(COURTESY KAHNAWAKE COVID-19 TASK FORCE)
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With the holiday season fast approaching, many community members have been wondering if they would be able to gather with their loved ones as COVID-19 cases continue to spike in the province.
This week, during the Kahnawake COVID-19 daily briefing on Tuesday, the executive director of the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC) and Task Force member Lisa Westaway announced that although there are four active cases in the community, the plan is currently to continue to allow gatherings between two households.
“We already have in place that people are gathering,” said Westaway. “This was done for mental wellness. So, for the holidays, it’s exactly that same perspective.”
Out of the four active cases, two are from the same household. The other two cases are of unknown sources, according to Westaway.
“What we know is that there is no widespread transmission of the virus from these positive cases. What the increase in cases tells us, though, is that we have to be vigilant,” she said.
Between December 24 to the 28th, the Task Force is urging community members to maintain only two households visiting at a time and that they schedule only up to two separate visits per day.
The Task Force suggests that if a family has one household on the December 25 for breakfast, then they can have another household for dinner.
The community must also keep a registry of who is in their house and on which day and time, so that if there is an outbreak contact tracing is possible and thorough.
“We’re actually in a high-risk time right now. It’s about being safe as much as possible, knowing that people will gather over the holidays whether we want them to or not,” said Westaway.
Proceeding the holidays, from January 5 to 18, visitations and private gatherings will not be allowed, to give the Task Force time to evaluate the impact the holiday period had on the community.
“We want to be sure that if there was a big amount of transmission over the holiday period that we contain it right away.” said Westaway.
However, as always, the Task Force will continue to monitor the situation as it progresses, community members should be ready and flexible in case things change closer to Christmas.
“We’re releasing plans for the holidays so that people can start planning, because we started hearing about Christmas before Halloween. People want to have control over their lives; they want to be able to plan.
“So, we’re asking people to kind of have a second option available to them should they feel that gathering is really going to be detrimental to their well-being,” said Westway.
Westway suggested having Zoom and meal deliveries as a backup.
She also stressed that individuals over 70 or that are immunocompromised should plan their visits differently because they are at even higher risk.
“Distancing, hygiene and masks at all times are what’s going to ensure that we don’t increase cases drastically,” she said.
The situation in the Greater Montreal area and the surrounding communities continue to be critical, and as such, it greatly affects the Task Force’s decisions and recommendations.
“There is an increase in cases of clusters in schools. There is an increase in cases of clusters of transmission in workplaces,” said Westaway.
Additionally, Westway said that impacts are starting to show because of the resurgence of outbreaks in long-term facilities.
Hospitalizations are also up, as well as admissions to the intensive care unit (ICU), and as of late, there has been a drastic increase in the number of deaths.
“Those variables are part of the indicators that we follow in order to allow us to make safety recommendations for the community,” explained Westaway.
Fortunately, if there was an outbreak in cases in the community after the holiday season, the Task Force and all of the major organizations in the community have a contingency plan in place.
Westaway said that the plan includes non-essential services to be closed, and resources would be moved to focus on responding to the outbreak.
“As the Task Force, we are prepared. We hope that it never happens, but we are prepared,” said Westaway.
Kahnawake would also have support from the Centre integre de sante et de services sociaux (CISSS) de la Monteregie-Ouest that has emergency teams that would be deployed to assist the community.