Rising case counts have Six Nations staring down fourth wave of COVID-19

·2 min read

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a tale of extremes on Six Nations of the Grand River.

After moving decisively to isolate the territory in the early days of the pandemic, cross-border travel and communal gatherings saw case counts climb over the winter until Six Nations had among the worst per capita rates of COVID-19 in Ontario.

But by late spring the virus was essentially gone from the reserve, with no active cases in early June.

As it has around the world, the Delta variant changed the equation on Six Nations, which has seen a swift rise in cases in recent weeks.

As of the most recent Six Nations Public Health update on Tuesday, there were 40 active cases on the reserve. One band member was in hospital and 112 were in self-isolation.

Of 38 people to test positive over the preceding seven days, public health said only two were fully vaccinated.

Vaccinations have slowed on Six Nations, where 42 per cent of the population has received at least one dose and 38 per cent are fully vaccinated.

Public health says those percentages refer to the entire on-reserve population, including children under 12 years old who are not yet eligible to get the shot.

Six Nations Health Services did not reply to several requests for comment on how health officials plan to address the increase in cases and persistently low vaccine rate among band members.

In a media release, health officials encouraged band members to get the vaccine and get tested if they show potential COVID-19 symptoms or may have been exposed to the virus.

Public health says there is a “very high risk” of virus transmission on the reserve, where 29 per cent of tests are coming back positive.

Six Nations Health Services considers any test positivity above five per cent to be cause for alarm.

On a per capita basis, Six Nations’ case rate of 258 per 100,000 is among the highest in Ontario, well ahead of 49 per 100,000 in Hamilton, 28 in Brant County and eight in Haldimand-Norfolk.

Health officials say some band members are putting the community at risk by choosing not to self-isolate while awaiting COVID-19 test results.

“People are letting their guard down at a time when we must remain diligent in following public health measures in order to decrease incidence (of COVID-19),” Ohsweken Public Health said in a statement.

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

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