Local First Nations dealing with COVID-19 cases

Walpole Island Governance Building. August, 2020 Photo courtesy of James Jenkins.

Walpole Island is taking extra precautions to control the spread of COVID-19 in its community while Delaware Nation at Moraviantown considers a full lockdown.

All staff members at the First Nation community near Wallaceburg are being tested and all offices are being deep cleaned after a positive COVID-19 test among administrative staff.

Walpole Island hasn’t had an active COVID-19 case for two months.

Director of Operations James Jenkins said all of the band programs and departments have been closed for two weeks out of “an abundance of caution” and to be proactive in ensuring the safety of the staff and community. Jenkins added council will be updating the COVID-19 response plan for the Walpole Island community and will identify further measures and actions to ensure that it is well prepared for the second wave of the virus. The action plan will include all sectors including staffing and operations, community members, education, and businesses. The chief and council all agreed that the best course of action was to act now to ensure that the community was the main priority. ‘

Chief Charles Sampson said he hopes his community will get back to normal and in a very short period of time.

“As many of you know, we had a staff member test positive and, as a result of that we have met to discuss some remedial measures and actions to address the concerns of staff and to do a thorough cleaning of the governance building and to provide instructions to the rest of the band operated buildings and facilities,” said Chief Sampson. “Hopefully, within the next two weeks, we’re going to gradually phase back into operation and to continue on with regular service to community members. This should be regarded as an extreme precautionary measure we’re doing in the best interest of the band members [and] of the employees.”

The chief said many of the members of Walpole Island are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because of the “high prevalence” of underlying health conditions and they must take extra precautions to protect the community. Walpole Island currently has one active case. There have been 18 total cases and one death on Walpole Island since the pandemic started.

Community Health Supervisor Kyla Stonefish is asking all community members to follow the proper COVID-19 health and safety protocols to prevent spreading the virus.

Meanwhile, Delaware Nation at Moraviantown is reporting three confirmed cases of COVID-19. In a letter updating her community on Sunday, Chief Denise Stonefish wrote the individuals are isolated and being monitored. Stonefish said a mobile testing unit is being brought in for testing and contact tracing is underway to determine the extent of exposure. CK Public Health is also contacting anyone who has been in close contact with the positive cases. Council has closed all administration offices until November 30 and suspended all events and activities. Chief Stonefish is also considering a “complete lockdown” for 14 days if there are any more positive cases. She is also promising regular updates after coming under fire from a couple of community members about the lack of information during a crisis.

“Please be assured that the council, the director of operations, our health team, and myself, as chief, are doing our utmost best in keeping the community safe. We do take this pandemic very seriously,” said Stonefish. “We know this pandemic poses a health threat and all our community members and residents are vulnerable to this disease. And yet, at the same time, we can work together in preventing this coronavirus.”

Chatham-Kent Public Health also announced on Wednesday afternoon that two of the five local outbreaks have been officially declared over. The outbreaks at community living and a church in Blenheim are over but three workplace outbreaks continue. One is at the KFC at 720 Grand Ave. W. in Chatham, one is at the Taco Bell at 328 St. Clair St. in Chatham, and the other is unspecified. Active cases are down by two to 30 after health officials reported three new cases but five recovered individuals. One person remains in the hospital.