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Another COVID-19 outbreak

With eight reported COVID-19 cases in the community affecting businesses and individuals alike, this is a crucial reminder that the pandemic is not over.

There are curently roughly 60 people in isolation. “Presently, these cases are people who are not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated, and the impact is not just on them and the other eight people. The impact is on all the contacts who are not vaccinated and who have to self-isolate for 14 days,” said Lisa Westaway, the executive director of Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC).

The director reiterated that this will cause loss of pay, work and well-being.

“They are being isolated in a room away from their family. There are huge impacts and consequences to the community because of particular cases of unvaccinated people.”

One positive case got their hair done at Salon in town earlier this week.

And although Melanie Difruscia, the parlour owner, was shocked when a client messaged her that they had the virus, she reiterated that it was handled well.

“It’s no one’s fault. This is something that could have happened to anybody,” said the hairdresser, who had her second dose postponed due to surgery.

After the initial fright, Difruscia called 811 and followed their instructions closely. “I mentioned that both my mother and I were in contact with a positive case on Saturday, and they told me the next morning I would have to go for testing.”

She called the Task Force, and with their guidance, she contacted the clients that needed to be notified of the situation. She also called all other clients to let them know and soothe any of their worries.

“The clients were amazing and supportive.”

According to Westaway, and the local and national public health rules, if business owners are double-vaccinated and their tests come back negative, they do not have to self-isolate even if they have been in contact with a negative case.

Difruscia and her mother, who was also awaiting her second dose, are both in isolation for two weeks, meaning that they have to close the business.

Another positive case was reported by community member Konwatsitsawi Deering.

“Right up to the point of me getting it, I didn’t know anybody who had it,” she said. “In the evening, I started to have a headache, and I just thought it’s probably from too much sun. But the next morning, I woke up still with a headache, achy body and congestion.”

Deering felt it was vital that she get tested. After receiving her positive result, she went home and isolated in her room. Her family also had to get tested and is awaiting results.

Although she is not vaccinated, her father and brother are, so if their tests come back negative, they do not have to self-isolate.

Now beginning her recovery and taking time off work, she reminds the community that normalcy is still a few steps away. “People need to know it is still around.”

Despite the restrictions she is now facing, Deering does not plan on receiving the vaccine.

Westaway explained that even though we are in the green zone and remaining in phase four, the double vaccination rates are meagre. Only 44 percent of the community is vaccinated for those aged 12 and older, and 66 percent of those fully vaccinated 18 years and older.

“We don’t judge people who do not want to be vaccinated. However, we want you to be informed and be able to make these decisions based on facts.”

Westaway explained that 95 percent of the hospitalizations and deaths caused by the virus are from non-vaccinated people. “We see how vaccination serves to protect the community as a whole.”

She reminds the community that even though one dose may have been enough four months ago, with the new variants that have emerged and will continue to emerge, one vaccination no longer counts as sufficient protection.

Lloyd Phillips, the commissioner of public health, explained that the current phase four measures will remain the status quo until July 23. “It is certainly unfortunate that we have an outbreak in the community, but it was not totally unexpected,” he said.

Phillips explained that everyone is working hard to find proper solutions and that it is crucial to trust the people working on the frontlines of this crisis for over a year and a half now.

Westaway explained that there is still a chance for people to get their second and even their first dose upon request. The Kahnawake Sports Complex will now be the new vaccination site, and it will be opening on July 28 and 29, providing the Pfizer vaccine. On July 30, they will be providing second doses of the Moderna vaccine and will continue to provide an option for first doses as needed.

The director also addressed the concerns that community members shared about receiving conflicting information from regional sources. She reminds everyone to seek the truthful, ethical and researched information provided by the safety commissioner and the local public health team.

“We follow the directives to the letter,” she said. “Our only goal is to protect you. If you choose not to listen or follow the directives, then you are choosing not to protect those around you.”

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