I must begin by acknowledging and thanking all Members who are doing their best to adhere to the guidelines put forward by Public Health by staying at home as much as possible, no gatherings, maintaining the physical distancing recommended and washing your hands as frequently as possible. All of these actions are not only ensuring your personal safety but increasing the safety for all Members living in the community. We cannot let our guard down now and we must emphasize that you must keep doing these things for the foreseeable future.
That being said, we have been monitoring daily the evolution of Covid-19 in the province and more importantly the number of cases in the MRC de Temiscamingue. While most of the cases centred on an outbreak in Rouyn, there was a smattering of cases in the MRC. We were vigilant and on Tuesday it was announced that there was a case in Temiscaming. Mr. Pascal Labranche put out a Facebook post advising he had contracted Covid-19 and had probably contracted it by community transmission (meaning he may have inadvertently came into contact with a person who may or may not have been aware they were infected). While we appreciate and acknowledge the bravery and honesty in him coming forward and wish him a speedy recovery, this revelation immediately caused a reaction as everyone is already anxious and hearing that it was close to home is quite unnerving, even for myself.
In response to hearing this news, Chief and Council held a virtual meeting to discuss the news and to decide if now was the time to initiate stricter protection measures for Kebaowek, with the hopes of reducing the potential introduction of Covid-19 in the community and exposure to our most vulnerable. This includes monitoring those who access the community and the setting up of a checkpoint if necessary to further reduce unnecessary travel in the community by Members not living here and unnecessary Non-Member traffic as well.
Council has not taken these decisions lightly as they have impacts; keeping in mind these decisions are taken with a priority to protect our members. While we recognize that our decisions will have temporary impacts, no impact will be greater if we didn’t exhaust all efforts to keep the virus out of the community and potentially devastating our aging population, our most vulnerable, our knowledge keepers, our Grandmothers and Grandfathers, Aunts and Uncles and other Members who have serious underlying medical conditions like diabetes, emphysema and heart disease.
Chief and Council has therefore decided that yes we need to increase protection measures and therefore have agreed that there will be a gradual increase in the monitoring as deemed necessary with the potential to set up a checkpoint restricting of traffic coming into the community.
The following steps and timing will therefore be implemented over the coming days:
- By 6:00 pm tonight (Thursday, April 23rd, 2020) traffic coming to and going out of the community will be restricted to one main entrance (Ogima Street) where the Migizy Gas is located. This will make it easier for the Police Department to better monitor the flow of traffic in and out of the community. Access to the community at Migizy Street will be closed.
- Our Police Officers will be diligent and monitoring all traffic entering and leaving the community, NO CHECKPOINT WILL BE INSTALLED at the present time however we may decide one is necessary at a later date if the situation of Covid-19 cases and the risk of transmission increases as a result of the Governments’ decision to gradually open the borders to traffic.
For Non-Kebaowek Residents it is recommended that your visits to Kebaowek are limited to:
- Deliver food, meals to an Elder, a loved one or family member, including the dropping off of medications or other items. Please no visiting.
- Access either of the two businesses in the community, Lakeview Store or Migizy Gas.
- Attend an appointment at the Band Office, Health Center, First-Line Services or to access the Food Bank.
- Kebaowek Employees attending work.
I know and understand that during this time you may have mixed emotions on our decision but I am here to reassure you that your Leadership is doing everything can to keep you safe. Please understand that we are in uncharted territory with the Covid-19 crisis, there is no blueprint or guide that tells us what we should or should not do next, but what we do know that Covid-19 is serious, it is dangerous and it kills people of all walks of life and all ages but the vast majority of deaths are in elderly population.
I am also aware that it may be unrealistic to believe that we can stop this Virus however we need to be as vigilant as possible to minimize the risk in the hopes that a vaccination will be created sooner than what has been predicted. As well we don’t want to see any flare ups and second waves of Covid-19. Like everyone we too want to get back to a more normal life and we hope that the Governments take a slow, methodical approach to the opening of the borders, the restarting of the economy and allowing children to return to school. These last items are outside of our jurisdiction so that is why we can only do what we can within Kebaowek to not jeopardize our health and safety.
In closing I want to ask for your understanding and cooperation so we can continue to have a safe and healthy community and I would be remiss if I didn’t again ask that you continue to practice the guidelines recommended by Public Health officials. Wash hands regularly, practice physical distancing and stay home as much as possible.
Chief Lance Haymond