Large gatherings on Six Nations again blamed for COVID-19 surge

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After a short lull, COVID-19 is surging again on Six Nations of the Grand River.

The reserve had 71 band members test positive over the past week. Public health reported 15 new cases on Wednesday alone, followed by 36 on Thursday.

As of Friday, there were 79 active cases on Six Nations, which has seen 321 cases and three deaths since the pandemic began.

In a press release, Ohsweken Public Health called this week’s spike “extremely concerning,” adding health officials “have identified a high number of COVID-19 cases from reported large gatherings.”

The press release indicated that “community gatherings” were held over the past two weeks and asked all who attended to self-isolate and book a COVID-19 test.

When asked by The Spectator, a public health spokesperson said she had no further details about the gatherings.

Mid-winter ceremonies held in January were identified as a source of COVID-19 transmission.

“Ohsweken Public Health is pleading with community members to seek immediate testing for COVID-19 if they attended any gathering outside of their immediate household, masked or not, or if they have come into contact with other community members who attended a gathering,” public health said in Friday’s statement.

Health officials reminded band members they do not need to be experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 to spread the virus to others.

The spike in cases come as Six Nations recently opened a pre-registration system for residents to sign up to be vaccinated once more doses are shipped to the reserve.

Public health also announced Friday that two staff members from Iroquois Lodge are in self-isolation after testing positive during routine testing at the long-term-care facility earlier in the week.

Elected council recently voted to keep schools closed to in-person learning until the fall.

Haldimand-Norfolk, which borders the reserve and has 32 active cases, is moving from the province’s orange alert level to yellow on Monday, the Ontario government announced Friday.

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator