Kahnawake on red alert as active COVID-19 cases more than double in two days

Kahnawake has declared a red alert after the amount of active coronavirus cases there more than doubled in two days.

The Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) community south of Montreal made the announcement Wednesday as active infections increased to 31.

“We can confirm that these outbreaks are related to the DELTA strain which is greatly impacting level of risk in the community,” read a news release.

Under the red alert level, the community council “strongly recommends” social distancing, limiting gatherings to two households at a time, and wearing a mask around people from other households, both inside and out.

Despite Kahnawake’s proximity to Montreal, one of Quebec’s COVID-19 hotspots, cases have remained relatively low in the community.

Officials worry, however, that cases will continue to climb.

Health authorities say the community entered a fourth wave on July 12. Since then, the community has reported 71 cases, nearly half the total cases from the first three waves combined

“For a population just under 10,000, that's quite significant,” said Lisa Westaway, executive director of the Kateri Memorial Hospital Centre (KMHC).

Westaway says health authorities in Kahnawake expected a rise in cases as the community relaxed coronavirus restrictions.

“What was unexpected was the how rapidly the increase happened,” said Westaway.

Canadian health authorities have in part blamed the Delta variant for increasing case counts across the country.

Since Aug. 21, 57 per cent of coronavirus cases in Quebec were linked to the Delta variant.

Westaway says delta is even more concentrated in Kahnawake.

“Most of [our cases], all the ones that were sequenced, are related to the Delta variant,” she said.

“We do have a higher percentage of that variant within the Kahnawake community that we have in Quebec at large at the present time.”

Health authorities have linked some of the new cases to sporting events and travel.

Organized sports have since been declared “high risk,” along with travel to Kanehsatàke, a sister community near Ottawa, and Tioweróton, a territory in the Laurentians.

“Please be careful in these areas,” read the Wednesday release.

VACCINATION NOT NECESSARY FOR HOSPITAL ACCESS

Also on Wednesday, KMHC released a statement condemning rumours that it would restrict access to vaccinated people only.

“KMHC has received an alarming amount of phone calls [Wednesday] morning … regarding this concern,” read the release.

“KMHC would like to take this time to remind everyone how powerful words can be and the effects those words can have on our community, especially when it comes to access to medical care.”

The hospital clarified that those with COVID-19 symptoms should call ahead before arriving at the centre. 

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