(Marisela Amador The Eastern Door)
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On Tuesday, Rapids Distribution put out a statement on social media informing the community that one of their employees had tested positive for COVID-19.
The convenience store took all precautionary measures and closed down to perform in-depth sanitization.
Kayla Deer, the owner of the store, told The Eastern Door that everything was being handled according to the safety measures and that they are following up with the Kahnawake COVID-19 Task Force.
“For the privacy of my worker, I have this person’s wishes not to give out personal information,” said Deer.
Lisa Westway, the executive director at the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) and Task Force member, said the Task Force did not close down the store.
“I know that they closed on their own. They wanted to sanitize the whole store,” said Westaway.
The store reopened on Wednesday.
“We did contact tracing very quickly and isolated those who required isolation,” said the KMHC executive director.
The Task Force worked with Rapids to ensure that employees were following the measures with respect to social distancing, since they believe that may have been the source of the transmission.
Westaway said that there are some employees currently in isolation.
“I know that there was a lot of fear from the community because many people go into Rapids, and a lot of calls to the Task Force asking if the general person is impacted from having walked in there, and that is not the case,” said Westaway.
If the positive case would have posed a risk to patrons or the general population in the community, the Task Force would have issued a press release to advise the community, according to Westaway.
However, she emphasized that the people who were considered contacts through contact tracing have been notified and are isolating.
Westaway defined “real contacts” as being more than 10 minutes within two metres without masks.
“In business cases, we analyze the causes of transmission and possible origins. We analyze how many contacts and why and then it allows us to provide assistance or support to ensure that measures are being followed in the first place,” she said.
“For example, there is plexiglass at Rapids, but are people always wearing their masks?”
Task Force inspectors also regularly visit businesses in the community.
Businesses are required to complete a daily health check with their employees in the morning before they go into work to identify if they are exhibiting symptoms.
“If they check off that they have any symptoms, they are not supposed to go into work, and then they observe over a 24-hour period and call for testing if required,” said Westaway.
That procedure in place is how the Task Force was able to get people into isolation quickly and hopefully limited the spread.
Currently, there are five active cases in the community.
“There are several clusters of cases, but there are also many contacts of those positive cases, so many people who are in isolation.
“We are in a situation that we have never really faced, where there is a potential for a huge increase in the number of positive cases in a short period of time,” said Westaway.
She explained that during the first wave, the cases increased gradually, and Kahnawake had a total of 23 positive COVID-19 cases.
But, after the second wave hit and is still here, there has already been 27 more cases, and the community has never seen so many active COVID-19 cases at once, nor so many people in isolation at the same time.
“We find ourselves in a dangerous spot because we see that people do not fully realize that they can transmit the virus without knowing that they are doing so, and there is a bit of complacency with respect to distancing,” she said.
The commissioner of Public Safety and lieutenant commander of the Task Force, Lloyd Phillips, pleaded to the community during Wednesday’s daily briefing.
“We are at a crucial time with the cases and contacts rising in the community, the number outside the territory continues to rise, and there is no sign that the numbers are stabilizing,” said Phillips.
“That is certainly alarming for us to look at. The situation could be getting dire where we need to ensure the community understands wholeheartedly the severity of the pandemic,” he continued.
Phillips also warned the months of January and February could be the hardest since the pandemic began.