First Nation near Hearst declares COVID-19 state of emergency
Constance Lake First Nation Chief Rick Allen and council have declared a second state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the community. (File)
SUDBURY -- Constance Lake First Nation Chief Rick Allen and council have declared a second state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 outbreak in the community.
The outbreak was identified by the Porcupine Health Unit on Jan. 16, the First Nation said in a news release Thursday.
"In the five days that have passed since first identified, cases have soared from two to 11 positive cases as contract tracing began revealing the extent of the spread in the community," the release said.
"With some of the positive cases being identified as coming from school-aged children, the elementary schools in the community have since closed moving to homeschool learning."
The first COVID state of emergency in Constance Lake was declared March 17 last year and ended April 3.
“We are seeing an exponential spread in our community in a span of less than a week," Allen said in the release.
“For a community that has not had cases for the past 10 months, and with a number of cases in our community affecting children, we are alarmed but we are urging calm. We are calling on federal and provincial governments to come together to provide funding and emergency management supports in order for CLFN to effectively respond to the outbreak.”
The community plans to undergo community-wide COVID-19 testing in the near future and is expecting more positive cases.
Existing problems on the First Nation make responding to the crisis more difficult, the release said, including overcrowded housing, lack of assessment and isolation space, lack of COVID-19 testing kits and personal protective equipment and a lack of logistical supports for infected families.
“We are extremely frustrated that non-remote communities such as ours in Ontario, who have similar socio-economic conditions as remote communities and are not prioritized for vaccination despite ours being more susceptible to outbreaks being closer to neighbouring municipalities," Allen said. "We need vaccinations immediately.”
Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgouin wrote Premier Ford on Jan. 20, notifying him of the outbreak and reiterating that Constance Lake First Nation does not have the healthcare capacity nor the infrastructure to respond and that critical services and resources are required, the release said.
"It included an urgent request for a COVID-19-specific isolation site for residents that have tested positive of COVID-19 and are unable to stay in their homes," the release said.
The letter also asks for the deployment of additional nurses and healthcare workers to help with quarantined members; access to and delivery of COVID-19 rapid tests; personal protective equipment for healthcare workers and residents; and help from local Ontario Provincial Police to aid with the local lockdown measures.
The COVID-19 State of emergency will remain in effect until rescinded by the chief and council. Community-wide testing will take place after contact tracing has been completed on the 11 identified cases.