COVID cases in Bearskin Lake First Nation resolved, chief thanks surrounding First Nations, businesses, organizations for their support
Mike Lawrence - Staff Writer
“When the outbreak was just happening, it was, I guess, like a tsunami. A tidal wave, each case multiplying on a daily basis.”
That’s how Bearskin Lake First Nation Chief Lefty Kamenawatamin describes the COVID-19 outbreak that washed over his community near the end of December.
Now, after an incredibly difficult transition to the new year, the community is starting to return to some sense of normalcy.
Describing the events as they played out at the end of December, Kamenawatamin said, “I guess I’ll start from the outbreak, which was on December 28, 2021. That’s when we had our first case there in the community. We heard about it at 3 o’clock in the afternoon. We immediately called for a community lockdown that evening, at 7 o’clock. Following that evening, into the night, we had multiple cases that followed. I think we had about 24 positive cases on that very first day. The following day the positive cases just multiplied each day. We had up to 219 cases by the time it settled.”
Kamenawatamin continued, “I had declared a state of emergency on December 29, knowing that this wasn’t going to be something that was an overnight thing. All of those 219 cases have been resolved. Our declaration of a state of emergency, the last day was on January 28. That’s when it ended.”
Despite calls for assistance from the Canadian military, it took time before they had boots on the ground, as Kamenawatamin recalls. “We had asked for military aid from Canada, but nothing really materialized. About a week or a week and a half later we received Canadian rangers from out of town. There were three of them that came to our community, plus there were some local rangers that came from the surrounding communities, like KI (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug), Pikangikum, and Lac Seul. Those people stayed for two weeks. On top of that we had local front-line workers that distributed groceries, garbage pickups, water hauls, and whatever the people needed that were in isolation.”
“We are starting to get back into some normalcy here,” Kamenawatamin added. “We still practice all protocols, here, we have to be vigilant.”
“I think right now we’re okay,” Kamenawatamin added. “The response that we got from the surrounding First Nations was overwhelming, plus the businesses and organizations just kept things coming. I think that really made the whole difference. We’d like to thank those that contributed when we were in crisis here. We will make an acknowledgement to these people in the weeks ahead.”