One dead as COVID-19 cases rise again on Six Nations

·3 min read

Rising COVID-19 cases in Haldimand-Norfolk and Six Nations and a recent COVID death on the reserve are the latest signs the pandemic is not yet over.

Statistics released by Six Nations Public Health indicate a 14th band member died of the disease sometime in the past few days.

No information about the deceased was provided, including the date of death.

There were just four active cases on Six Nations last Friday. But over the past week, 17 people tested positive, including six fully vaccinated band members.

Three people recovered in that time, leaving 18 active cases as of Thursday.

Two COVID-19 patients are in hospital with 198 band members in self-isolation due to potential exposure to a positive case.

Katie Montour, spokesperson for Six Nations Elected Council, said she did not have any further information from public health about the cause of the recent increase.

The reproductive number on the reserve currently sits at 2.19, meaning every person infected with the virus could be expected to infect at least two others.

That prompted health officials to declare a “high risk” for transmission on Six Nations and again call for band members to get vaccinated.

Saturday morning vaccine clinics have been added to reach more band members and those working on the territory.

Just 55 per cent of Six Nations residents have received at least one dose, with 48 per cent fully vaccinated, but those figures from public health refer to the entire on-reserve population, including those not yet eligible for vaccination.

The infection rate per 100,000 on Six Nations is 109.48, compared to 27.0 per 100,000 in Hamilton and 21.7 in Haldimand-Norfolk, which has also seen a recent spike in active cases.

At a council meeting on Tuesday, Norfolk County Mayor Kristal Chopp cited the fact that there were only 20 active cases between the two counties as reason not to mandate vaccination for Norfolk County staff.

Since then, the active case count has gone up by 11 to 31.

Health unit immunologist Dr. Kate Bishop-Williams said the recent increase in new cases is part of the “ebbs and flows” seen since schools reopened and more people returned to in-person work last month.

The recent Thanksgiving holiday may have also played a part, she said.

“At this time we are seeing an increase in cases and are very cautiously monitoring what that means long term,” Bishop-Williams said.

“We avoid making stark statements about trends in a short window but do treat these signals with high vigilance until we see how things happen over the following days.”

She could say with certainty that residents need to remain “vigilant” and get their shots to stay protected.

“The pandemic is certainly not over — not in Haldimand and Norfolk, not in Ontario, and not globally,” Bishop-Williams said.

“Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we continue to drive home the importance of vaccination and public health measures to prevent the spread of infection.”

J.P. Antonacci, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Hamilton Spectator

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