Province tightening public health measures, NWHU urging residents to stay in Northern Ontario, SLFNHA responding to three new positive COVID-19 tests
Tim Brody - Editor
The Ontario government announced last week it is tightening public health measures, “At the same time, in response to the second wave of COVID-19 and in preparation for the cold winter months, the government is taking action to reduce testing turnaround times while prioritizing those who are at the greatest risk,” a news release from the Office of the Premier explained.
The province announced on Oct. 2 that it is transitioning to appointment-based testing at Ontario assessment centres beginning Tuesday, October 6.
With an increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in the province, the government is:
Extending the pause on any further reopening of businesses, facilities, and organizations for an additional 28 days, unless already permitted to open under O. Reg 364/20;
Pausing social circles and advising that all Ontarians allow close contact only with people living in their own household and maintain two metres physical distancing from everyone else. Individuals who live alone may consider having close contact with another household; and
Finalizing additional guidance for seniors (70 and over) on how to minimize their risk of acquiring COVID-19, including for upcoming annual gatherings such as Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day.
In Northwestern Ontario, the Northwestern Health Unit last week urged residents to stay within northern Ontario.
“Due to the increase in COVID-19 cases in Manitoba and southern Ontario, non-essential travel outside of northern Ontario should be avoided,”
Dr. Kit Young-Hoon, Medical Officer of Health at NWHU asked residents who decide to travel outside of northern Ontario to, “Determine whether the purpose of your trip is worth the risk of potentially contracting COVID-19 and bringing it back to our area.,”
“Northern Ontario is not seeing the spike in cases that other areas like Manitoba and southern Ontario are seeing, and we must all do our part to keep it that way,” she added.
Dr. Young-Hoon also said, “Travelling for sports is not considered essential and I would recommend that sports teams do not leave northern Ontario to compete in other areas of the province or country.”
If residents do travel outside of northern Ontario, NWHU said, “They should self-isolate for 14 days upon returning if they have come in close contact with a positive case or have been exposed to an outbreak situation. The public should download the COVID Alert App for their phone so they can be notified if they have spent time near a person who has since tested positive for COVID-19.”
Information about how to minimize your risk of contracting COVID-19 while traveling is available on the NWHU’s website at https://www.nwhu.on.ca/covid19/Pages/travel.aspx.
NWHU advised on Oct. 1 that it had received reports of three new positive COVID-19 test results in the Sioux Lookout region.
Sioux Lookout First Nations Health Authority Public Health Physician Dr. John Guilfoyle confirmed all three of those positive test results came from Sandy Lake First Nation, where three persons from the same household tested positive for COVID-19.
SLFNHA informed the cases were travel related and the three individuals were being monitored and are self-isolating in the community. Contact tracing is underway.
“The SLFNHA Approaches to Community Wellbeing – Preventing Infection Diseases (PID) team are working with community health staff to support the public health management of the cases” SLFNHA shared.
SLFNHA shared the following public health messages:
If you have symptoms which could be caused by COVID, contact the nursing station for assessment
If you have had close contact with a known case, contact the nursing station for assessment.
Close contact is unmasked contact, for 15 minutes, less than six feet apart and involvement in activities where you touch common surfaces frequently, share utensils etc.
“We continue to encourage adhering to public health measures. This includes; physical distancing, handwashing, wearing masks/face covering in public where physical distancing cannot be maintained… and avoiding unnecessary travel.
“If you have any community member with symptoms that could be caused by COVID-19, please contact your nursing station to be assessed as a matter of urgency.”
SLFNHA had previously notified that there were positive tests in Kasabonika Lake First Nation – six, Sandy Lake First Nation –one, and Pikangikum First Nation – one.
On Sept. 30 SLFNHA shared, “We would like to inform that contact tracing has been completed and there have been 10-15 close contacts identified with each case. All have been tested and all have been negative. In addition, there have been over 100 swabs completed in each community on other members who have had low risk exposure/symptoms/concerns. All results are negative to date. All individuals are doing well and the self-isolating period is coming to an end.”
Also on Sept. 30, Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa stated at Queen’s Park during question period, “Communities across Kiiwetinoong were in crisis before COVID-19. The pandemic has only deepened these crises. In Neskantaga, there has been 26 years of boil-water advisories; to be exact, 9,373 days without access to clean drinking water. In another community, 85 per cent of the homes do not have running water. In the community of Wapekeka, there have been approximately 25 suicides over the last 30 years. What resources have been provided by the government to these communities to help them with the COVID-19 pandemic?”
Minister of Indigenous Affairs Greg Rickford responded, “Mr. Speaker, just two years ago, this government made it a priority to reset the relationships with Indigenous communities to focus on things on the ground and in the community that could and would make a difference. Some of that is borne from the experiences that I had living and working in many of those communities over the course of my career, and I appreciate the leadership of the Premier and the support of our caucus and this government in bringing some of those to fruition. Others, Mr. Speaker, were business that was unfinished from a previous government that had simply not put priorities where they mattered most, and that was in the
“That’s why we’ve put a particular emphasis on major projects across northern Ontario. The east-west tie comes to mind, the Watay Power project, fundamentally improving the fortunes and quality of life in those communities.
“We remain committed to improving the quality of life and investing in Indigenous youth across northern Ontario.”
Mamakwa then asked, “Again, I think simple, basic human rights such as clean drinking water are very basic. We need Ontario to invest in them.
“Since I’ve been here, and since I’ve been up north, growing up, I know governments come and go. Programs come and go. Funding comes and goes. That happens. As Ontario enters a second, more serious wave of COVID-19, what is this government going to do to support these communities against a second wave?”
Rickford responded by stating, “I have to say that during the first wave, and continuing today, not only have we had thorough and consistent engagement with the Chiefs of Ontario and their leadership council every single week, I and many of my colleagues, ministerial colleagues, have joined them. It has been much appreciated. Not all the conversations have been easy, to the member opposite—there have been some difficult and tense moments.
“But underpinning that was the confidence that this government was committed to making sure and supporting the incredible leadership that Indigenous leaders have shown, from Regional Chief Archibald to the grand chiefs, especially and including Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, with the bigger challenges of protecting isolated communities, and the chiefs of those communities. I would say, given the number of COVID cases in those communities, they and we have done a great job. We will continue to remain engaged and make the priority investments to protect those communities. He has the word of the Premier and my word.”