Wikwemikong Nursing Home COVID-19 outbreak ended

Resident Rita Wemigwans gets her COVID-19 vaccine.

WIIKWEMKOONG—The COVID-19 outbreak at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home is now over.

“We declared the outbreak over on Tuesday, February 22, after about three weeks,” stated Cheryl Osawabine-Peltier, administrator of the nursing home, late last week. “When the outbreak was first declared, public health had said to expect that it would be in place for about three weeks.”

Ms. Osawabine-Peltier told The Expositor that during the time the outbreak was declared, “all of our residents, except for one, tested positive (for COVID).” In total, 17 staff had tested positive over the course of the outbreak.

A release from the Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory (WUT) pandemic response team, dated February 23 states that council approved their recommendations from the pandemic response team. “We are pleased to inform the community of good news. The outbreak at the Wikwemikong Nursing Home has been declared over as of February 22. Along with this news and after careful consideration with the support of the pandemic response team and Naandwechige-Gamig Wikwemikong Health Centre, Wiikwemkoong will no longer be considered in an outbreak. This allows us to move into step two of the WUT easing of restrictions plan, effective February 22. Additionally, as of March 1, we will no longer require proof of vaccination for all settings, including programming, events and activities within Wiikwemkoong.”

“The term ‘outbreak’ has caused notions of fear, panic, limitations and restrictions in Wiikwemkoong. The definition had the potential to impose restrictions for a long period of time, and the term’s removal allows Wiikwemkoong to continue to adapt and coexist with COVID-19. The term ‘outbreak’ will be removed for the WUT policies and plans related to COVID-19, including the outbreak section in the WUT easing of restriction plan. The current outbreak section will become step one which will impose restrictions when the active COVID-19 cases overwhelm the capacity of our pandemic response teams.”

However, it was noted, “even though we are no longer considered to be in an outbreak, this does not mean that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. Public health measures such as properly wearing a mask, washing/sanitizing your hands, continual disinfecting of common areas/surfaces, physical distancing, daily self-monitoring, and contract tracing will continue. We are strongly encouraging our community members to get vaccinated as it is the best form of protection from experiencing several symptoms of COVID-19 and its variants.”

It was explained that step two of the WUT easing of restriction plan includes: all public buildings will be at  50 percent capacity  and/or up to 25 people maximum; outdoor gatherings (non-sporting) of up to 100 people; no restriction on the number of participants for outdoors sports and leagues; for all programming, events and activities, the organizer must present a safety plan to the pandemic response  team and be granted approval; regardless of vaccination status, residents  travelling outside of the Robinson-Huron Treaty Territory are required to self-monitor for 10 days, and it is recommended to be tested seven days after returning to the community. “If you develop symptoms after returning home, isolate immediately and call Wikwemikong Health Centre (WHC) to book COVID-19 testing and speak to a nurse.”

As of February 1, a COVID-19 outbreak had been declared at the nursing home. Ms. Osawabine-Peltier told The Expositor at the time that 43 residents had as of that date tested positive (of a total of 57 residents), as well as seven staff members.

“While we begin to open in Wiikwemkong, we must remain diligent in our efforts to keep each other safe,” the pandemic response team release continues. “Please continue to follow all the public health measures and get vaccinated. Our pandemic response teams, including our community health nurses (CHN), continue to humbly serve Wiikwemkoong. Please be kind and patient to our CHNs.”