Wiikwemkoong health authorities lock down community as Island COVID infections up


WIIKWEMKOONG – Chief and council for Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories declared a state of emergency last Friday, while some confusion remains on the variance between reported case numbers from Wiikwemkoong and Public Health Sudbury and Districts.

“On Friday December 10, Ogimaa and council officially declared a state of emergency for the community of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory,” a notice from Ogimaa Duke Peltier reads. “The state of emergency has been declared because we are facing a health crisis, which has the potential to severely impact our essential services for Wiiikwemkoong.” 

Ogimaa Peltier continued, “it is crucial that everyone stays home, and only leave your home if it is necessary for essential purposes (i.e., grocery shopping, medical appointments, etc.). Staying home helps prevent and minimize any further spread of COVID-19 into Wiikwemkoong.”

The state of emergency declaration comes after eight new confirmed cases of COVID-19 were declared in Wiikwemkoong on December 10. As of that date, there were 121 COVID-19 active cases in Wiikwemkooong.

Wiikwemkoong had declared a COVID-19 outbreak on November 27 after four residents who live on reserve tested positive for the virus. 

Ogimaa Peltier added, “I want to say chi-miigwech to those individuals who have responded to our calls for support, in particular support for our water delivery services. From time to time, we may have to issue these calls for support, and we are extremely grateful for those who help. It is amazing when we make these calls for support, that our very own Wiikwemkoong steps up.”

All Wiikwemkoong Board of Education schools will remain closed for in-person learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. Students started online learning this week.

The Expositor reached out to Public Health Sudbury and Districts (PHSD) to clarify the difference in case numbers being reported by the health unit on its website and those being reported by Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territories in recent weeks.

A Wiikwemkoong official explained the difference was due to the community’s lab not being registered with PHSD, although negotiations were underway to consolidate numbers; that was reported in last week’s Expositor.

On Monday, The Expositor received this reply from PHSD: Thank you for your inquiry. We currently report COVID-19 case data at the geographic levels of Manitoulin District, Sudbury District (west, north and east), and City of Greater Sudbury. Our cases are counted in our daily web updates based on the community in which the person resided when they became a case. COVID-19 cases among residents of First Nations communities are included in our daily reports, on the day we receive confirmation of the case from the public health lab. Any such cases are referred to the community itself, along with Indigenous Services Canada, for contact tracing and management. The community maintains control over their data and reports it independently.’ Thank you, Communications, PHSD.”

The Expositor requested greater clarification of that reply, but had not received a response as of press time Monday.

As of Monday, PHSD was reporting an increase of 38 cases, with 120 active and 154 resolved. The previous reported number was 236.

As of Monday, December 13 (updated as of 9:30 pm Sunday, December 12) Wiikwemkoong was reporting no new cases, with 128 listed as active and 15 as resolved.

A meeting was to be held last week between Wiikwemkoong and PHSD seeking to resolve any confusion in the numbers being reported. The result of that meeting was not known as of press time Monday.

Wiikwemkoong residents are encouraged to seek COVID-19 testing regardless of their vaccination status, even if they only have mild symptoms, by calling the Wikwemikong Health Centre at 705-859-3164. 

The Manitoulin Health Centre Little Current site is offering COVID-19 testing by appointment.