Six Nations in ‘state of crisis’

Lori Davis Hill, director of public health for Six Nations of the Grand River

Brian Thompson / Brian Thompson/The Expositor

Mark Hill, elected chief of Six Nations of the Grand River, pleaded with his community to be vigilant in the fight against COVID-19 after a surge in cases on the territory.

On Wednesday evening, in the first of what is to be regular “COVID-19 bulletins” broadcast on Six Nations radio and social media, Hill said “our entire community is in a state of crisis.”

“We are here because it seems some of our members here on Six Nations have failed to do their part in Project Protect Our People. We are here providing this bulletin because lives are now at risk. Now, more than ever, is the time when every single one of us must set aside our personal and political differences and come together as one for the health and safety of our members.”

Six Nations Public Health was reporting 23 active cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, including 14 confirmed cases and nine “probable” cases. A probable case is a person who hasn’t had a laboratory test but has symptoms compatible with COVID-19.

The number of confirmed active cases has doubled since last Friday when seven were reported, along with two probable cases.

Hill said he was worried more confirmed cases will be revealed after gatherings held over the Thanksgiving weekend.

Lori Davis Hill, director of Six Nations health services, said the spike in cases resulted from residents attending private Thanksgiving gatherings, some of them travelling from one event to the next.

“Currently, there is significant community transmission present in Six Nations, which is extremely alarming,” said Davis Hill.

Hill said the situation is being worsened by people who have COVID-19 symptoms but are opting not to get tested.

Hours have been extended at the COVID-19 assessment centre on the territory to meet increased demand and Hill said Six Nations Police Services have increased their patrols in the community. Iroquois Lodge, a long-term care facility on Chiefswood Road, has been closed to non-essential visitors. The Six Nations emergency control group is considering further restrictions on public gatherings.

As of Wednesday afternoon, 2,385 COVID-19 tests had been completed at the Six Nations assessment centre.

“We need the community to understand how serious this is,” said Davis Hill. “Our public health and health services are stretched extremely thin and, without them, it will be that much more difficult to protect our people.”

The chief called on young people to make “smarter and safer decisions” when leaving their homes, noting “significant transmission” of the virus among youth.

“Yes, I know it’s really hard not being able to socialize but we are pleading with you to reconsider all plans to gather, for the sake of your grandma, grandpa, other community elders and the most vulnerable in our community. What would be worse? Not being able to socialize with your friends for now, seeing your family suffer through COVID-19 or, even worse, attending funerals.”

Hill said there are no immediate plans to re-install barricades and checkpoints to prevent anyone who isn’t from the community entering the territory. Those measures were taken at the end of March to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus and remained in place for several weeks.

Hill said local businesses are being asked to ramp up their health and safety protocols and conduct screenings of all their customers.

“We are also pleading to any visitors coming to our territory for shopping or recreational purposed to please respect our COVID-19 measures.”

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