Far north communities say they need isolation centres, government support to slow spread of COVID-19
TIMMINS -- James Bay and Hudson Bay communities are seeing an increasing number of COVID-19 cases almost every day, says the president of the far north's Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA).
Lynne Innes said most of the people contracting the disease are people who have not yet been vaccinated, particularly younger people.
There are multiple reasons why case counts are spiking in the small communities, Innes said.
"Lack of infrastructure is one of them," she said in a phone interview. "Not being able to properly isolate in each community, as well as needing to follow very strict public health measures."
WAHA staff have been working with the Porcupine Health Unit, the Canadian Rangers, the Canadian Red Cross and Team Rubicon Canada to get things under control.
Most communities in the area have been receiving some form of support from these groups, in partnership with the provincial and federal governments, Innes said.
But she said Kashechewan and Fort Albany -- two of the area's highest hit communities -- desperately need mobile isolation centres.
"We have multiple families in single-dwelling homes," Innes said. "It's kind of difficult to isolate them and having no place to put them is bearing multiple challenges."
She said vaccination efforts are continuing for the younger population but with the current supports in place, cases won't slow down until everyone can properly follow public health measures.
Kashechewan requested military support from Canada's Public Safety minister, Bill Blair. Timmins-James Bay MP Charlie Angus also wrote to Blair, but has not heard back.
Angus said workers and volunteers are burned out and need as much help as possible.
"Other communities asked for the army to come in and they came in and helped," Angus said in a Zoom interview.
"Let's stop playing games here, get in and do the right thing. This is a community that is under incredible stress right now. It needs help. It needs the logistical support that they do not have."
CTV News reached out to Blair's office for comment but did not receive a response.
Angus said this is an "all hands on deck" moment for the far north and sending in the military would be an indication Ottawa is taking the situation seriously.
"We have a crisis and the numbers are rising every single day," he said. "We need some action."