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Oneida Nation of the Thames introduces curfew after surge in COVID-19 cases

A sign on the perimeter of Oneida Nation of the Thames in Ontario on July 26, 2019. Declan Keogh/Ryerson University

After going from nine COVID-19 cases on Friday to 33 active cases as of noon on Monday, Oneida Nation of the Thames has introduced a community-wide curfew and closed its administrative offices.

Vaccination has also begun at the community’s long-term care home.

Read more: Ontario government not currently considering imposing curfew, sources say

According to its website, “the Oneida Nation of the Thames is home to 2,172 residents and has a total membership of 6,270.”

Thirty-three cases among 2,172 residents works out to a rate of 1,519 per 100,000 population — higher than what has been recorded by Public Health Ontario in Niagara or Hamilton, for example.

The 8 p.m. curfew came into effect starting Sunday and will be in place for two weeks before the measure is re-evaluated.

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“Absolutely no social gatherings are permitted and essential business only,” says a statement from Chief Adrian Chrisjohn.

“We are also requesting that all non-essential businesses including smoke shops cooperate and consider closing to help protect our community.”

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According to the statement, a recent surge in cases is the result of “community members who decided to gather and celebrate over the holidays.”

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“This blatant disregard of the recommendations of health experts during COVID-19 pandemic need to stop,” Chrisjohn says.

“We must also take into consideration the health and well-being of our elders and those who have pre-existing health conditions in the community. As Haudenosaunee people, it is our responsibility to look after the well-being of one another and ensure the health of all three of our clan families.”

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In a release posted Monday afternoon, Oneida Nation of the Thames’ administration office says some staff are self-isolating “due to their recent community contacts.”

Offices will be closed for the week with staff working from home.

Fire, ambulance/paramedics and Family Healing Lodge will remain onsite at full capacity, according to the release.

“All other essential services will operate at a limited capacity.”

Currently, Oneida is in the grey level of the province’s COVID-19 response framework.

Read more: Coronavirus — Oneida Nation of the Thames closes community amid COVID-19 fear

The community only recorded its first case of COVID-19 on Dec. 20, 2020 and the individual was reported to have made a full recovery on Jan. 5, but numbers have ballooned since then.

Also on Jan. 5, the Middlesex-London Health Unit declared an outbreak at the Oneida Long Term Care Home, or TSI’ Nu: Yoyantle’ Na’ Tuhuwatisni.

According to a release, “when at least one resident or staff has presented with new symptoms compatible with COVID-19, the LTCH (long-term care home) will immediately trigger an outbreak assessment.”

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The following day, three new cases were reported within the community. On Thursday, an additional three cases were recorded, and another four cases were added to the tally on Friday.

“At the Oneida Long Term Care Home there have been two cases: one staff person, and one resident,” MLHU medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie said on Monday afternoon.

Mackie added that all residents and staff received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Monday.

Second doses are scheduled to be administered on Feb. 8.