alpha variant.
First identified in the United Kingdom, Alpha was categorized as a variant of concern by Health Canada on May 14. The federal health department states attributes of the strain include evidence of increased transmission, as well as increased severity of effects for infected individuals.
The health centre recently conducted an assessment of Kanesatake’s vaccinated population which, for the first time, took into consideration the number of registered band members living outside the community.
“Once we had taken into account all these numbers, our realistic percentage for those vaccinated was at 45 percent,” said Bonspiel. “This means that over half of the community is still very vulnerable to the COVID-19 outbreak and to its effects.”
In comparison, 75.2 percent of Quebec’s total eligible population received at least one dose on August 20.
An impromptu vaccination clinic was held on Wednesday, August 11, in an effort to encourage more Kanehsata’kehró:non to receive the vaccine.
After a total of 55 members attended the walk-in clinic, Bonspiel continues to remind community members to call the health centre as there is still ample time for them to receive the vaccine.
To mitigate any further spread of the virus, the health department and MCK also organized three separate testing clinics on August 12, 13, and Tuesday, August 17.
During those three days, 110 tests were performed, with the largest turnout being on Tuesday, with 55 individuals.
“A large part of the reason why we stepped up with the testing clinics was to make it easier for the parents, families, and daycare staff coming back,” explained Bonspiel, referring to the members affected by the positive case identified at the Tsi Rontswa’takhwa daycare on Friday, August 6.
While a community outbreak was coming, Kanesatake’s operations to deal with the pandemic was also in the works.
Elections held on July 31 resulted in a major shift in the MCK administration, along with departments such as the Emergency Response Unit (ERU) previously in charge of overseeing the COVID-19 situation.
At the end of July, the Kanesatake Health Center Planning and Response Unit was instituted following the disbanding of the ERU.
Amid these changes, the health center and council rapidly joined efforts in this continued battle for the well-being of Kanehsata’kehró:non.
With all hands on deck, Bonspiel cautions Kanehsata’kehró:non of both the individual and collective risks the community is being faced with.
“At one point, we had four individuals all under 40 years old in the hospital – that in itself was worrisome,” he said, adding that one community member remains in the hospital today.
“We saw double vaccinated individuals showing smaller symptoms. But again, the worry isn’t so much about the symptoms, rather than the ability to transmit to other individuals in the community that aren’t vaccinated.”
Laurence Brisson Dubreuil, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eastern Door