Weenusk expressed concerns about a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the Timmins area during their March 20 Statement from Chief and Council on the COVID-19 global pandemic. Weenusk was one of four Nishnawbe Aski Nation communities that provided community updates on March 20 and 21, including Sandy Lake and Kashechewan on March 20 and Marten Falls on March 21.
“This confirmed case was not unexpected, but it clearly reinforces the need for all residents to follow public health recommendations,” says Lianne Catton, medical officer of Health of the Porcupine Health Unit (PHU), about the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the PHU region in a March 20 press release. “Social distancing — avoiding crowds and close contact with those outside of your immediate family, as well as staying home as much as possible are critical measures for all – even if you feel well.”
Catton says the case is most likely related to international travel, noting that the individual, a male in his 50s, left the country prior to the travel ban and has followed public health guidance and remains self-isolated at home.
Catton adds that the COVID-19 infection is often mild in nature, but some citizens of the community are more susceptible and more at risk than others.
“We need to work together,” Catton says. “Wash your hands well and often, stay home if you’re sick and watch out for one another — take care.”
Weenusk also issued a travel advisory limiting travel to essential or emergency travel only effective immediately during its March 20 update, and noted that Health Canada and Nishnawbe Aski Police Service were contacted about having nurses and police officers stationed in the community for a minimum of four-to-six weeks to reduce the impact and spread of COVID-19. The community also asked people who travelled to urban centres with presumptive or confirmed cases to self-isolate for 14 days.
Sandy Lake posted notice of a travel ban on all non-essential travel for the community effective on March 20 during their update. Guests and/or visitors will not be allowed to travel to Sandy Lake for personal or work-related travel during the travel ban. Community citizens are allowed to travel to Sandy Lake but they must self-isolate for 14 days if they have recently been in a known COVID-19 hotspot.
The update also states that “travel out of Sandy Lake is discouraged.”
The Kashechewan update notes that the community’s Pandemic Task Force continues to encourage citizens and incoming travellers to take proactive measures such as washing hands with soap often and coughing into sleeves.
“If you are experiencing flu and influenza like symptoms such as fever, cough and difficulty breathing, please immediately self-isolate yourself and call our local nursing station at (705) 275-4444 for further instructions and advice,” the update states. “At this point, you’re not required to visit or enter the nursing station unless instructed by the nurse-on-call.”
The update also included some directives, including shutting down the two schools in the community until April 3, bringing home post-secondary students, reducing business hours at all local organization administrative offices and the suspension or closing of all community events/gaming establishments until April 3.
Other directives called for citizens to pursue land-based activities such as camping and for local businesses to stock up on food and cleaning/sanitation supplies.
Marten Falls issued a State of Emergency in its release due to the COVID-19 global pandemic and to insufficient medical emergency response services such as medical staff, including doctors and nurses, medical supplies, COVID-19 testing kits/facilities, personal protective equipment and capacity to work through the COVID-19 global pandemic.
“The ability to respond appropriately is further hindered by lack of food, supplies and adequate fuel systems,” the release states. “The State of Emergency will remain in effect until April 8, 2020, or such time as rescinded by subsequent order.”
The chief and council also directed citizens to follow a range of directives, including no gatherings of any kind, to practice self-isolation and to stay at home except for shopping for essential needs such as groceries, and to refrain from using the clinic unless it is a medical emergency.