Cree patient in Montreal tests positive for COVID-19

One Cree patient being treated at a Montreal hospital has tested positive for COVID-19 and is in self-isolation at a Cree health board facility in the city. 

The patient started showing symptoms on March 23 and was immediately tested, according to Bella M. Petawabano, chairperson of the Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay (CBHSSJB). The positive result was confirmed late Tuesday.

This is the first person from Eeyou Istchee, Cree territory in Northern Quebec, to test positive for the disease.

“The patient has not been to Eeyou Istchee recently,” Petawabano said.

She said the patient is being kept in isolation at the Hotel Espresso in Montreal, where many Cree patients stay when they go south for medical treatment. 

Patient to be transferred

Cree Board of Health and Social Services of James Bay Chairperson Bella M. Petawabano says the patient will be transferred out of the Hotel Espresso soon. (CBHSSJB livestream)

“He’s receiving all the care that he needs and will be safely transferred to another facility as soon as possible,” said Petawabano, adding efforts are being made to inform anyone who has been in “significant contact” with the person since March 22. 

She also said the CBHSSJB isn’t releasing the person’s name, nor which community they are from. 

Public health officials with CBHSSJB are also trying to pinpoint where the person may have contracted the virus, and are looking into why they were released from hospital and into the care of the CBHSSJB at the Hotel Espresso, according to Grand Chief Abel Bosum.

“To have a patient who was hospitalized at one time, you know, and then sent back at the Espresso sort of raises questions,” said Bosum. He also said news of a positive case is unfortunate, but not surprising. 

“We’ve all been working hard to protect our people, but at the same time we know that we do have people that traveled down south,” said Bosum. 

“We’re not immune to it. It can hit our communities. We need you to pay attention. We need you to respect the measures that are in place,” he said. 

Further measures in place at Espresso

“We’re not immune to this…. We need you to pay attention,” said Grand Chief Abel Bosum. (Cree Nation Government/Facebook)

The CBHSSJB has been limiting the number of escorts allowed with patients and has not allowed guests in the Hotel Espresso since March 19. There are now guards monitoring people going in and out of the hotel, and watching to ensure people are respecting social distancing. 

Since yesterday, Petawabano said, patients have been receiving their meals in their rooms, and gathering spaces of the hotel have been shut down. 

“All the common areas are closed including the community kitchen and the spiritual room,” said Petawabano. 

Both Bosum and Petawabano said protocols and communication will be improved through what has been learned with this first diagnosis of a Cree patient.  

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