OHSWEKEN — Six Nations of the Grand River Elected Council says it is moving the community into Red Alert status — despite it’s own policy that requires the community to move into Black Alert level status along with the provincial lockdown/stay-at-home order.
SNGR Elected Council implemented the Six Nations Pandemic Response Framework in November 2020, saying the community required “stricter control measures than the surrounding areas, in part due to increased risk factors for on-reserve band members.”
The policy says Six Nations will follow suit in the event of a provincial lockdown.
It reads, “Our thresholds for action are stricter than Ontario’s, so we will increase our Alert Status more readily than other public health units.”
And again, “If Brant and/or Haldimand-Norfolk go into Lockdown or there is a Federal or Provincial lockdown, then Six Nations would go into lockdown as well.”
Currently both regions, as well as the rest of the province, are in lockdown.
As of Thursday afternoon Six Nations is reporting 6 total confirmed positive COVID-19 infections with an increase in variant cases to 4. But case rates in the surrounding regions, where Six Nations residents must travel daily for groceries and other essential services, are spiking.
Brant County Health Unit is reporting 182 active cases with 40 reported in the last 24 hours. Seven people are in hospital. So far 152 confirmed cases of the UK variant and 2 cases of the Brazil variant have been detected in Brant.
Haldimand-Norfolk is reporting 129 active cases and says nearly 40 cases of variants of concern have been confirmed in that region.
According to the policy, weekly assessments are conducted by the ECG’s Incident Management Team to determine what the current alert level should be.
Those assessments include “tracking indicators such as virus spread and containment, healthcare system capacity, Ohsweken Public Health capacity, Assessment Centre capacity and community compliance with public health measures.”
The Framework explains the need for stricter measures on the territory and says there is a high prevalence of pre-existing conditions among band members. Over a third of Six Nations on reserve population is in the in the 50+ age demographic. Half of that demographic has high blood pressure. Nearly a quarter of that demographic has heart disease.
The Framework lists other socio-economic determinants of health like access to water and overcrowding in local housing that prompted a more aggressive approach to elevating alert level status during the pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford advanced a province-wide lockdown with a stay-at-home order this week due in part to a surge in cases driven by Ontario residents travelling from restricted areas into those with looser restrictions.
Six Nations remaining in Red Alert status while the surrounding regions are on lockdown could carry on that trend of region hopping, attracting non-resident visitors to the community and potentially increasing the risk of local COVID-19 transmission.
Off-reserve, stores that sell goods such as groceries, cleaning supplies and pharmacy products can remain open but only to sell essential items.
Non-essential retail can open for curbside pickup or delivery only.
The stay-at-home order prohibits Ontario residents from leaving home except for work, medical appointments and to get groceries or medication.
TRT sent questions to both Elected Council and the Emergency Control Group for clarification on why the current alert status level change to Red does not match the Six Nations Pandemic Response Framework policy and who makes the decision on what alert level the community is at.
No word from either group on that yet.