Six Nations Covid death toll reaches five, as cases skyrocket

Six Nations of the Grand River elected council is pleading with the community to follow public health guidance to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the community as Six Nations mourns its fifth death from the disease.

Elected Chief Mark Hill pleaded for the community’s cooperation in curbing the spread of Covid-19.

“We are in a crisis,” he said during a special live address last Thursday. “Our Covid-19 positive cases have spiked rapidly over the past couple of months and we are at an all-time high. Higher than the city of Toronto by population. We are scared that if we do not get this under control, we will see more deaths and serious illness in our community. We do not want that. No one wants that.”

The recent spate of positive cases prompted SNGR council to shut down all non-essential services for the next weeks to help slow the spread of the virus. They’ve also asked non-essential business to consider closing and essential businesses to reduce their hours. All of the measures are just short of setting up roadblocks around the community again, as council did last spring when Covid first appeared as a worldwide pandemic.

Six Nations had the highest number of cases per capita in the province last week, higher than the City of Toronto.

SNGR council and local health officials blamed the spread solely on community members not following public health guidelines and not isolating after learning they’ve tested positive for the virus.

“This means we are spreading among ourselves at a high rate,” said Chief Hill. “We are potentially harming our own elders, family members, friends and our community. Our frontline workers are exhausted and near burnout.”

That includes health care staff, social services staff, mental health and crisis staff, Covid-19 assessment centre staff, as well as paramedics, police, and firefighters, among others.

“This impacts you as community members as they are getting to the point they will not be able to help us any longer,” said Chief Hill. “They are tired physically, mentally and emotionally. Six Nations has the highest rate of active cases per 100 people in the entire province.”

Data from all 34 public health units in the province between Feb. 25 and Mar. 1 showed the community ranked at the top of the list.

“We are in the news and this is not fake or exaggerated facts,” said Chief Hill. “This is very real. We have to act now before it’s too late.”

SNGR council moved on Mar. 1 to initiate a two-week closure of all SNGR departments effective last Thursday at 4 p.m.

A list of essential services remaining open and their hours is on the SNGR Facebook page.

“We know this is drastic but it must be done,” said Chief Hill. “All individuals have to take responsibility and each do our part. We are doing our best to maintain our community economy during such difficult times but if our Covid-19 positive cases continue to rise, we will all lose in the end. This does not mean that all business will be closed so there is no need for panic buying. We will not be setting up checkpoints (to the community as was done last spring).”

Elected council said it will support businesses by re-establishing a small business relief fund rolled out last year and holding business zoom sessions Mar. 10 and Mar. 11 for local businesses with questions.

“If we do this now we can stop the spread and reduce transmission before we lose any more people to this deadly virus,” said Chief Hill.

Six Nations recorded its fifth Covid death on Monday, four days after SNGR made the emergency announcement. Another death was recorded last Friday.

Staff will continue to work from home, said Chief Hill.

In the meantime, the Chief said he is putting pressure on the government to deliver more vaccine doses to the community.

Six Nations Director of Health Services Lori Davis-Hill said the community is in a crisis and pleaded with people to self-isolate, stay home and follow public health advice.

“Our entire community needs to be aware of the concerning level of exhaustion our teams of frontline workers are facing,” she said, adding many Six Nations frontline staff have worked around the clock since the pandemic was announced almost a year ago.

“We are all extremely tired, irritable, concerned and wondering where we will find the energy to carry on,” she said. “Our teams are also feeling helpless as if all their hard work and dedication means nothing to those members who continue to act against public health advice. Yes, I’m speaking to those members that are choosing to ignore critical self-isolation measures. This is putting your community – our community – at risk.”

She thanked people showing respect for public health guidelines.

“For those who are doing their part, you are all heroes for this community.”

Six Nations recently received a shipment of vaccine doses, which she called good news, as health staff continue to schedule inoculations at Emily C. General School, the site of the community’s vaccination clinic.

“I am pleading with the entire community to step up to collectively do their part in reducing our numbers and to help pull us out of this Covid crisis. It is the community that is spreading the virus.”

Six Nations Health Services said it will be a few more weeks before community-wide vaccination can take place.

In the meantime, community members are asked to stay home and travel only if absolutely necessary. Six Nations Police said they are considering fining community members who refuse to follow the Quarantine Act and Re-opening Ontario Act.

Health Service said their nurses are burnt out and are in need of more staff. They also encouraged every community member to get tested for the virus to help fight the spread.

Services are expected to re-open Mar. 19.

Six Nations has not recorded any Covid variants of concern to date.

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