Cree communities in northern Quebec see 30 COVID-19 cases after 'super-spreader' gatherings

Two Cree communities, Mistissini (left) and Ouje-Bougoumou (right), recorded outbreaks of COVID-19 following "super-spreader" gatherings in violation of regional coronavirus protocols (photo: Google Maps).

The Cree communities of Ouje-Bougoumou and Mistissini in northern Quebec have recorded a COVID-19 outbreak following what officials call two "super-spreader" social gatherings in the area.

On Tuesday, officials reported that the gatherings resulted in 15 cases in Ouje-Bougoumou, 12 cases in Mistissini and three other infections in community members residing outside Eeyou Istchee, the traditional territory of the Cree in northern Quebec. 

The Cree Nation Government said in a statement on Sunday that more than 200 people were part of a contact-tracing campaign to measure the spread.

“[We] are finding the ends of the transmission chains,” read the release.

Two elders were infected with mild symptoms, the nation said.

“The recent jump in cases is evidence that we cannot let our guard down.”

Eeyou Istchee was exempt from the province-wide lockdown and curfew, as most communities in the area had been able to keep the coronavirus out.

Mistissini, a community about 400 kilometres northeast of Val-d'Or, is in phase three of its "deconfinement plan," allowing outdoor gatherings of 75 people and indoor gatherings of 25.

Ouje-Bougoumou, the community southwest of Mistissini, is also in phase three. 

According to the statement from authorities, the situation is delicate.

“Recent events are a demonstration to everyone on how one lapse in judgement can have an impact on so many in our communities.”

A vaccination campaign is underway, with authorities reporting 1,000 doses administered between Jan. 5 and Jan. 10.

Officials say there will be enough doses of the vaccine to provide to "everyone present in a community wanting to be vaccinated."

Distribution of the Moderna vaccine is expected to begin on Jan. 17. 

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