Eeyou Istchee, along with much of Canada, appears to be in a sixth wave of Covid infections. Cree health authorities reported 623 active cases April 11, close to a 70% increase over the previous two weeks, when 369 cases were reported.
Hospitalizations stood at 41 after a total of 4,856 cases were counted since the pandemic began, representing around a quarter of the population. However, the latest Covid variants appear to be less severe thanks to high vaccination rates.
Eeyou Istchee remained in Step 3 of the deconfinement plan, meaning only mandatory testing is required from people returning from areas of risk, either the day before or the day of their return. Rapid tests are also required on days three and five after their return.
Vaccination measures continued across the Cree communities, with all individuals 12 and older now eligible for booster shots, and children under 12 able to get a second dose. Quebec announced that those aged 60 and above are now eligible for a fourth dose.
Employees absent because of Covid infections led Waswanipi CMC-Awash and Waswanipi Robin’s Nestfrcide to restrict access to both centres, with clients advised to call ahead.
The rising infection rate hasn’t spared politicians, with Premier François Legault and Deputy Premier Geneviève Guilbault joining seven other members of the National Assembly in testing positive in recent weeks.
However, despite rising cases, the Quebec government signalled there would be no new restrictions introduced. The Institut national d’excellence en santé et en services sociaux of Quebec said it expected to see over 250 new hospitalizations a day within another week, and growing numbers in intensive care units, but that it wasn’t expecting there to be significant pressure on the health system.
Despite that, the Quebec government did push back the planned ending of mask mandates until the end of April, from the original date of April 15. Officials said they would reassess before May whether the mask mandate needed to be extended again.
Quebec’s Health Ministry approved the release of the Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid to symptomatic patients at risk of developing complications from the virus. Patients will be able to access the drug from the 1,900 pharmacies across the province, which is intended to reduce symptoms and shorten the period of illness, thereby reducing hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.
Benjamin Powles, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Nation